Natural Allergy Treatments


©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress...and relieve allergies. See more pictures of natural allergy treatments.

Allergy-proofing, allergy medicines, and allergy shots are all standard methods of controlling and reducing allergies. But what's often overlooked when it comes to allergies is the importance of being physically and mentally fit. In this article, you will learn some of the more unexpected ways you can help control your allergies, as well as some new, alternative treatments. Let's begin with a look at the role stress can play in your allergies.

The Mess Called Stress

A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a balanced diet helps curb stress, which isn't an allergen but does weaken the immune system, making the body more vulnerable to all kinds of infections, including those brought on by allergies (a sinus infection, for instance). And many people have trouble distinguishing between infections and allergies.

In our fast-paced, high-tech society, most people operate on overload. Our bodies, on the other hand, react to this overload in a low-tech manner by retreating to the basic "fight or flight" response mechanism. (Those were the two choices primitive people had when encountering stress, which typically manifested itself in the form of a hungry animal.)

When faced with a stressful situation, be it a large, hairy animal or an angry boss (often one and the same), the body produces stress hormones called cortisol and epinephrine. These hormones flood the bloodstream with an all-systems alert. Your heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, lungs pump harder, sweat glands let loose, and stomach acts up. These two hormones, interestingly enough, are actually protective against allergies and are given to people who are having severe allergic reactions.

Unless you know how to cope with stress, you will suffer physically and mentally. Undesirable emotions, such as anxiety and depression, and unpleasant signs or symptoms, such as high blood pressure, headaches, backaches, and upset stomach, will take control, steering the body and the exhausted immune system into dangerous waters.

De-Stressing Your Life

 

Fortunately, you can stay on course by learning to control your reactions to a stressful boss, a stressful event, or a stressful existence. There are plenty of enjoyable ways to reduce stress. Some of the most effective are regular exercise (both the aerobic and the strength-training varieties), meditation, and massage. Just remember, be sure to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

For some, traditional exercise isn't enough to clear their heads. Alternative allergy treatments are an option in these cases. Keep reading to learn about these outside-the-box treatments.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Exercise

When it comes to the primitive fight or flight response, choose the latter. Flee to the gym after work, outside for a morning walk, to the tennis court with a friend -- any kind of exercise will do. Regular aerobic (heart-pumping) exercise is particularly effective at controlling stress, and it improves your physical as well as your emotional health. There's no need to go on an Olympic training schedule to benefit. Health experts recommend 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week. You can take an aerobics class, but aerobic exercise comes in many fun forms: walking, hiking, jogging, dancing, bicycling, swimming, cross-country skiing, racquet sports, and martial arts.Many people choose walking as their primary or only aerobic exercise because it's free, easy, and flexible. You can walk almost anywhere, you can set and adjust the pace, you can choose solitude or company, and you don't have to commit a set amount of time. Stressed at work? Walk briskly around the building. Tired out by tragic events in the news? Take a walk through the neighborhood. Need to clear your mind or develop new ideas? A walk works like drain cleaner, allowing thoughts to flow more easily. To reap the long-term rewards of this exercise, health experts suggest walking three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes, gradually picking up the pace, time, and frequency. You can supplement by walking to the grocery store, using the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the far end of the shopping mall, or exiting the bus one stop early and walking the difference. Gardening, golfing (sans golf cart), and walking the dog can also be a part of your fitness and de-stressing program.Non-aerobic activities also help you reduce stress, develop muscle tone, and increase flexibility.The secret to maintaining an exercise program is to do what you enjoy -- and do it regularly.

Alternative Allergy Therapies

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Believe it or not, massages can help to keep your allergies in check.

Exercise certainly helps, but sometimes it may not be enough to relieve stress and, thereby, alleviate allergies. Fortunately, there are other alternative options:

Meditation

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Concentrate on each breath. That's meditation in a nutshell. Sounds simple, right? Don't be fooled. Your mind doesn't want to be still and concentrate on the boring breath. No, there is too much to think about! The mind overflows with thoughts and questions: What's for dinner? I feel lousy. What did Joan mean by that remark? Should I pack my blue or gray suit for the trip? Those new stocks didn't do well on the market today. How do I control Mark's nail-biting?

