With everything in full bloom, April and May can be two of the worst months for seasonal allergies

It’s estimated that more than 25 percent of the population currently lives with allergic disorders and it’s looking like that number will continue to increase with climate change.

Even though weather and plant behaviour play a major part in triggering allergy symptoms, there are other environmental influences that contribute to the worsening of seasonal allergies.

Let’s take a look at some of the causes and how we can make sustainable changes to our lifestyle in order to ease those pesky symptoms...

Climate change and its effect on allergies

Allergy seasons are generally worse when the temperature increases earlier than expected, since these warmer temperatures prompt plants to bloom earlier and fill the air with pollen. Global warming doesn’t necessarily mean that the weather will be warmer in any given year or season, but it does mean that the transitional seasons like spring will bring unpredictable weather.

Not only do warmer springs encourage plants to bloom early, but dry weather prevents rain from washing pollen from the sky, and windier weather is likely to carry more pollen through the air. These drastic changes in weather are exacerbating the existing problem where cities are planting fruitless and seedless “litter-free” trees. Although these male trees don’t drop as much debris, they do produce a lot of pollen. And with fewer females to catch the pollen, it’s left to fill the air (and our noses).

Wind-pollinated plants are targeted as the worst culprits for seasonal allergies, but there is also a reason why our bodies have been increasingly reactive to these plants through the years.

Root causes of seasonal allergies

Allergies (or hay fever) are caused by the immune system overreacting to the excess pollen in the environment as it enters our respiratory systems. Our immune system isn't meant to overreact to benign substances like pollen; its purpose is to react to and alert the body of viruses. An immune system that’s overreacting is one that is already fatigued and prone to further sensitivity to pollen and other substances, which is common in people today given our modern food practices and stress habits.

One of the leading environmental causes of allergies is the use of pesticides in foods like grains, soy products and vegetables, which are disrupting both our soil and gut health. As we consume these products in higher volumes, our bodies are constantly fighting excess pathogens and protecting us from illness. With the addition of modern-day stress levels, our bodies are pre-inflamed and easily triggered by the pollen, spiralling into more severe allergy symptoms.

Our bodies are just doing their jobs: they believe that there is a threat and they’re prompting our immune systems to take action. So how can we relieve some of the tension on our immune systems in order to ease allergy symptoms naturally?herbal teaPexels/lilartsy

Natural ways to prevent and soothe allergies

  1. Eat local produce and meats: This seems like an impossibly easy way to prevent allergies, but by eating a diet that is low in sugar, pesticides and other inflammatory substances, your body will be well-equipped to handle the excess pollen as our climate warms. This is also a more environmentally friendly way to eat.
  2. Avoid synthetic fragrances: Another preventative measure is to avoid fragrances that are known to disrupt your endocrine system (your hormonal system), which causes unnecessary stress on the body, once again prompting it to be pre-inflamed and a perfect host for allergy symptoms.
  3. Eat bitter foods: Spring brings about many weeds, like dandelions, that are bitter in nature and offer essential nutrients to help our digestive systems break down food after a long winter of warm, soft foods. Giving your digestive system this boost through foraged herbs or purchased digestive bitters and digestive enzymes will help minimize your immune reactivity to pollen.
  4. Drink demulcents: Beverages/teas that soothe and line the digestive tract will also help in restoring your digestive system if it’s already inflamed to ease allergy symptoms. You can grow many of these herbs or forage them safely to make tea, such as: marshmallow root or leaf, slippery elm, licorice root, anise hyssop, holy basil, plantain leaf and calendula.
  5. Ease the symptoms: Using a neti pot (or other nasal cleaners) is an easy way to remove pollen from the nasal passages and ease any initial discomfort from allergies. Nettle leaf, a common plant that grows wildly in early spring, is known as a natural antihistamine and can be taken as a tincture or tea. Once foraged, nettle can be taken along with peppermint and red raspberry to ease allergy discomfort.

Talking to your doctor, naturopath or other healthcare professional is always the best practice when taking any herbs or natural products in large quantities, as they will be able to best advise you on dosages and interactions with other medications. They will also be able to guide you on any immune responses you might be having to environmental factors and help ease those allergy symptoms—or prevent them all together.

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