Natural Treatment of Allergies (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015), by Ramón Rosello and Anna Huete, offers solutions to those suffering from allergies and includes tips on common reactions such as asthma, hay fever, dermatitis, and dietary intolerance. Rosello is a doctor and acupuncturist who has written about natural health topics for over thirty years and has several books published in Spain. Huete is a writer and editor with experience covering natural health issues. The following excerpt discusses allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, and how it can be managed.
Allergic Rhinitis or Hay Fever
Rhinitis is one of the most common allergic conditions. Its symptoms may not be severe, and the quality of life of people who suffer from this allergy can be affected for short periods out of the year, or chronically.
This immune disorder, also called “hay fever,” causes an exaggerated response of the mucosa in the nasal passages from inhaling pollen or other allergens. Sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, congestion, and headaches are annoying symptoms that accompany this reaction and may occur at any age.
The rising population of allergic people has increased awareness of this illness. It’s important to take into account both the professional and personal environments of the patient when treating the source of the allergy. Rhinitis affects the quality of life of patients, who feel as though they have a perpetual cold for weeks, or even all year.
What causes allergic rhinitis?
As in the case of asthma, rhinitis is a respiratory condition that is triggered by the inhalation of airborne allergens.
When an allergic person is in an environment with pollen, dust mites, mold, or other airborne allergens, these allergens trigger the body to start making IgE, which in turn releases histamine, causing the lining of the nose, throat, and sinuses to become inflamed.
This starts a bout of strong and uncontrollable sneezing; nasal congestion, and resulting headaches; constant, runny, clear, watery, mucous; itchy, watery eyes; fatigue; irritability; and a huge supply of handkerchiefs.
Although called “hay fever,” the fact is that it is not just the pollen from hay that causes allergies in certain people. Many others, such as pollens of grasses, herbs, trees, shrubs, and flowers, make spring and summer a real ordeal for those with rhinitis. If allergy testing determines that pollen is the source of the allergy, this causes seasonal rhinitis that only occurs at the time of pollination of the plant in question.
However, there are other allergens that can cause allergic rhinitis continuously in the daily life of the affected person. The most common are mites, mold, and animal dander, causing what medicine calls “perennial” or “chronic” rhinitis. The reaction may begin immediately upon contact with the allergens, but late-phase reactions also occur due to constant contact with triggers. In these cases, it is difficult to identify the causative allergen because there is no clear cause-effect reaction. For example, in the case of a child with rhinitis caused by a dog’s dander, the child may pet and play with the dog without sneezing, but suffer an attack hours later. The origin of some late reactions can only be uncovered if allergy tests are positive, because there is no clear evidence to help us find the cause.
Unfortunately, there are a few occasions when people obtain negative results after testing for rhinitis. It then is called unexplained allergic rhinitis. Allergy sufferers should ideally avoid the allergens causing their reactions, but if these allergens remain unidentified, the patient’s symptoms will persist relentlessly.
Sometimes a food intolerance, rather than an allergen, can cause the same symptoms as rhinitis, but it is a pseudo-allergy and not an allergic reaction. Diagnostic testing for intolerances to foods and food additives may yield results where allergy tests came up negative. Also, even without suffering from a specific intolerance or allergy to dairy products, dairy should be eliminated from your diet if you have rhinitis, as dairy causes the production of excess mucous. This causes hypersensitivity not only in the intestines, but also in the bronchi, skin, and nose.
In addition, being stressed, sad, or scared can also trigger an attack. Psycho-emotional circumstances have a significant impact on our immune system. Stressful or annoying situations can cause a “lowering of defenses,” and give rise to a series of reactions like sneezing and other symptoms.
Cigarette smoke can also trigger reactions once the mucous is irritated, even hours or days after being exposed to the smoke. You should not allow smoking in your home or your car if you suffer from rhinitis, because it is very likely that the smoke will cause an attack.
How do the symptoms manifest?
Rhinitis begins with a slight tingling in the nose that quickly turns into a barrage of severe sneezing. These sneezing fits are so intense that the patient may not even get a word in between sneezes. Next, the patient develops a runny, red nose; itchy, watery eyes; runny, watery mucous; and a nasal voice. There are also unseen symptoms like headaches, itchy throat, sinus pressure, sore throat, fatigue, moodiness, and insomnia.
