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Dreading the Sniffling Season?
by Bill Chioffi

An allergy is an abnormal reaction of a person's immune system to what is normally a harmless substance. Those who don't suffer from allergies have no reaction to this substance. When a person who is allergic encounters this trigger, however, the body reacts by releasing chemicals, such as histamines, which cause allergy symptoms. Imbedded in the tissues of our body are immune cells known as mast cells, which become unstable and eventually degranulate and release histamine when they are repeatedly contacted by allergens originating from either the environment or as a by-product of metabolism. Eventually, inflammatory histamines and other inflammatory substances "leak" through the membranes, evoking the inflammatory response. Mucous membranes may become irritated and swollen and secrete excess mucous.

Spring is a key time for allergies, which usually result from trees releasing pollen. Tree pollination tends to start anytime from January to April depending on the climate and location, and those known to cause severe allergies, include oak, olive, elm, birch, ash, hickory, poplar, sycamore, maple, cypress, and walnut.

The standard pharmaceutical approach involves blocking this histamine response through the use of histamine blockers, such as diphenhydramine hydrochloride, a common over-the-counter (OTC) medicine known as Benadryl. The problem with antihistamines is that they work toward blocking histamine receptor sites, which is only a temporary fix. When the body realizes that the sites are being manipulated with chemicals, it responds by producing more receptor sites. This explains why allergy medication loses its effectiveness over time and, even worse, how a person's immune system becomes more sensitive as the body's receptor sites increase.

The Naturopathic solution of this immediate type of hypersensitivity includes implementing the following approaches:
  • Stabilizing mast cells
  • Improving the integrity of the mucous membranes
  • Enhancing the adrenal response toward the activation of inflammatory pathways
  • Protecting liver integrity and improving its ability to clear these allergens from the system
  • Providing immune support
The botanical approach to stabilizing mast cells and improving mucous membrane integrity largely involves using plants, such as turmeric (curcuma longa), nettle leaf (Urtica diocia), eyebright (Euphrasia off.), bayberry (Myrica off.), yarrow (Achillea millifolium), and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Eyebright in particular contains antiinflammatory and astringent properties, making it a powerful treatment for congestive illnesses.

All of these herbs are found in the highly effective formula by Gaia Herbs called Aller-Leaf. It is delivered in an alcohol-free, vegetarian liquid Phyto-Cap and made with certified organic and ecologically harvested herbs. Recommendations suggest starting use at least one month prior to the onset of your seasonal allergy to help prevent an allergic response. It can also be used very effectively at the onset of symptoms for immediate relief.

To further improve mucous membrane integrity, using nasal irrigation is highly recommended. This practice, known also as "Neti," is a simple practice of running saline water through the sinuses using either a "Neti-Pot" or a sinus irrigator machine. Nasal irrigation, perhaps more than anything, will directly enhance the integrity of the mucous membranes in the sinuses and clear excess allergens and congestive mucous.

Enhancing the adrenals will directly assist numerous other parts of the body, such as the immune, endocrine, cardiovascular, and nervous systems. The safest and most effective way to do this is through the use of herbs classified as adaptogens. These are herbs that help the body adapt to numerous stressors through a primarily nutritive mechanism and are very safe and non-toxic. My favorite adaptogens are all found in another liquid Phyto-Cap formula from Gaia Herbs called Adrenal Health. It contains: ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera), Holy Basil (Occimum sanctum), rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), schizandra berry (Schizandra chinensis), and wild oat milky seed (Avena sativa). This formula will help allay the fatigue and lethargy felt during the allergy season.

Why complicate allergies with a drowseinducing OTC remedy, when you can use natural formulas like Aller-Leaf and Adrenal Health and actually feel clear and energized?

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