The ‘Natural” Approach to Allergy Management
Maybe you’ve tried several different allergy medications, and they’ve become less effective for you over time. Maybe your allergies just bother you a little bit, and you don’t think strong medication is necessary. Maybe you’re one of those people who likes to try alternative routes before going on “Western” medication. Whatever the reason, there are many people who would like to be able to control their allergy symptoms without relying on strong medicine. What are their options?
First, look at your lifestyle
Diet: Some healthcare practitioners believe that you may be able to reduce the severity of allergies by strictly limiting or eliminating dairy products. There have been no large-scale studies that prove this, but some people have reported success with it. If you’re interested in giving it a try, make sure you’re replacing the calcium in your diet that you would lose if you stopped eating dairy foods.
Outdoor activity: If you have allergies caused by pollen or mold, exercising outside during allergy season can be a challenge. Here are some things you can do to decrease the severity of your symptoms:
- Pollen is released shortly after dawn, so if pollen bothers you, early morning exercise may not be a good idea.
- The pollen count is lower on damp, rainy days.
- You may want to skip outdoor exercise on warm, dry, breezy days, when pollen and mold travels most easily.
- If mold alone is causing your symptoms, avoid exercising outside at night and on damp, rainy days.
Some alternative remedies and practices
Once again, there have been no large-scale studies proving that any particular herbal remedy or practice works well for allergy symptoms. On the other hand, some people have seen improvement after trying some of the following:
- Stinging nettle leaf extract. The stinging nettle is a perennial herb found throughout the world. Tiny, stiff hairs on the leaves of the plant can cause a stinging, burning feeling when you brush against them, but there is no discomfort when you buy it in extract form. You can buy stinging nettle leaf extract in freeze-dried form in many health food stores, and in pharmacies that sell alternative remedies. As always, talk to your doctor before trying any new medications.
- Acupuncture: Some people see an improvement in allergy symptoms after getting acupuncture treatments. It seems that acupuncture can help achieve more relaxed and calm breathing. This can be beneficial for people with asthma as well.
- Hypnosis: People use this technique to help them handle all kinds of conditions, from addictions to phobias to post-traumatic stress syndrome. Hypnosis may offer relief to asthma and allergy suffers by helping them to accept and practice healthier lifestyles.
Yoga, qigong: Regular practice of these activities can help relieve stress, and stress contributes to constriction of the airways. But it’s important to realize that for most people, it takes at least several weeks of practice before you’re likely to see any real improvement.
The treatments and practices described above have very little, if any, side effects. It’s important, however, to make sure you go to licensed practitioners for treatments like massage and acupuncture, take classes from trained professionals and take herbal medications according to the labels. And be sure to tell your doctor what kinds of treatments you’re using, especially if you take other medications or if your allergy symptoms are particularly severe.
American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology; Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America; Mittman P. Planta Med 1990 56(1): 44-7; A. Weil. Eating Well for Optimum Health, Quill/Harper/Collins, 2001.