Combatting Fall Allergies...Naturally
Fall is almost here! And it's a beautiful time of year as the weather begins to cool and the leaves begin to change from green to various shades of red, orange, and yellow. However, if your nose is running, your throat is scratchy, and your eyes are itchy this time of year, you probably know that fall also brings ragweed. And lots of it!
Seasonal Allergy TriggersYou may have heard of the term “hay” fever. Well, it actually has nothing to do with hay. Instead, it's a term used to describe an allergic reaction to airborne pollen. And the symptoms I described above are referred to as allergic rhinitis. Here in the United States, spring allergies arise as flowers bloom and their pollen begins to fill the air. As summer approaches, various problematic weeds and grasses appear. When summer winds down, ragweed arrives. And ragweed pollen is the most common trigger of fall allergies.
More About Ragweed
In North America, approximately 26% of the population is allergic to ragweed pollen.
Depending on where you live, ragweed can trigger allergy symptoms from late summer until the first frost. And the severity of your reaction depends on how long you're exposed and how much ragweed pollen is in the air. Unfortunately, ragweed is a pollen producing machine. One plant can produce up to a billion grains of pollen per season. Which can make it tricky to avoid.
Reducing Your Exposure to Ragweed
Spending time in nature is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Thus, I would never recommend hiding out indoors entirely during ragweed season. However, it's worth noting that airborne pollen levels are highest between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. So getting out first thing in the morning or late afternoon may be best if your symptoms are severe. Closing your windows and doors will prevent ragweed pollen from entering your home. And taking a shower after spending time outdoors will wash away the pollen from your skin and hair. Finally, you might want to think twice about raking leaves, which are often covered in ragweed pollen. However, if there's no way around it, I highly recommend wearing protective glasses and a mask that covers your nose and mouth.
Saying Goodbye to Fall Allergies
Your allergy symptoms (e.g. a runny nose, itchy eyes, scratchy throat) are nothing more than an external sign of internal inflammation caused by an overactive immune system. Because in general, ragweed pollen is harmless. However, for various reasons, your immune system doesn't see it that way. Therefore, the best way to get rid of your fall allergies for good is to get to the root of the problem. And this almost always requires healing your gut, which contains a large portion of your immune system. So let's discuss some of the best gut healing foods and supplements…
The lining of your digestive tract is not only responsible for digestion and nutrition absorption. It's also in charge of preventing potentially harmful pathogens as well as allergens from entering the body. Thus, improving the integrity of your intestinal wall is essential to preventing allergies. Bone broth is a great source of gelatin, which is a powerful gut healing substance. It also protects the lining of the gut from further damage. In addition, bone broth is rich in the amino acid glycine, which has potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut. And a healthy gut flora plays a significant role in the regulation of your immune system. Specifically, these bacteria help your immune system achieve a balance between reacting to a real threat and overreacting to something harmless, such as ragweed pollen. Probiotics are found in fermented vegetables, such as raw sauerkraut or kimchi. Supplements can also be useful.
L-Glutamine & N-Acetyl-Glucosamine
Similar to gelatin, l-glutamine is an amino acid that helps repair and restore the integrity of your gastrointestinal lining. N-acetyl-glucosamine is an enzyme that serves the same purpose. Specifically, it's necessary for the synthesis of proteins contained within the mucus lining of your gut. It also plays a role in maintaining a healthy relationship with your gut bacteria. And we just learned how important these good bacteria are to your immune health.
As with probiotics, vitamin D plays a major role in the regulation of your immune system. In addition, several studies have found a link between vitamin D deficiency and allergic rhinitis.
Alleviating Fall Allergy Symptoms
Unfortunately, your gut can't heal overnight. So while you're working on that, fill your plate with lots of colorful fall veggies, which are loaded with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. Here are some specific nutrients and foods that will help provide relief from your allergy symptoms.
Quercetin is a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory substance. It's found in health promoting foods, such as onions, garlic, broccoli, apples, citrus fruits, and red wine. However, if your symptoms are severe, a natural quercetin supplement may also be beneficial.
Vitamin C helps to protect the immune system as well as reduce the severity of allergy symptoms. Fall veggies that contain high concentrations of vitamin C include broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
Carotenoids are substances that give plants their color. But, they're also potent antioxidants and studies have shown an inverse relationship between high carotenoid levels and allergy symptoms in adults. Some carotenoid packed fall vegetables include winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, and kale.
Avoid Inflammatory Foods
As I mentioned previously, allergy symptoms are a sign of inflammation. Thus, the last thing you want is to add more fuel to the fire. This means avoiding foods that promote inflammation and contribute to poor gut health. The two most common culprits on my list are dairy and gluten.
Thus, no milk, cheese, yogurt, or cream. And no foods with gluten-containing grains, such as wheat bread.
To Sum it Up...
Ragweed pollen is the most common trigger of fall allergies. And the best way to combat your fall allergies (and hay fever in general) is to heal your gut. This, in turn, will boost your immune system and prevent it from overreacting. And while you're working on healing your gut, fill up your plate with lots of colorful fall vegetables to help reduce inflammation and ease your allergy symptoms. Below are some of my favorite fall recipes that contain allergy-fighting foods and nutrients:
Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!