The nose normally produces a liquid substance that is commonly called a “runny nose.” The liquid is clear and watery, and helps prevent dust, bacteria, viruses, and allergens from reaching the lungs. It is usually not very noticeable, and is only produced in a small amount. However, in people with rhinitis, mucosal irritation in the nose produces higher levels of this liquid, and causes it to become thicker as well. It can flow both out of the nose and down the back of the throat, which causes coughing. This increase in nasal secretion in the throat is called “postnasal drip.”
Why does the nose become irritated? When the allergens enter the nose, the immunoglobulin IgE alerts mast cells of the intruders, and they release histamine. This substance inflames the lining of the sinuses, nose, and throat. This can be confused with the symptoms of pertussis, especially in children when the pharyngeal ring is inflamed.
In certain individuals, allergies produce over years what is called an “allergic march,” when the IgE that is released in the mucous “travels” to other parts of the body, such as the skin or the bronchi. This explains the cases of rhinitis that end up further complicating dermatitis or asthma. At other times, the pollen ingested acts on the intestinal mucosa and causes cramps and diarrhea. Rhinitis should be treated with great importance.
A person can also have allergic rhinitis not triggered by allergens. In this case the condition may occur as a side effect of the continuous use of topical nasal sprays that produce a rebound effect. One may apply nasal drops to clear nasal congestion from a cold, but if these drops are used daily for a long period and then discontinued, the mucosa of the nose and sinuses tend to swell when the effects of the drug dissipate. If more doses are applied, the mucosa becomes even more inflamed and a vicious cycle begins as the body adjusts to the new dosage and requires more doses more frequently to relieve symptoms.
Rhinitis can also be produced by hormonal changes or modifications in the structure of the nose, as with a deviated septum or the growth of nasal polyps.
Finally, there is also infectious rhinitis, which is nothing but the congestion and runny nose caused by the common cold. The virus that causes an infection occurs in the mucous membranes of the nose and sinuses.
In the case of allergic rhinitis, the patient should above all avoid the allergen causing the reaction. However, the underlying problem is often caused by stress and poor diet, leading to a weak immune system and sickness. These are the real reasons that certain people have an exaggerated response to substances that are innocuous to most others.
Conventional medicine treats the symptoms, whereas natural medicine treats the causes of these symptoms. It is up to you to decide which method to pursue for treatment, but we strongly recommend that you try to solve the problem at its source. Treating yourself with natural therapies will help restore your balance.
First of all, a doctor should prescribe all medicines you take, and you should never self-medicate. The health of your body is a very serious thing and you should act responsibly, so if you decide on conventional medicine, be sure to visit a good allergist who thoroughly understands your condition and knows which treatments can help you.
Of all the drugs that allergists prescribe, antihistamines are most commonly used to control the symptoms of rhinitis. These drugs counteract the symptoms produced by histamine, but one of its main side effects is drowsiness, which makes it impossible to carry on a normal lifestyle. However, medicine has designed some antihistamines that do not usually cause drowsiness in most cases. Nevertheless, when you stop taking antihistamines and then come into contact with the allergen, the symptoms will reappear with the same force as before, as the drugs only treat the symptoms and do not prevent future reactions.
Another effective medication is corticosteroid nasal spray. It is applied directly to the nasal mucosa and eliminates nasal congestion. These steroids are not related to anabolic steroids used by some athletes to improve their performance.
If the origin of the allergy can be traced to a single allergen, the patient may be treated with vaccine immunotherapy. The treatment can take a long time, but has good results.
There are a large number of options in natural medicine that can not only help you control your rhinitis as effectively as conventional medicine, but, in addition, may prevent the reappearance of symptoms and, in some cases, help you overcome rhinitis entirely.
The synergy that occurs between two or more therapies can increase the benefits of these treatments.
Nutritionists recommend a diet based on fresh, plant-based foods, with a large amount of fresh fruits and vegetables so that your body receives high levels of vitamins, beta-carotene, and bioflavonoids that help keep the inflammation under control and return strength to your immune system.
You should avoid foods that contain a high content of histamine to prevent mucosal inflammatory agents from overcharging. These foods include chocolate, eggs, cheese, tomatoes, pineapple, strawberries, nuts, fish, shellfish, and citrus.
In addition, you should avoid food additives because they can also generate an intolerance or an allergic response. These are mostly found in refined products such as commercial baked goods, prepared food, and packaged food.