Combine this cascade of thoughts with distractions -- obnoxious television jingles, screaming kids, loud traffic -- and you can see how you become stressed out. That's where minding your breath comes in handy. Meditation requires you to focus on each and every breath, and if you do it right you will learn to crowd out extraneous thoughts.

After several months of practice, you'll notice you've been transformed into a calmer person, one who is not quickly knocked off balance by annoyances and distractions, whether it's an unpleasant thought, a screaming child, or even a sneezing fit. Moreover, you'll find that breathing practice helps your muscles relax and aches and pains fade away, leaving you in a better mood. Concentrating on and controlling your breathing is a natural tranquilizer.

Meditation can be done anytime and anywhere, alone or with a group. Some people find they become more focused when meditating in a group, while others prefer to walkor sit alone and meditate.

Other Forms of Mental Relaxation

The ancient arts of yoga and t'ai chi combine movement, stretching, deep breathing, and concentration to tone your body and relax your mind. Through practice and patience, both these movement arts help accentuate the positives (strengthen and relax muscles and focus the mind) and eliminate the negatives (tension, anxiety, body aches). Yoga and t'ai chi are easy to learn and easy to incorporate into a daily exercise routine.

If meditation or movement isn't your kind of mental relaxation, simply try positive self-talk or good old laughter. Research has shown that the latter relaxes tense muscles, reduces blood pressure, exercises muscles of the face and diaphragm, and causes the body to release pain-fighting hormones.

Massage

Massage therapy is based on our instinctive need for touch. Sometimes all it takes to relieve tension is a nice back rub. Allergy sufferers, especially those with sore sinuses, might find facial and neck massages especially appealing.

The Swedish style of massage, by far the most popular, is a treat for the entire body. The massage therapist concentrates on easing tension by gently massaging legs, arms, back, neck, and upper chest muscles with oil (to prevent friction). Another popular form of massage is the Japanese-style Shiatsu. The therapist focuses on pressure points on the body.

Most massages last 60 minutes, a time many find too short. Be sure to drink some water after a massage.

When looking for a massage therapist, allergy sufferers need to be alert to potential problems, especially if the therapist's office is in their home. Check the environment to be sure it's comfortable, clean, and free of irritants. Does the therapist have pets or a plethora of plants? Does the therapist burn incense or use scented oils? These may be irritating to sinuses.

Acupuncture

The Chinese have been using acupuncture, the introduction of hair-thin needles into specific points (called acupoints) on the body, for more than 2,500 years, but the West has been slow to catch on. Only recently have acupuncture and acupuncture clinics entered the Western health care scene. Influential organizations are taking note, too. The World Health Organization (WHO) listed acute sinusitis and acute rhinitis as two diseases that lend themselves to acupuncture treatment. (This was based on clinical experience, not controlled studies.) Western medical studies also put in a plug for acupuncture, indicating that it helps stimulate the release of the body's natural painkillers, endorphins, which contributes to a sense of well-being.

Before choosing an acupuncturist, get a recommendation from a physician or through the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture's Web site (www.medicalacupuncture.org) or their patient referral service (800-521-2262). The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which promotes nationally recognized standards in acupuncture, also has an Internet referral service: www.nccaom.org.

More Alternative Therapies

Acupuncture isn't the only alternative therapy for stress reduction. Therapies run the gamut from aromatherapy (using essential oils from plants and herbs) to hydrotherapy (using mineral water). Alternative therapies are not backed by scientific research, and they shouldn't be viewed as a replacement for conventional medicine.

If you're considering alternative therapies, ask your doctor about incorporating them into your daily health care routine. And do some research first so you understand the pros and cons. Some therapies actually may be unhealthy for allergy sufferers. For instance, some herbal therapists use herbs that aren't regulated by the FDA and harbor molds, dust, bacteria, pollens, and other contaminants. Equally important is choosing a skilled therapist who belongs to a bona fide organization and has a good reputation in the community. Beware therapists (and therapies) promising a "miracle cure" for stress relief and allergies or who discourage you from taking your medications.

Another natural allergy treatment is to select a healthy diet. The final section will look at foods you can eat to cut back on your allergy symptoms.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Control Allergies With Your Diet

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Foods with grains are a wise choice for those with allergies.

