Apr 22 2015
Allergies affect up to 80 million people in the U.S. every year, or about 25% of the population. It’s not just a matter of inconvenience and sniffles, as it’s estimated that between doctor visits, prescriptions, and time missed from work, seasonal allergies cost us more than $3 billion every year. There are many ways to treat allergies, but few people realize that visiting your chiropractor may be the most effective way to not only reduce symptoms but also treat the core causes of allergies and improve your general health.
We usually call these seasonal allergies, which include indoor/outdoor allergies, hay fever, and allergic rhinitis. Most allergies develop in early childhood but for some, they appear later in life due to environmental factors. They can range from annoying to downright debilitating, and can lead to more serious health concerns like asthma in some cases.
The most common allergies are:
- Tree, grass, weed pollen
- Hay fever
- Mold spores
- Dust mite and cockroach allergens
- Cat, dog, and rodent dander
Allergies can be slightly different based on region because of local flora, and in Sacramento we’re susceptible to pollen from mulberry, oak, and ash trees as well as grasses. Poor air quality also contributes to allergies in Sacramento because it’s a valley where air sits. According to American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, pollen from Sacramento can spread up to 400 miles away! So how do we combat seasonal allergies?
Allergies never actually go away but you want to keep the symptoms from flaring up. They’ve been described as a fire that you want to keep smoldering, not exploding into a big blaze. So using the right combination of treatments and preventive measures will help you keep that fire to only a smolder.
The allergy-chiropractic connection.
When people suffer from common allergies due to tree pollen, pet dander, foods, dust, etc.,) our bodies release inflammatory producing substances such as histamine. Our immune system has a natural ability to recognize and attack these pollutants by producing and releasing cortisol, an anti-inflammatory hormone that comes from the adrenal gland. But when our immune system is weakened by sickness, poor diet, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, exposure to stress, or physical pain, the body doesn’t produce enough cortisol and allergies are heightened.
Chiropractic care focuses on relieving stress to the nervous system, often through treating vertebral subluxations, or common spinal distortion, that puts further stress on our systems. Once that stress is relieved, the immune system has a chance to heal and strengthen our bodies naturally, including combatting allergens.
Furthermore, our nervous systems role is to send communication between the brain and the spinal cord to coordinate the body’s functions, from immune to respiratory and just about everything else. When someone has an injury or misalignment, that communication is interrupted and the immune system compromised.
In fact, it’ proven that upper cervical joint irritation exaggerates or even initiates allergic and asthmatic symptoms. But a chiropractor can help alleviate that irritation to open up those natural paths of nervous system communication, reducing or eliminating allergies.
What are your options for treating season allergies?
Other than chiropractic adjustment and adjusting your diet, getting more sleep, and reducing stress to promote health, there are many options for treating the symptoms of allergies.
Over the Counter Allergy Medications:
There are several kinds: Topical nasal sprays, inhaled corticosteroids, antihistamines and oral antihistamines and decongestants
For mild season allergies, most people use over the counter (OTC) nasal sprays and inhalants and oral antihistamines to manage symptoms. They are not addictive, but can lose their effect after a couple months so consider switching brands every once and a while. Ask your pharmacist about side effects.
Prescribed allergy medications:
About 50% of allergy sufferers can treat their symptoms with over the counter meds, while the other half need something stronger and prescribed. For some people, allergies get so bad they go to an allergist, who can do skin tests to see exactly what you’re most allergic to, and help treat it. The allergist or doctor can then treat you with allergy shots, exposing the body to small doses of allergens so you can build up a tolerance. This series of shots usually needs to be started in January or done regularly.
And while over the counter and prescription medications are popular, remember that they usually don’t treat the causes, just help alleviate or mask the symptoms. They often have side effects and long-term use can be harmful, so it’s recommended you look at some natural remedies, as well.
There are popular natural remedies:
A Neti pot helps you rinse out your nasal cavities with a saline solution. It flushes out the irritants, microbes, and mucus out of your sinuses but doesn’t completely eliminate the problem. Mix warm water with sea salt or use the solution sold with your Neti pot.
Green tea is rich in an antioxidant phytonutrient called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) that blocks histamine and immunoglobulin E (IgE) chemicals linked to uncomfortable allergy-symptoms.
A spoonful of honey is great to coat an itchy or sore throat, and it’s reported that consuming local honey helps build your resistance to seasonal allergies.
Gargling warm salt water will also help reduce inflammation and cleanse your nasal passages.
Turmeric, which is the main spice in most curries, is a great natural allergy fighter. You can boil a cup of milk and add a teaspoon of turmeric and drink when cool and it should help a lot over time.
Even a cup of hot chamomile tea will help, as it has natural antihistamine properties.
Stinging nettles is very effective for some people because of its high content of iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, and vitamins A, C, and D, also has antihistamine properties. You can either put it in a tea or take a pill containing dried, crushed stinging nettles.
Other tips to control allergies:
Drinking a lot of water is great, but most city or bottled water is extremely acidic and acids compound allergy problems. So try to drink 8-10 glasses a day of alkaline water, which you can buy or convert via special additives or filters. Staying hydrated helps improves allergies for 38% of participants in one recent study.
Sugar is extremely acidic and triggers mucus formation, so cutting back on the white stuff should help stop the sneezing. By eliminating or minimizing sugar intake for even 30 days (and no artificial sweeteners, either,) you’ll feel your allergies get better.
Probiotics are used to treat nasal and sinus symptoms. A study published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology reports that specific strains were effective in combating allergies in supplement form: Lactobacilli casei, Lactobacillus paracasei, L. acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium longum.
Cut down on your dairy intake. Up to 70% of the population can’t tolerate dairy well because they’re missing the enzyme lactase, so drinking milk and ingesting dairy makes your immune system work harder, responding worse to pollen
When working outside or going through old books, boxes, or dusty basements or attics, wear a protective allergy mask. You can buy disposable cheap surgical masks or a longer lasting respirator with a high efficiency particular (HEPA) filter.
Check the daily pollen counts on the morning news, websites, or even new social media apps, and try not to work or play outdoors on days when it’s high.
Wait until 2 or 3 pm to go outside. Pollen is released from grass in the morning and rises with the heat as the day goes on, so by early afternoon it should be high enough that you won’t be overly exposed.
Rainy days are great for washing away pollens and allergens, so go out to work or play after the rain.
To control symptoms and avoid flare-ups, take allergy medications before you head outdoors, not after.
On bad pollen days, keep car windows shut and set the ventilation to recirculate.
Don’t use humidifiers or vaporizers inside the house. It won’t help your allergies because increased humidity can lead to more mold and dust mites.
About 1/3 of allergens end up indoors, so install a high efficiency furnace filter, a HEPA air filter, and HEPA filter on your vacuum. Change them every spring and early summer.
Washing your sheets at least once a week in 140-degree water will kill dust mites.
You probably can’t wash your pillow as easily, but you can freeze it for 12 hours every few weeks, which will also kill those harmful dust mites.
Start early with prevention – your symptoms might not get really bad until April, but by starting in January or February you’ll help prevent the conditions that create bad allergies. By the time the weather heats up and trees start budding, your body will be conditioned to respond and you’ll be able to keep that fire to a smolder instead of flaring up.