In the chapter on allergens, we provide a full list of the chemical additives commonly used in the food industry today. In cases of allergic rhinitis, you should completely eliminate mucous-forming foods such as dairy products and sugar from your diet to avoid overloading your mucous membranes and intestines. Also avoid coffee and alcohol, as they do not provide any nutritional benefit, but quite the opposite. It is also highly advisable that you increase your fluid intake because it will help reduce congestion. You can drink infusions of herbal medicines to help further relieve your symptoms after a crisis. Soups, broths, fruit and vegetable juices, or nut-based milks are other great options. These fluids provide vitamins, energy, and wellness to your tired body, which has been subjected to extra wear. Naturopaths recommend carrot, cucumber, and parsley juices for their powerful detoxifying effects on your body.
On the other hand, you can improve the state of your immune system by increasing your consumption of garlic and onions, which contain quercetin, a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Pumpkin is also very beneficial because it provides a lot of beta-carotene during the fall and winter, when there is a limited selection of fruits and vegetables.
Honey also provides many benefits. Experts recommend taking a tablespoon every morning to boost the immune system. Although sold in many varieties and textures, it is best that you buy local, artisanal honey. Because local honey will be made from the flowers in your area, you can ingest small amounts of these pollens and help your body get used to their proteins, helping you to react less and less.
As always, seek advice from your nutritionist before making any decisions, including taking honey, if you suffer from hay fever or some food allergies, to avoid any undesirable effects.
Chewing honeycomb is also recommended in the winter. You can chew honeycomb as many times per day as you want and it will help your sinuses stay clear. Treat it as you would chewing gum, and chew it for a quarter of an hour at a time, leaving at least an hour between each time.
In the case of allergic asthma, homeopathy shows excellent results in patients with rhinitis by balancing our bodies both physically and emotionally in order to combat the disease globally.
Suffice it to say, you should avoid as much contact as possible with substances that provoke your allergies, at least until your body is completely restored. Also, do not try to gradually adapt to the allergen yourself, as this can worsen allergic conditions and increase your symptoms’ intensity.
Ideally, the homeopath will be able to prescribe a remedy that is suitable for your allergy. However, it is not always easy to find the right remedy at first, since physical and emotional data can get mixed up.
Certain homeopathic methods prescribe an initial dose of a remedy that produces what is called “similar aggravation.” This is an intensification of the patient’s existing symptoms. If it occurs, it means that the remedy is correct.
This process takes time, but the treatments have good results. Look for a homeopath that you completely trust and follow their instructions to the letter. You must remember you both are on the same path in search of your self-healing.
There are some homeopathic remedies that can also help you cope with allergic rhinitis outbreaks:
— The most common remedies are Luffa operculata and Allium
— For a runny nose and watery eyes: 6C dilutions of Arsenicum album, Euphrasia, Natrum muriatricum, Nux vomica, and Kali iodatum.
— For thick mucous: 6C dilutions of Calcium Sulphate and Hepar Sulphur.
Helichrysum: Helichrysum is a potent anti-inflammatory that gives excellent results in controlling outbreaks of sneezing and inflammation of the mucosa, relieves itching, and stops a runny nose. It is sold in health centers in the form of syrup.
Mullein: Curbs post-nasal drips. Put the leaves in boiling water, and, leaning over to inhale the vapors, cover your head with a towel to keep the steam around your face.
Elder: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Licorice: A root and a potent antiallergenic that has been used for thousands of years.
Plantain: Relieves excess mucous.
Chamomile: Relieves puffy eyes. After brewing chamomile, soak two cotton balls in the infusion, and then lay them over your eyes for ten minutes.
Fenugreek: Helps prevent attacks. If you have hay fever, you should start taking it a few days before pollination begins.
Ephedra: Contains the active ingredient in a popular antihistamine medication, ephedrine. The herbalist should tell you the exact dosage because if abused, ephedra accelerates the heart rate and blood pressure.
Myrtle: Relieves nasal congestion. Irrigate each nostril with this using a syringe or plastic bulb.
Echinacea: This herb boosts the immune system, which is always helpful for people with allergies. If your rhinitis is seasonal, take echinacea a few weeks before -pollination to help prevent attacks.
Stinging Nettle: Reduces the secretion of mucous.