Why do allergy sufferers need to be concerned about their eating habits? Because a healthy diet best equips your body to handle allergy symptoms and to fight invaders to which allergies make you more susceptible. Your hard-working immune system also may increase demands for certain nutrients, both to protect the body and to help rebuild defenses.

The immune system is complex, and no single food, drink, mineral, or vitamin is responsible for fighting infection or rebuilding damaged tissues. Vitamins and minerals work together to help the entire system function properly. That's why a well-balanced diet is essential.

A healthy diet includes:

  • A variety of fresh, unprocessed foods.
  • Lots of fiber-containing foods, such as vegetables and whole grains.
  • Three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit each day.
  • Primarily low-fat foods.
  • Only small amounts of red meat.
  • Spices but little added salt.
  • Moderate amounts of sweets.

By eating a healthy, balanced diet, you'll be providing the body with the following vitamins and minerals -- all of them important workers in building and maintaining a strong immune system. As a bonus, many of these vitamins also help the mucous membranes of the nose and throat, which are the immune system's front line, not to mention the areas most affected by allergy symptoms.

Protein: Most Americans don't have to worry about a protein deficiency since most diets have more than adequate amounts. However, if protein is lacking, the thymus gland shrinks, thereby decreasing the production of white blood cells that help fight disease.

Selenium: Selenium helps the body produce antibodies and teams up with vitamin E to help that vitamin work efficiently. Only a small amount is necessary. Selenium is found in meats, seafood, and whole grains.

Zinc: An adequate amount of zinc, found in animal-derived foods (meats, oysters, eggs, dairy products) and some beans, benefits the immune system in many ways. The thymus gland, where disease-fighting white blood cells are produced, gets an extra boost. Zinc also helps the skin to remain healthy, helps wounds heal faster, and may decrease the recovery time from colds.

Fluids

A healthy, balanced diet doesn't stop at the dinner plate. Liquid intake plays an important, if often overlooked, role in maintaining your health. It aids the digestion, absorption, and transport of nutrients; ferries waste products away from the cells; gets rid of toxins from the blood via the urine; builds tissue; regulates body temperature; cushions joints and organs; and maintains blood pressure. Eight glasses of water or other nutritious, noncaffeinated beverages a day is recommended to keep your body happy, healthy, and hydrated. That's because you lose about 10 cups of fluid a day, and even more when it's warm outside or you're exercising.

Allergy sufferers should be especially vigilant about fluid intake. Some allergy medications, particularly antihistamines, leave nasal passages, eyes, and throat drier than desert sand. If medications don't cause membranes to shrivel up, an "allergy-proofed" environment might. A home with low humidity and/or air-conditioning can dry out the eyes, skin, and sinuses.

When we talk about fluids, we don't mean alcoholic beverages. Don't count alcohol as part of your daily fluid intake. Limit alcoholic beverages to one drink or less a day for women and two drinks or less a day for men. Remember that alcohol can exacerbate the effects of antihistamines, especially drowsiness.

Caffeinated beverages, such as cola drinks, coffee, and tea, don't fully count towards the 10 cups of fluid a day, especially for allergy sufferers. Caffeine can exacerbate the side effects of decongestants. And both alcohol and caffeine can act as weak diuretics, actually removing fluid from the body -- the opposite of what you need. However, caffeine is a mild bronchodilator.

Watching Out for Cross Reactions

It's crazy how allergies work sometimes, especially when it comes to cross reactions. This curious syndrome happens when a person allergic to a certain food, pollen, or substance has a reaction to another plant or fruit with a similar chemical configuration. Cast a suspicious eye toward the following foods if your lips, tongue, or throat start tingling or you itch after eating:

  • Cantaloupe, watermelon, and/or chamomile tea if you have a ragweed allergy
  • Tree fruits and hazelnuts if you have a birch tree pollen allergy
  • Celery if you have a mugwort weed pollen allergy
  • Tropical treats such as avocados and bananas, and sometimes peaches and apricots, if you have a latex allergy. Remember, latex comes from the rubber tree.

Cross reaction symptoms are typically mild and may not occur if food is processed or cooked. However, these may progress, so avoid the offending foods.By using alternative therapies and a well-planned diet, you can combat that runny nose and those watery eyes. ©Publications International, Ltd.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.