Seasonal allergies are the bane of many people’s existence but this time of year brings feelings of nostalgia for us. Our struggles with unrelenting allergies are what led us to the path of natural medicine. For all of our lives we suffered with incessantly stuffy noses and perpetually itchy eyes. No sustained relief was to be found in prescription or over the counter drugs and we were stumped. In our journey to find relief, we found more than that. We found our calling.
So what caused this dramatic reversal of symptoms that allopathic medicine seemed to have no answer for? Not to be too hokey… but knowledge and appreciation of our sworn enemy – histamine. While running noses and itchy eyes may seem like a curse, they are in fact a blessing. Histamine plays many crucial roles in our bodies. In addition to spurring the immune system into action when faced with an allergen, histamine aids in gut function as well as sexual response. Surprisingly, it is also a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in sleep regulation.
“Okay.” you may say. “So histamine is not the enemy, it’s still making me miserable.” We get it. We really do. Here’s the key: listen to your body. If your throat is raw and your nose is stuffed, your body is sending you an important message that something is out of balance. It could be a reaction to an allergen but, surprisingly, it could be a digestive issue instead. More on that in our next blog.
Let’s Tackle Allergies
When you encounter an allergen, histamine triggers the blood vessels to dilate and increase fluids at the site of infection. This allows the body to better flush the offending toxin – be it a spec of pollen, venom from a bug bit or a food you are allergic to. Clearly you can avoid foods you are allergic to and if you are careful bug bites can be minimized but what about pollen. There’s is no escape from its insidious reach. What can you do?
Certain foods contain high amounts of histamines and should be avoided when you are suffering symptoms. Some are your favorites so be prepared.
During these times you should avoid:
• Fermented foods
• Mature Cheeses
• Smoked Foods
Consider some supplements that will help you heal and keep you well.
Garlic – This natural antibiotic can help eradicate infection whether it is bacterial or viral. It has loads of other side benefits such as helping to prevent heart disease, stroke and cancer. Eat it raw, sauteed, in dry granulated form….it’s a health star no matter how you ingest it.
Nettles – The anti-inflammatory qualities of nettles are a huge help when dealing with the acute symptoms of an allergic reaction. And again, major side benefits such as treatment for joint and muscles pain, eczema and anemia.
Vitamin C – this well-known immune booster is fantastic for allergy prevention. Taking 2,000mg of Vitamin C daily can reduce histamine levels by 40%. Plus Vitamin C lowers hypertension, aids in the prevention of strokes and helps the body process insulin and glucose to aid in the treatment of diabetes.
A Note on Sleep and Anxiety
We’ve already explained why your body might be producing the respiratory symptoms but here are some other facts you should know: Excess amounts of histamine can lower GABA levels in the body and increase norepinephrine and epinephrine levels disrupting the sleep-wake cycle. This increase in norepinephrine and epinephrine also cause feelings of anxiety and panic. So let’s get you back under control.
To handle the anxiety symptoms and get some relief for your sleeplessness, we recommend an ancient yogic breathing exercise that involves alternate nostril breathing called Nadi Shodhana. This breathing technique helps balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain, reduces anxiety and stress and lowers the heart rate.
So raise a glass to histamine (preferably a mug of nettle tea)! We owe this lowly chemical a debt of gratitude for acting as an inescapable sign that things are out of balance in our bodies.