If you are suffering this allergy season and you, like me, are intrigued by holistic helpers, check out these 5 ways to help get you through the funk!
- Neti Pot
This is a mind-over-matter concept for most of us when we first try it. Honestly, it’s the least sexy thing I can imagine when it comes to cold remedies. Basically, you flush your sinuses with mild saline water, one nostril at a time, and a bunch of yucky stuff tends to come out! The idea is to rid the sinus passages of the trigger, such as pollen, that is causing your body to produce extra mucous. It also helps irrigate the sinuses to flush out the mucous, which is important because stagnant mucous can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
You can purchase these at your local drug store. One of the most important things to remember when using a Neti Pot is that using tapwater can cause serious health problems. There is an amoeba called Naegleria fowleri that literally sounds like it’s from a Sci-Fi movie (but it’s not; I learned about it in Parasitology in college), and when introduced to the nasal cavity, creepy and fatal things can happen. This amoeba has been found in tapwater, along with other freshwater sources, in various parts of the country. Although it may be a rarely reported issue in Neti Pot users, I would hate for you to suffer from the consequences of not using distilled water, or other safe water options, as instructed on the Neti Pot you purchase.
Turmeric and ginger are some of my personal favorites when it comes to fighting off allergies and colds. Quercetin, the active ingredient in ginger (and red onion + garlic), has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, including for sinus issues, as suggested in this study. (Notice that we have now come full circle in relation to the previously mentioned advice by my friend at the beginning of this article!) Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has also been shown to fight against inflammation. I tend to use both of these spices in warm teas when I feel under the weather, along with the aforementioned concoction recommended by my friend. If you choose to use it in warm tea, it may not taste as lovely as a dessert tea, but it certainly gets the job done!
3. Raw, Unprocessed Honey
Some studies indicate that local, raw honey can help ease pollen allergies. There are various enzymes in this type of honey that help fight inflammation. It is noteworthy that if you are allergic to pollens other than flower pollen (such as weeds, trees, etc), then this method may not work for you, as bees tend to use flowers as their source for pollen. The allergens that affect you, personally, may or may not be contained in the honey. The theory behind this remedy is that exposure to allergens, over time and in small doses, can help the body to become desensitized to the trigger. However, if your particular reaction to pollen exposure is more intense (such as tongue swelling), this is definitely NOT for you! Although the results of honey research have varied (as have dosage amounts used), many participants from studies, such as this one, have benefitted from high honey consumption in relation to allergies. It may be worth it for you to get out your teaspoon! *Honey should not be given to any child under age 1, as it can cause botulism.
4. Essential Oils
Although one should absolutely ensure that you are using high quality oils and understand the safety of use of each oil, I have found a lot of great relief results from using these in my own self-care. If you have ever used something similar to Vicks Vaporub, it is the oils in the product that help elicit relief. Personally, I purchase most of my oils from Mountain Rose Herbs (I’m SO not paid to say their name in this post; I just super love the company and trust the grade of oils!). Peppermint and camphor have been some of my favorites for allergies. They are incredibly potent, which helps open up the sinus passages. I use a nebulizing diffuser and fill the air with oil sensation! *It is important to choose a diffuser that does not use high heat on oils, as the properties of oils can be manipulated by too high of temperatures.
5. Dietary changes
When I feel a cold coming on, I cut out white table sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. These three things can prevent your immune system from working at full capacity. Table sugar is more acidic and inflammatory than some other naturally occurring sugars. Reducing intake will help to prevent a snowball effect of inflammation, as there is already enough going on in the body when sick. Caffeine and alcohol both leech nutrients and vitamins from the body, along with causing various degrees of dehydration. When suffering from allergies and sinus infections, it is best to stay hydrated, as it keeps the sinus passages lubricated and toxins moving along. Keeping the focus on building up your immune system will help you recover more quickly. For example, drinking water is important to help flush out toxins and keep the sinus passageways moist. Sometimes I add a teaspoon apple cider vinegar or a slice of lime or lemon juice. It is highly important that you choose organic, raw apple cider vinegar if you choose to use this method. This form of ACV contains what is commonly referred to as the “Mother”, which contains probiotic-like sediment. This study suggests that conventional ACV does not contain as high of an array of bacteria as raw, organic does (think of good bacteria; don’t let that term scare you!) The ACV has been shown in other studies to have antibacterial and antiviral effects, and lemon and lime are great sources of Vitamin C while also adding flavor to the water.
Another suggestion is to incorporate even MORE leafy greens and dark, rich fruits and veggies. Although fruits contain sugar, fructose, it is naturally occurring and less inflammatory to the body. If you find that your appetite is subpar while suffering from sinus issues, try using fruits and veggies in a smoothie. An easy, almost effortless, way to do this is to buy frozen veggies and fruits. Toss them into the blender with water (or a lot of times I personally use cashew milk for smoothies) and BAM, nourishment!
I truly hope that you found some of this information helpful. I understand that there is much controversy regarding holistic health remedies, and being that much of my experience is in Western medicine, I understand where both sides are coming from. However, I really believe in blending both types of Wellness routes. I have seen the benefits of each side, and I hope to learn even more in the future. The most important piece of the puzzle is to remember the importance of ensuring that you understand the safety implications of either side of the spectrum you choose to fall into. When used the wrong way, or in the wrong amount, both Western and Alternative medicine can be fatal. What matters more than any study, finding, or word of mouth, is how YOUR body responds to various remedies. We are each different, and our bodies will respond uniquely.
Let me know in the comments what YOU do when you are feeling less than peachy!
- Zhang, Shaoyan et al. “Quercetin Increases CFTR Mediated Chloride Transport and Ciliary Beat Frequency: Therapeutic Implications for Chronic Rhinosinusitis.” American journal of rhinology & allergy 25.5 (2011): 307–312. PMC. PubMed Web. 26 April 2017.
- Asha’ari ZA, Ahmad MZ, Wan Din WSJ, Hussin CMC, Leman I. Ingestion of honey improves the symptoms of allergic rhinitis: evidence from a randomized placebo-controlled trial in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Ann Saudi Med 2013; 33(5): 469-475. Wed. 26 April 2017. Annals of Saudi Medicine.
- Štornik, Aleksandra, Barbara Skok, and Janja Trček. “Comparison of Cultivable Acetic Acid Bacterial Microbiota in Organic and Conventional Apple Cider Vinegar.” Food Technology and Biotechnology 54.1 (2016): 113–119. PMC. PubMed Wed. 26 April 2017.