Sometimes what we may think is the back end of a cold – a runny nose, red eyes, and sinus irritation – may in fact be the onset of an allergic reaction. Closed windows and constant central heating over winter can amp up the dust mite population to be an issue in early spring and plug in humidifiers, electrical devices and the static electricity of humans moving around can cause more dust particles to be suspended in our air at the height of our nose and throat, while outside spring brings tree pollen – a serious allergen with some.
‘What happens in an allergic reaction’ – when the body perceives a foreign body or allergen, it sends histamine to the site of intrusion. The role of histamine is to cause an initial clearing action and/or make a marker to where the immune system can travel and so sort the problem quickly. So histamine to a nettle sting is inflammation and a flush of blood to get the toxins dissipated while histamine to pollen grains in the nose triggers a sneeze or a runny nose to flush out the foreign body.
Normally histamine is good and for the majority it rids the foreign body or potential allergen effectively but with allergy sufferers it’s not just that the foreign body irritates, it’s that the histamine goes into overdrive and causes more of a problem – so the tiny nettle sting becomes a large rash or the short burst drip of a runny nose become a waterfall with inflamed sinus and puffy eyes.
The more histamine released the stronger the reactions. So while it is important to know your triggers and to spring clean away the common causes of allergies including animal fur, dust, mold, and also avoid pollen, nettle stings, insect bites etc, it is also an option to decrease your histamine production. Histamine is released from mast cells and several common herbs and foods inhibit the mast cells from opening and releasing.
Antihistamines are agents that inhibit histamine production or slow histamine release. Funnily enough, nettle tea or nettle soup is the traditional spring tonic to help the body better regulate its histamine production. The cooking or heat kills the sting and inflammatory agents but the other beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals remain intact.
Other antihistamine options
• Chamomile, thyme, fennel, rooibos are amongst the best herbal teas suitable for all round stabilization.
• In terms of targeted specifics, peppermint is particularly effective with mast cells related to allergic rhinitis while echinacea has an affinity for upper respiratory tract reactions.
• Ginger works brilliantly on hive and rash reactions.
• Quercetin rich foods – Many of the antihistamine herbs have either high quantities of quercetin or help with quercetin absorption. Quercetin is abundant in cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, spinach, kale, cauliflower etc) as well as in garlic/onions/shallots, citrus fruits and also in green tea. The benefit of including more leafy greens is the enzymes they contain that assist detoxification and also help reduce inflammation.
• Probiotic-rich foods — support immune health and can help to balance reaction/response – your gastrointestinal tract is responsible for more than 80 percent of your immune function. So more kefir/yogurt, miso and kombucha.
Detox – I’m not talking shedding the kilos – these are the guys that can flush toxins and excess histamines out of the system.
• Lemons — are natural detoxifiers and help the body rids itself of impurities – riding the triggers and also lessens the pressure on your immune system.
• Apple cider vinegar has benefits in both reducing mucous production and in supporting lymphatic system removing toxins and so leaving the body fitter to fight seasonal allergies.
• There are several specialist diets you may want to investigate – an elimination diet, alkaline diet, GAPS, an immunology diet etc – to cleanse the system before allergy season.