Maybe Zyrtec doesn’t work for you lately or perhaps you don’t like its side effects. Personally, I fear that we don’t know much about the long-term use of these “safe” OTC antihistamines for allergy relief. Instead, I’m hoping to treat my sneezing family as naturally as possible. Below are some of the things that I’ve been reading about (and in some cases, trying out):
1. Avoid Antibiotics as Much as Possible
Scientists are increasingly looking at an imbalance in the microbiome as the root cause of many of the problems we have with our immune systems not working properly. These problems include both food and environmental allergies, asthma, and dermatitis.
It’s not too far of a stretch to see the problem with taking antibiotics, since antibiotics essentially kill all the bacteria you have, both the good and the bad.
I really wish I knew this before, both for myself and the rest of my family. Apparently, some of the good bacteria don’t come back. Antibiotic overuse has also been linked to people suddenly developing serious allergies later in life. It should also be noted that antibiotics can be found in our food and water supplies, so even if you’ve managed to avoid antibiotics for infections, you’ll probably still have some low level of exposure to it. (This topic deserves it’s own blog post.) But basically, avoid antibiotics as much as you’re able!
2. Try Traditional Chinese Medicine to Address the Root Cause
Perhaps strengthening your body in other ways can still help to address your immune system gone awry. I don’t want to be lugging an air purifier around for the rest of my life! Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners often claim that acupuncture and herbal medicine can alleviate symptoms as well as address the root cause of hay fever.
Since TCM is tailored to the individual’s constitution, I didn’t find any obvious herbal formulas to try for adults. Generally speaking, I found these herbs commonly listed in formulas to address the root cause of allergies: ginseng, huang qi (astragalus root), bai zhu, gancao.
For children, I’ve been looking for ways to address what seems to be cough-variant asthma in one of my kids. A TCM practitioner recommended a combination of liquid extract formulas from “Gentle Warriors”, a line of children’s herbal formulas. The formulas were selected based on my child’s constitution and the presenting symptoms. I’m skeptical, but also hopeful. We’re trying it out for 1-2 months and I’ll be sure to update this post with our results.
3. Eat a Diet Rich in Natural Antihistamines
If you’re in the midst of having allergic symptoms, this approach isn’t going to help you right away. However, over a couple weeks, it sounds like a person with mild allergies could benefit. Common foods with natural antihistamines include: bell peppers, citrus fruits, pineapples, broccoli, cauliflower, berries, apples, tomatoes, black/green tea, ginger.
My family has pretty good eating habits and many foods on this list are already a regular part of the diet. Yet we still have allergic symptoms so I’ll have to say this doesn’t get rid of all your allergies, although I guess they could always be worse. Anecdotally, as a data point, I’ve noticed that my two kids who rate equally on the allergy scale, have different levels of allergic symptoms. The one who happens to eat a lot more fruits (2-3x more than the normal serving that everyone else eats), also happens to experience less allergic symptoms. Then I read this study about how a Mediterranean diet rich in fruit and vegetables was found to be associated with less allergy symptoms, which further boosted my small finding.
4. Take Natural Supplements to Boost the Immune System
The amount of natural antihistamines found in foods may not be enough for some allergies. Higher dosages in capsule or powder form enable higher intake to replicate the dosages given in scientific studies. These supplements include:
Vitamin C – I found Vitamin C at the top of many lists. Apparently, vitamin C both inhibits the release of histamine from anti-inflammatory cells as well as helps to break down histamine after it has been released. However, the current recommended daily allowances (RDAs) for children (25mg-45mg) and adults (65mg-90mg) may be too low to create the expected allergic relief. The current RDAs were in fact calculated as the amount needed to prevent scurvy and not other ailments. According to the ODS, the highest daily intake likely to pose no risks is:
- 400 mg for infants aged 1–3 years
- 650 mg for children aged 4–8 years
- 1,200 mg for children aged 9–13 years
- 1,800 mg for teenagers aged 14–18 years
- 1,800 mg in pregnant or breastfeeding teenagers aged 14–18 years
- 2000 mg for adults
For my kids, I decided to trial 400-500mg dose. We are only 1 week into it, so I will have to update this post when I have more observations.
Quercetin – this is an antioxidant also regularly included in everyone’s list. It’s high in leafy greens, apples, grapes, and onions to name a few. I saw a range of dosage recommendations for taking it as a supplement. For adults, I saw a range from 500mg daily to 1000mg 2x/day. For children, Dr. Weil says 200mg daily 2x/day for hay fever.
N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) – this is an antioxidant that some websites report is stronger than Vitamin C. It’s touted as being able to break down mucous, and reduce allergy symptoms. While it can be found naturally in protein-rich foods that you might eat, like turkey, eggs, etc., a much higher dose is needed for therapeutic effect. I read that NAC caused stomach pain in high doses for some users, so I would proceed with caution. I saw recommended dosages of 300mg 2-3x daily.
Probiotics – Probiotics are the supplements that contain the good bacteria that your gut needs for a healthy immune response. Whether probiotics are effective in putting the good bacteria in your gut is still being studied. However, this doesn’t stop a lot of people from trying. There have been quite a few studies that suggest taking probiotics may result in less hay fever symptoms.
What has worked for you? If there is something that has really worked for you, I would love to know about it!
Natural allergy relief in general
On Vitamin C
On antibiotic use and allergies