Seasonal Allergy Help

Fight your allergies naturally

| March/April 2004

  • Several scientific studies have found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for seasonal allergies.
  • Nettle is a helpful herb for reducing hay fever symptoms.
    Christopher Hobbs
  • Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish such as salmon) may help allergy sufferers.

The onslaught of itchy eyes, runny noses, congestion, never-ending sneezes and fatigue has taken the United States by storm. According to the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, an estimated 50 million to 60 million Americans now suffer from allergies. For 35 million of us, seasonal allergies — an adverse sensitivity to tree, grass or ragweed pollen more commonly known as hay fever — are the most prevalent. Although the majority of hay fever misery occurs from spring through fall, allergy-causing pollen can torment sufferers at any time of year, especially in warmer climates.

Allergy symptoms are a consequence of an immune system gone wild. Instead of recognizing an otherwise-innocuous allergen, such as pollen or mold spores, as benign, the immune system misidentifies the substance as sinister. In response, the immune system produces IgE-type antibodies designed to defuse foreign invaders and protect the person from future exposure. Upon the first exposure to an allergen, no symptoms occur. But when a person comes in contact with the same allergen later, the IgE antibodies stimulate specialized mast cells to release a load of histamines, leukotrienes and other inflammatory chemicals. This overblown defense reaction is the sniffling, sneezing, itching, dripping unpleasantness we all recognize as allergies.

Cause and Effect

During the past several decades, the incidence of allergies has increased considerably. According to a review published in 2002 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, that increase is most likely due to the changes in the environment.

“In this day and age, we’ve become exposed to more than 60,000 different chemicals that can accumulate in the body’s tissues and organs,” Vicki Swanson, a chiropractor based in Los Angeles, says. In the United States alone, more than 2.2 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment in one year (1994). This chemical buildup in the body is referred to as the rain-barrel effect. “The buildup increases to a point where the last drop finally drips over the top and your body can no longer cope with the extent of toxicity contained within your body,” Swanson explains. “When that happens, your immune system develops hypersensitivities that trigger allergic reactions.”

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