Pollens Be Gone!!
Spring is sprung, the grass is green…the grass, the weeds, the trees…gazoontite!!
While we all look forward to warm sunny weather and longer days, the ‘blooming’ flowers and plants of spring can cause havoc for many kids and parents alike. How can we, as parents, encourage our little people to get some fresh air, when that’s the very thing that opens the flood gates? Let’s get a handle on hay fever once and for all.
It is actually very rare for children under the age of five to experience hay fever or seasonal allergies. It is much more common in teenagers and adults; however, the susceptibility for children to develop seasonal allergies as they grow is greatly influenced by their personal allergic history (for example, food or skin) and their family history of allergies, asthma and eczema.
Hay fever is categorized by a hypersensitive reaction of the membranes of the nose and sinuses to inhaled substances. Common allergens include pollens of trees, grasses and flowering weeds, pet dander, feathers, dust and mold. The irritation of mucus membranes causes nasal congestion and clear discharge, sneezing, itchy nose, watery, itchy eyes and headache.
Okay, scholars, sharpen your pencils and welcome to Biology 101! In an allergy sufferer, when an inhaled allergen enters the bloodstream, the immune system is quick to respond. The invader will bind to the mast cells of the immune system, resulting in an inflammatory reaction. The mast cells, found in highest numbers in the respiratory tract and bloodstream, will disintegrate, releasing histamine. Histamine will cause expansion and permeability of the blood vessels, causing fluid loss in the mucus membranes of the nasal and sinus passages.
Knowing the mechanism of action will help us understand the goals of treatment and choose remedies that will stabilize the immune system.
There, now on to the good stuff.
When addressing hypersensitive immune reactions, treatments are geared towards reducing histamine, decreasing inflammation, improving the vitality of the mucus membranes, and restoring balance in the gastrointestinal tract.
In order to tame the severity of the hay fever, it is often necessary to eliminate certain foods during this season. Wheat is a staple in many homes, and the thought of removing it from our diets seems torturous, however, wheat is a grass and therefore its exposure to pollen is quite likely. Many allergy suffers can easily digest wheat during the fall and winter, but cannot tolerate it in the spring for this reason.
Dairy is another food group that may have to be put to rest for a few months in the spring. Milk and milk products will contribute to the production of mucus in the body and, during allergy season, the discharge is already measured in copious amounts.
The good news is I will be encouraging our families to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are now becoming more locally available from our farmers markets! It is important to adequately clean our produce to remove pollens and residues from the exterior skin.
Green leafy vegetables are high in Vitamin C, beta carotene, zinc and bioflavonoids which quiets mucus membrane discharge, promotes tissue repair and stabilizes mast cells.
Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, such as peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, peaches, mangos and cantaloupe are excellent sources of Vitamin A and beta carotene, which are vital for white blood cell production, lymphatic function, supporting mucus membranes and building a strong thymus and spleen (an important immune gland and organ).
Cold water fish, including salmon, cod, and halibut, not only provide our kids with brain food, but also help tame the inflammation of hay fever. Two or three servings of fish weekly, along with a daily omega 3 fatty acid supplement helps support a healthy functioning immune system. Hydrogenated oils, margarine and fried foods block essential fatty acid production, aid in the production of inflammatory products and contribute to tissue breakdown, all adding to the severity of seasonal allergies.
Allergy suffers and those kids who have the potential to become snotty and sneezy should be consuming _ – 1 cup of berries daily, including blueberries, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, pomegranate, grapes, plums and strawberries. And what kid doesn’t love nature’s candy!! These berries are packed with antioxidants, bioflavonoids, vitamins, minerals and living enzymes that no multi-vitamin can even come close too. All these medicinal constituents contribute to antiviral activity, mast cell stabilization, and free radical damage prevention.
Two important bioflavonoids used in treating hay fever include quercitin and bromelain. Quercitin stabilizes mucus membranes and prevents the crumbling of mast cells and therefore the release of histamine. Bromelain and quercitin complement each other and are generally taken on an empty stomach when treating allergies.
Urtica diocia or nettles is a mineral rich herb, high in zinc, iron, calcium and also Vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Nettles in the freeze dried form stabilize histamine response in the body, helping to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever. Nettles can be combined with decongestant herbs, such as cayenne, elder flowers, garlic and fenugreek, and herbs that strengthen the mucus membranes, such as eyebright and red clover blossoms.
Homeopathy works wonders with children and there are numerous allergy remedies that can be useful. I’ve seen hay fever symptoms completely resolve with Poumon Histaminum. For a child who experiences sneezing fits, red teary eyes and whose symptoms improve outdoors or with cold water on their face, give Allium cepa a try. Euphrasia can be helpful for little people with burning tears, nasal discharge and light sensitivity. And for the allergy sufferer who has spasmodic sneezing, nasal itching and discharge and soft palate itching, treat with Sabadilla.
While acupuncture and vitamin mineral injection therapy is not an option for younger children, teenagers and adults have found relief from seasonal allergies using these methods as well.
So now that we’re equipped with balanced immune systems and pollen blocking remedies, I’ll see you all outside smelling the roses!!
Dr. Amy Wells was born and raised in Newfoundland where she had an active childhood participating in gymnastics, cross country & downhill skiing and piano. After completing her Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Biochemistry, she headed to Toronto to study four years of Naturopathic Medicine. Yearning for the ocean and outdoor adventures, she headed west and started a clinic in the Comox Valley. Amy’s latest journey is mothering a toddler and keeping up!!
Dr. Amy Wells practices at the Oceanwave Naturopathic Clinic, located at 362D-10th Street, Courtenay and can be reached at 338.2600.