Seasonal allergies can seriously impact our lives, causing us to feel so miserable and distracted that we can’t function effectively. Many people turn to over-the-counter (OTC) medications, like Benadryl, Dimetapp and Chlor-Trimeton, believing that because they don’t require a prescription, they’re safe to use as much as necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth.
All medications, whether OTC or prescribed, carry health risks and side effects you may not be aware of. While some people don’t bother to read the warning labels, others expect – and accept as inevitable – more common side effects like dizziness, dry mouth, tiredness, diarrhea, nervousness and many more. Although this shouldn’t be acceptable and may be causing other issues in your body, there are even more serious health risks associated with these drugs, from racing or uneven heart rate and increased blood pressure to short-term memory loss and impaired cognitive function.
The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation reported on a study conducted by Group Health and University of Washington researchers which revealed that allergy medications can cause “damage to the brain”, and that people who take these drugs are at a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. That risk increased with higher dosages and long-term use.
So does that mean you have to suffer through your seasonal allergies? Not at all. There are a number of natural ways to ward off allergy symptoms that also yield other health benefits – a double win. Here are just a few:
Improve gut health. Your gut affects more aspects of your health than you may think, from brain function to your immune and nervous systems. A diet riddled with processed foods and sugars can cause perforations in your intestinal wall, a condition called leaky gut. These tiny holes allow toxins, bacteria and undigested food to leak into your bloodstream, causing a myriad of problems such as allergies, asthma, skin problems, fatigue and so much more. Healing the gut through elimination of inflammatory foods, choosing whole foods over processed foods, and limiting or eliminating NSAIDs and alcohol are just some ways to control allergies and improve your overall health.
Antacids aren’t an answer. An unhealthy gut can cause symptoms like heartburn, but regular antacid use, including OTCs and prescription proton pump inhibitors (PPI), can actually cause allergies. This is because antacids are acid blockers, literally – they block your stomach acid to calm the burning or nausea symptoms, but your stomach needs that acid to activate the enzymes that break down allergens.
Natural antihistamines. You can bypass the drug aisle and stock up on natural allergy calmers instead. One of the most powerful antioxidants in your body is glutathione, which comes from foods like broccoli, garlic and onion. If you don’t eat enough of these sulfur-rich foods, you can still pump up your glutathione all year long with a good, additive-free supplement. You can also build up your immunity with other supplements including vitamin C, stinging nettle and quercetin.
Vitamin D. Most of us don’t get enough sunlight, especially during winter months when days are short. That can leave our bodies too low on vitamin D, which is essential for a healthy immune system. Once you find out what your body’s vitamin D level is, you can take a high-quality supplement to restore and replenish this important nutrient to the proper level.
Your functional medicine doctor can help uncover any allergies or sensitivities you may have and give you personalized advice on how best to treat them so you can enjoy every season of the year.