This time of year in the western hemisphere is magical. You can feel nature coming alive, waking up from its long winter slumber. But as spring blossoms around us—as beautiful as it is—many of us also have seasonal allergies to worry about this time of year.
The FDA estimates that there are approximately 36 million people in the United States who suffer from seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies are also sometimes called hay fever, or, by their technical (and very fancy) name, allergic rhinitis. It's important to know that allergic rhinitis technically takes two different forms:
Seasonal: This type of allergy is triggered by mold spores or pollens from grass, trees, and weeds, which happen more during changes of season.
Perennial: This type of allergy happens year round. It's generally caused by pet hair or dander, mold, dust mites, or cockroaches (gross, right?).
Seasonal allergy symptoms.
Seasonal allergies can present in the form of a bunch of different symptoms—and many of them overlap with the common cold. Some common signs and symptoms to look out for include:
Stuffy nose due to blockage or congestion
Itchy eyes, mouth, nose, or throat
The root cause of seasonal allergies.
In order to really work toward overcoming seasonal allergies, we need to dive deeper into how the immune system works. Close to 80 percent of your immune system is located in your gut microbiome, and therefore, when your microbiome is weakened, so is your immune system. Many things can alter your gut health, including a poor diet, stress, and increased toxin exposure. This results in increased gut permeability—also known as leaky gut—inflammation, and an imbalance between good and bad bacteria.
Once again, it all comes back to gut health. In fact, in my clinic I have seen many patients' seasonal allergies start to alleviate as soon as they start healing their gut. The take-home here? Bad or worsening seasonal allergies might be why a patient comes to see me in the first place, but they rarely end up being the main issue once I start looking under the surface.
So now that we understand the root cause of seasonal allergies, we can narrow down tools to support both our gut and our immune system. In functional medicine, prevention is our main goal. We want to be proactive rather than reactive. So while certain over-the-counter allergy medications, prescription medications, and allergy shots can be helpful in some cases, we also want to focus on ways to fight allergies at the source—and hopefully eliminate the need to medicate (or stay indoors!) at all. These are my top remedies for both preventing and combating seasonal allergies so you can enjoy this season rather than dread it. There's no reason to stay indoors!
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