For many of us, summer is a time to inhale sweet floral fragrances and enjoy outdoor activities. For those with seasonal allergies, it can be a less-pleasant time, with uncomfortable respiratory symptoms, congestion, labored breathing, stuffy nose and itchy eyes.
Avoiding provocative pollen, weeds, mold, grasses and other allergy triggers can be difficult. Who wants to be forced to spend time inside when our friends and family are out on a deck barbecuing, hiking the Table Rocks or off to the kids' baseball game?
A few lifestyle and dietary changes promote better immune system function and reduce symptoms typical of seasonal allergies. Getting eight hours of sleep may improve allergy immune response, and we can speak to our health-care providers about "sleep hygiene" to help achieve better sleep duration and quality. A few pointers are turning off the TV early and switching to relaxing reading, rather than watching late-night TV. Using computers late into the evening also throws off our sleep. Avoiding stimulants, such as that afternoon latte or drive-thru fog-lifter quadruple shot, isn't a bad idea either.
Those of us inclined toward natural, alternative approaches to allergies would suggest attention to the adrenal glands, liver and digestive systems, as well. Adequate sleep and stress-reduction techniques such as cardiovascular exercise and yoga keep the adrenals and digestive system on top of their game, further strengthening our immune response.
Eating a diet rich in "friendly flora" — the so-called probiotics from yogurt or fresh, raw sauerkraut — will reduce allergy symptoms. Varied whole plant foods will help to ensure optimal digestive function and improve allergic symptoms. Moreover, many of the naturally-occurring chemicals in vegetables and fruits help our immune system work optimally. An example is quercetin, which is found in onions, apples and raspberries. Quercetin reduces the likeliness of allergy-induced asthma, helps allay itchy eyes and often provides great relief across the board, acting as a natural antihistamine.
To get enough quercetin from onions, your family may force you outside.
Fortunately, quercetin supplements are available and relatively inexpensive, usually in 250-300 mg capsules, found in health-food or grocery stores. Taking 250 mgs three times daily is often effective. However, I have some folks who take up to 1,800 mgs daily if needed, dividing doses away from mealtimes.
Quercetin is very safe, tried and true and causes no nasal drying, grogginess or other side effects within the dose range above. Paired with lifestyle changes and increased intake of colorful vegetables and fruits, quercetin provides great allergy relief and quick results, especially in conjunction with good sleep and stress reduction — lifestyle changes most of us ought to strive for anyway.
Michael Altman is a nutritionist at Ventana Wellness in Medford and the Centre for Natural Healing in Ashland. He also teaches at Southern Oregon University and College of the Siskiyous. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.