One of my longest, most fraught relationships is one that I can never seem to escape — that is my relationship with my allergies. For a long time, I used to get sick with a sinus infection every six weeks until my doctor recommended I see an allergist a few years ago. From there I took an allergy test, and found out I was allergic to, well, almost everything — trees, cats, dogs, mold, fungus, and so on — basically, I should live in a bubble. Since then, I’ve been taking allergy pills every day, finding that if I miss taking just one of them, I will wake up in the middle of the night with terrible sinus pain, which will quickly turn into a full-blown head cold that is only treatable with antibiotics. And it can get especially bad when the seasons change. I realized recently that if I really want to go hard on my self-care routine, I’m probably going to have to make a few changes. But where do I start?
As deeply as I want to break up with my relationship with my allergies and stop taking these pills forever, I have absolutely no idea where to begin. With allergy pills being over-advertised in the media as a stopgap to feeling better, I feel like there’s a lack of public information out there about what other ways you can take care of yourself if you have bad allergies. So, I decided to speak to three highly rated health experts to find out what my options are and this is what they had to say.
Eat Your Vegetables
Eating healthy plays a big part in dealing with seasonal allergies. Stacy K Leung, registered dietitian and yoga instructor focusing on mindful eating and plant-based health, says:
“Overall, eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in omega-3s like salmon, sardines, chia seeds, and walnuts every day can help fight inflammation in your body. Some studies have indicated that consuming fruit reduces the risk of asthma, specifically by eating the whole fruit, not by isolating the individual nutrients. Probiotics, found in yogurt and other fermented milk products like kefir have also been shown to lower symptoms of allergic rhinitis through changing the pathways of specific white blood cells responsible for allergic reactions. However, the particular strain of probiotics and dosage may vary and produce different results.”
Beyond eating well, Leung says that if you’re experiencing congestion, drinking tea or other warm liquids can make you feel some relief as well.
Avoid Foods That Will Cause Inflammation
Another important thing to recognize is that certain foods and beverages directly cause inflammation. So if you’re someone who struggles with chronic allergies, you’ll probably need to make some adjustments to your diet. Jenny Carr, anti-inflammatory health coach, certified nutritional fitness coach, a certified personal trainer, and author, says:
“Seasonal allergies are defined as a chronic condition. This means that inflammation plays a major role in the severity of seasonal allergies, and in some cases, inflammation can be a make or break for allergies. Meaning — if you are able to eliminate the chronic inflammation in your body, often the allergies also go away. It’s like magic! The question then becomes, how do we melt inflammation from the body? While there is a multitude of factors that cause chronic inflammation, following an anti-inflammatory diet will get you the best bang for your buck to elimination inflammation.
However, there are many different theories of what an anti-inflammatory diet is actually composed of. As an inflammation expert and international best-selling author of Peace Of Cake: The Secret To An Anti-Inflammatory Diet, my specialty, is helping people reverse chronic health symptoms, and it always starts with food. The good news: while eliminating inflammation is most effective when removing the top six inflammatory foods from your diet, there are amazing SWAPS for options that taste similar, yet do not inflame.”
Carr says the big six inflammatory foods that one should swap out are: processed sugar, alcohol, wheat, cow dairy certain oils — often derived from vegetables such as corn oil, canola oil, vegetable oil and definitely hydrogenated oils cause loads of inflammation, and genetically modified foods. According to her, swapping out inflammatory foods for options that do not inflame the sinuses can not only help you feel better, but they might even reverse your seasonal allergies.
According to Nikki Ostrower, a nutritional expert and the founder of NAO wellness, “The body needs support to be able to fight off allergens, and your immune system is mostly located within the gut.” Supporting the gut with anti-inflammatory foods and drinks will boost your immune system and keep you healthy. She cut out dairy years ago and found that she was able to go off all allergy medications as a result. “I had less mucous, my gut wasn’t as inflamed so I got sick less, and my skin cleared up, too,” she continues. Ostrower also recommends cutting out alcohol — it contains sulfites, which has been found to worsen asthma and hay fever.
Change Up Your Lifestyle
If you are living with chronic inflammation, drinking up to a gallon of water each day can be one of the best ways to wash the inflammation out of your body. “Water supports the methylation and detoxification process in the liver and kidneys which give it a job that goes far beyond hydration,” Carr says.
Beyond this, she also recommends using essential oils: “DoTerra or Young Living are the highest quality oils I’m aware of and a combination of lavender, sandalwood, tea tree, peppermint, and lemon—both rubbed onto your feet and diffused in your home can bring some great relief [to your allergies.]”
Use Non-Toxic Body Products
Going one step further, body products can also trigger allergies and it might be best to use clean beauty instead of your go-to products that could irritate your sinuses. For instance, Ostrower says that as toxic chemicals, such as those found in shower products, can exacerbate your allergy symptoms. Try organic phthalate-free products instead. “You can rinse away the environmental toxins and outdoor allergy triggers with our Intelligent Nutrients shower products.”
But if you’re looking to heal your sinuses from the inside out, it might be a good idea to a boost yourself to try an infrared sauna. “At NAO, we love the multiple benefits of Infrared Sauna which include anti-inflammatory benefits, immune-boosting support, AND clearing away toxins; it helps you breathe better, too”
Unfortunately it’s common to be in the dark about our sensitivities, as it’s hard to know what’s triggering your body if you don’t get tested. Personally, getting allergy tested was helpful in putting context to my symptoms, such as increased mucus, acid reflux, congestion, itchiness, and headaches. With this, Ostrower says, “It’s vital to know what’s actually causing you inflammation so you can be aware and avoid inflammatory triggers that may not be as common but are impacting your health.” She recommends her clients try Food/Environmental Intolerance Testing as a means to better customize their healing process.
Knowing what I know now about allergies and chronic inflammation, I feel much better equipped to take allergy season head-on. But like any good relationship, I’m taking it slow and staying patient as I learn what works and doesn’t work for me and my body.
Feature image via Stocksy