Has anybody noticed that the days are getting longer, and the sun seems a little stronger than usual? I know it's only the beginning of March, but could it be that Spring is on its way? For many of us the idea of Spring brings thoughts of being outside, enjoying life, and letting go of the old winter doldrums. But wait a minute! Not everybody enjoys the Spring - what about those with allergies? I mean allergies to grasses, pollens, trees, ragweed, and other common allergens, that bother us between the melting snow and the frost of October.
Allergy season is the season that literally millions of people dread. Actually you can get ‘seasonal’ allergies at any time of the year -- it just depends to what you are allergic. If it’s dust or mould, then you are more likely to first experience symptoms in the Fall when the furnace is turned on and you close the windows, and to find them easing in the Spring, when you do the opposite. Most people think of allergies as starting in the Spring and often going through until the first frost. This is when people who are allergic to grasses and pollens have a really bad time. The symptoms of nasal congestion (rhinitis), and itchy, watery eyes (conjunctivitis), are more than some can bear. Perhaps the worst symptom of all is the extreme fatigue that accompanies these symptoms. Some are luckier than others -- they get a short season of pollen allergy in the first part of Spring and then they are free. Others have allergy symptoms all Summer long with symptoms of reactivity to grasses in the mid-summer months, and then finally ragweed beginning around August 15th. However long you have symptoms, they are always miserable although never serious, unless you have asthma as well.
Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a harmless substance. Your body is trying to defend itself against a foreign invader, much as it would against a bacteria or virus that could cause you an infection. Thus it mounts an ‘immune response’- rallying the forces against this intruder. Since you are continually breathing in the substance, your loyal body continually tries to defend against it. What a mistake -- grasses and pollens are actually harmless! When allergies occur the body releases histamine, causing increased secretions and inflammation which cause the symptoms that make you feel so miserable. Drugs that prevent histamine release are called anti-histamines, and there are many on the market. They can reduce symptoms, but they do not ‘cure’ the problem. They can also produce nasty side-effects such as drowsiness and more of the fatigue you already have. The newer anti-histamines such as Claritin® and Reactine® are less apt to cause these side effects, but still seem to in some people. You certainly can't go running through those green fields as the advertisements on television would suggest!
There are more ‘natural' approaches you might want to try. Anything that can reduce histamine release may help. Here are some natural supplements that may help, and certainly won’t hurt to try:
· Vitamin C -- 1000 mg. 3-5 times daily taken through the day with meals. Do not use the timed release variety for this purpose. Vitamin C is an anti-histamine in large doses. · Pantothenic Acid -- one of the ‘B’ Vitamins -- in a dose of 250 mg twice daily with meals. This is often sold as Calcium Pantothenate · Citrus Bioflavinoids in a dose of 500 mg. three times a day with meals
All of the above tend to stabilize the mast cells -- those cells that ‘react’ when the allergen is inhaled and produce histamine. You will need to take all of these through the whole season in which you usually manifest symptoms. Homeopathic remedies can also be helpful. They are very dilute samples of what you are allergic to, and must be taken before the season starts. Pollens 30CH® (Dolisos) are a homeopathic mixture of Canadian pollens and grasses (including Ragweed), obtainable from most health food stores and some pharmacies. They come in packs of 6 doses, each dose being in one small tube. You place the whole tube of granules under the tongue, and let them dissolve, once a week through the season. Homeopathic remedies should be taken in a ‘clean mouth’- between, or one hour before meals, and without the interference of toothpaste or mouthwash, that may inactivate them.
If you know exactly what you are allergic to you can take individual homeopathic remedies such as mixtures of ‘Grasses’ or ‘Pollens’ or even ‘Dust Mix’. They should be taken in gradually increasing doses following the directions on the bottle -- and often come in liquids, in a glycerin or alcohol base. All homeopathic remedies can be taken in addition to the vitamin supplements mentioned above. Homeopathic remedies have no side effects, and have been shown to be superior to placebo in properly conducted clinical trials.
For Ragweed sufferers, there is an antigen called Pollinex R®. This is a prescription medication of modified ragweed that can be injected once a week by your doctor for four weeks before the onset of the Ragweed season which begins like clockwork on or about the 15th August. Ask your family doctor to give this to you.
None of the above will cause the nasty side-effects of some of the anti-histamines, and are often as, or even more, effective. Regular allergy shots can also be given by you family doctor, but they often have to be given for many years before they work. Make sure you have a proper diagnosis before you self-treat any health condition.
Allergies are additive. That is, if you have a dust allergy through the year, but minor or absent symptoms, and you have allergies to pollens and grasses, then it helps to reduce the total load of allergies by reducing your exposure to dust as much as possible. So first reduce exposure as much as possible to any allergen; then take the vitamin supplements listed, and then add the homeopathic remedies. The positive effects of all of the above suggestions are, of course, enhanced by a healthy diet and good stress management.
The information and suggestions provided in this and other articles are for educational purposes only and are not necessarily intended as treatment to be used without the further advice of a physician or other health-care practitioner familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of this condition using nutritional approaches. Please, always see your health care provider to provide a proper diagnosis and for any further details of treatment.