Fight off allergies this spring

Spring has finally arrived and with it comes blooming flowers followed by insufferable allergies. We spoke to some health experts for tips on how to keep your allergies under control this spring.

Protect your immune system

Nutritional therapist, Megan Bosman, says your first line of defence against allergies is your immune system.

“As complex as your immune system is, it’s often very easy to give it a boost before the spring season hits to help alleviate and/or minimise allergies during this time.

Echinacea, garlic, Vitamin C, Quercetin and Zinc are Bosman’s top five recommended immune boosters. Echinacea is renowned for its immune boosting properties and Bosman says it is a great all-rounder with both anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

“Garlic is probably one of the cheapest and best infection and allergy fighting foods and contains allicin. Allicin has anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and also acts as an antioxidant,” says Bosman. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, berries, strawberries, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots and dark green, leafy vegetables. You can get your Quercetin fix from apples, onions and tomatoes. Quercetin helps to fight viruses and stops them replicating, and is especially useful in easing sinus and chest infections caused by colds, flu and allergies,” says Bosman.

She also recommends Zinc, which can be found in seafood, poultry, lean meat, whole grains and pumpkin seeds.

“This antioxidant is vital in the production of antibodies that maintain the immune system and fight infections and allergies,” she says.

Manage your stress effectively

Vanessa Ascencao, Litha Pharma nutritional consultant, says stress and anxiety can make allergies last longer and become stronger.

“Stress stimulates the continuous release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which aggravates inflammation and depresses our immune system. Make sure to get enough sleep, breathe, move your body and incorporate relaxation techniques like Yoga, walking or Tai chi,” says Ascencao.

Make your own sinus rinse

Ascencao says nasal saline sinus rinses are a powerful way to decrease inflammation and the risk of infection in the nasal passages and sinuses.  The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends the following recipe:

  • In a clean container, mix 3 heaped teaspoons of iodine-free salt with 1 rounded teaspoon of baking soda.
  • Store in a small airtight container.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of the mixture to 8 ounces (1 cup) of lukewarm distilled or boiled water.
  • Use fewer dry ingredients to make a weaker solution if burning or stinging is experienced.
  • For children, use a half-teaspoon with 4 ounces of water.

Keep it green

Ascencao says that the antioxidants in green tea block histamine production and reduce inflammation.  A type of polythenol in green tea called catechin is effective in reducing allergy symptoms.
“Catechin decreases excessive levels of histamines, which cause a battery of allergy symptoms including sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes. Sip on green tea throughout the day to combat excessive histamine release,” says Ascencao.

Identify the cause

Homeopath, Giulia Criscuolo, says there are many common substances to which people may develop an allergic response. These include foods such as wheat and gluten, milk and dairy, seafood (shellfish), alcohol, soy, eggs, peanuts and certain vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants).

“Common environmental factors that can cause allergies are dust, pollen, mold, animal fur (from dogs, cats, or other pets), dust mites and sunlight,” says Criscuolo.

She adds that various natural or synthetic substances such as latex, nickel, pesticides and medications (penicillin, sulfa drugs and many more) can also cause allergies.

Ways to make your home allergy free

Criscuolo says a quick way to reduce the amount of allergens in your bedroom is to wrap your mattress in plastic and vacuum regularly.

“A high-efficiency particulate air (Hepa) filter should trap some of the allergens circulating in your home. Get one for your vacuum cleaner, too. Without it, your vacuum will just shoot the tiny allergens back into the air and into your nose,” says Criscuolo.

When you clean a dusty garage or rake during pollen season you need to gear up.

“Don’t just wear a mask over your mouth and nose, but goggles over your eyes too. Most people don’t realize it, but lots of allergens enter the body through the eyes. Wear a pollen mask when mowing grass or cleaning the house,” says Criscuolo.

Criscuolo advises allergy sufferers to switch from feather pillows, woolen blankets, and woolen clothing to cotton or synthetic materials.

Moneybags anti-allergy tips

Build up your immune system through proper nutrition.

Learn how to manage your stress effectively and take time out for yourself.

Drink plenty of green tea.

Make your home an allergy free environment.

 By Nicolette Dirk