This ancient therapy has proven very effective in cases of allergic rhinitis. Not only can targeting specific acupoints help reduce inflammation, but it also boosts the immune system and cleans blockages in your body’s energy channels. Acupuncturists often work the meridians for the liver, large intestine, or the lungs, although the diagnosis of each patient is completely personalized, so the treatment may vary.
The needles can sometimes produce pain, especially in certain troublesome acupoints used to treat rhinitis. These points are located on both sides of the nostrils and eyebrows, and the tops of the earlobes. If it is too painful, the therapist can stimulate these points with a laser instead of a needle. In this case, the effects will not be as great, but the session will be more bearable.
Natural therapies treat the body with the most respect, and though symptoms are resolved quickly, the treatments require repeated sessions to get to the root of the condition. A patient should schedule weekly acupuncture sessions of about a half hour in length until the patient shows improvement, whereupon the sessions can become less frequent.
Essential oils can also provide relief for your sinuses. Lavender essential oil, when applied with a gentle massage under the eyes, can clear nasal congestion. Inhaling a few drops of essential oil of lemon balm, lavender, chamomile, or eucalyptus can also help. Do not use chamomile oil if you are pregnant.
The vapors from hot water with two or three drops of sandalwood or pine oils added to it can be a very effective nasal decongestant. Niaouli is another effective oil, but not recommended in children because it can provoke a bronchospasm.
The body requires trace elements of certain essential minerals that are essential to biological processes such as the synthesis of hormones, digestion, cell reproduction, and of course, the immune system. This is where they play an important role in combating allergies, showing good results in fighting other diseases such as asthma and rhinitis.
Our body acquires these minerals from the foods we eat. However, our diet should be well balanced in order to receive the right nutrients. To fight allergies, your body requires higher amounts, and it is recommended to take nutritional supplements containing these elements.
Therapists prescribe appropriate and personalized treatment for each patient. The most essential minerals for treating allergic rhinitis are copper, potassium, manganese, sulfur, and silicon.
The emotional state of a person can trigger an allergic crisis. The presence of allergens is not necessary to provoke an attack of sneezing, which can be triggered by depression or stress. As in the case of asthma sufferers, when you have rhinitis, you need to try to lead a stress-free life.
Bach Flowers can greatly help reduce stress, and the World Health Organization recognized their effectiveness in 1976.
A few drops of these flower essences help regulate our energy levels and overcome negative emotions. The supervision of a therapist is necessary to help you find solutions.
There are thirty-two remedies used in this treatment, each of which corresponds to a particular characteristic or emotional state. Walnut, for example, can help with rhinitis by improving and protecting our immune system.
The role of the therapist, who will help you find solutions, is essential.
Like the organs in the body, the nose and sinuses also have reflex points on the foot. A gentle foot massage is not only pleasant, but also has many therapeutic benefits including decongestion.
The points for the chest, lungs, and bronchi are located just below the five fingers at the top of the palms, and the point for the nose is located on the big toes.
The reflexologist will stress those areas, but also work the rest of the foot, especially focusing on the points connected to the liver and intestine.
You can gently massage your fingers daily, and massaging your hands and feet will help you relax and improve your energy flow, helping you to feel much better all around. When massaging your hand, the fingers should all be massaged upward except for the thumb, which should be massaged downward. This simple operation can be performed any time, anywhere. Although feet contain many sensitive pressure points, hands are more convenient to massage whenever you want.
There is a technique called Jala Neti Yoga, which is very effective for those who suffer from rhinitis. This Hindu name is for a simple nasal wash, but its particular method provides excellent results, as it not only cleans but also stimulates the nasal sinuses and the body in general.
Dietetics centers and yoga schools sell “neti pots,” which is the vessel used to administer the saltwater solution to the nose. The experts can tell you the correct amount of water and unrefined sea salt that you should use to perform the irrigations. The water goes in one nostril and out the other, as if it were a siphon. It has been found that continuous use is highly effective in the treatment of rhinitis.
Furthermore, the practice of yoga is also very beneficial, as it allows you to balance the body physically and spiritually. The relaxation and breathing techniques help raise awareness of our bodies and our minds and strengthen us at all levels.
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Excerpt published from Natural Treatment of Allergies: Learn How to Treat Your Allergies with Safe, Natural Methods by Ramón Rosello and Anna Huete with permission from Skyhorse Publishing.