Each spring people suffering allergies beset my office. Their symptoms vary from the usual symptoms of headache, sinus problems, itchy red eyes, sneezing, blotchy red skin lesions that itch to the more unusual problems such as migraine headache, fatigue, depression, joint pain, and bowel problems.

Most individuals run to the drug store for their favorite antihistamine/decongestant, and although these drugs do help relieve the symptoms, they do little or nothing to get at the cause. When symptoms get worse, we call the doctor for even more powerful drugs. They do relieve symptoms, but can sometimes have very unpleasant side effects just as the over-the-counter aids can.

This spring why not work at changing your diet and getting rid of what it is in your environment that’s setting you off instead of suppressing your symptoms with drugs. Granted one cannot live in a bubble but as an allergy sufferer myself I can honestly tell you I live quite nicely everyday without the use of drugs, even during ragweed season. It can be done.

Be it cat hair, corn pollen, dust mites or ragweed when the allergic process is triggered our defense system will work to isolate and destroy the foreign invader. This process sets off a series of reactions resulting in the release of histamine in larger than normal amounts in order to contain the foreign protein. This is what causes all the symptoms we relate to allergy- swelling of the mucous membranes, watery itchy eyes and sneezing. This is called an adapted response. It’s what’s supposed to happen.

When we do not gain relief from our allergic triggers the body will eventually shift to a maladapted response. The dysfunction we first recognized as an allergy becomes an internal set of symptoms ranging from bowel dysfunction, joint pain, fatigue and depression.

Your allergies are unique to you, therefore it is important to know what you are allergic to and capitalize on those facts. Reduce other stressors such as diets high in processed foods, sugars, pop and grains. Watch out for MSG, Nutrasweet, caffeine and alcohol that can cause an exacerbation of symptoms.

Get rid of the household chemicals such as room deodorizers, harsh cleansers, bleach, ammonia, move the lawn chemicals and paint to some place where you won’t be constantly exposed to the fumes. Bag your mattress and box springs in allergy covers to reduce your exposure to dust mites.

Herbal tea blends including fenugreek, ginger, ginseng and red clover can help ease allergic symptoms. Use eucalyptus, camphor or tea tree oil in you bath or rubbed into the sinus areas to relieve headache sneezing and sinus pressure. Use zinc lozenges if you think your allergy symptoms are turning into a cold or flu.

Medications that hide and mask symptoms may force your body into the more serious kind of allergic response, the maladapted response. Diet changes can be difficult, but when done gradually it doesn’t have to be painful. Besides, what’s more painful, a diet change or all those allergy symptoms and the side effects from medication use?

Till next time, Rebecca.