What you can do to manage allergies and mood
If instead of happily breathing in the fresh smells of spring, you just want to hide indoors feeling rather sorry for yourself, you may be suffering from the negative effects of seasonal allergies on mood. This doesn’t have to be the case, though!
By taking steps to relieve and prevent seasonal allergy symptoms, and to support mood balance, you can also enjoy those first heady days of spring. One way to keep allergies in check is to try to reduce your overall histamine load, so that exposure to pollens doesn’t have the same potential to trigger symptoms. This can mean addressing issues such as mold and dampness in your home, wherever possible.
You can also reduce histamine load by avoiding high-histamine and histamine-producing foods. These include aged cheeses, sausages and other meats, fish (especially tuna), seafood, wine, and some fermented vegetables, nuts, citrus, bananas, tomato, eggplant, mushrooms, and others. It’s also important to store foods properly to reduce spoiling (which increases histamine content). Refrigerate or freeze fish, meats, seafood, and cheeses, and store other foods in vacuum packs at 4 °C or below.
Ways to support your mental health during allergy season include:
- Keeping windows closed at home and using a HEPA air filter
- Changing clothes and showering when coming home from trips outside
- Cutting down on or eliminating alcohol (alcohol makes allergies worse)
- Staying hydrated
- Trying to get enough sleep (using a humidifier if this helps ease allergy symptoms)
- Nasal irrigation using sterilized water to clear allergens from sinuses
Probiotics appear to be helpful in atopic conditions, especially in children. For adults with seasonal sniffles, clinical research has shown combinations of common probiotic strains decreased symptoms and improved quality of life during allergy season.
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid, a vitamin-like molecule found in small amounts in a wide range of foods including grapes, apples, and onions. It stabilizes mast cells, making them less likely to spill histamine and trigger allergic symptoms. Look for Enzymatically Modified Isoquercetin (EMIQ), a type of quercetin developed for optimal absorption. It has been shown to reduce ocular symptoms of pollen allergies, such as itchy, watery eyes.
Bee pollen has been used for centuries to address various conditions, including seasonal allergies. It’s a combination of flower pollen, collected by worker honeybees, packed into small pellets with nectar, enzymes, bee saliva, and wax. There aren’t a lot of human trials on this folk remedy, although one study showed that mice who were fed bee pollen had reduced IgE-induced mast cell activation. It is well established that bee pollen is extremely nutritious, containing amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fatty acids. (Note: People who are allergic to bee stings should not consume bee pollen.)
Famous for its ability to ease many types of “itis” (inflammation), curcumin is the medicinal component in the herb turmeric. Since inflammation of the nasal and sinus passages is a major feature of allergies, it’s not too surprising that curcumin has been found to help relieve symptoms of allergic rhinitis. By improving airflow and decreasing the production of inflammatory compounds, curcumin may help with congestion, sneezing, and runny nose.
Allergy symptoms can include painful inflammation of the sinuses. Horseradish contains compounds called glucosinolates that help soothe irritated airways. It is designated as an over-the-counter medication for upper respiratory tract infections by the German Commission E. Unfortunately, the old jar of sauce from your last roast beef supper has probably lost any medicinal potency it might have had. Enteric-coated horseradish tablets protect the stomach while providing consistent levels of active ingredients. Rather than just masking symptoms, horseradish helps heal and reduce symptom duration. (Note: See your doctor if your sinus symptoms are accompanied by a fever, as this is a sign of infection.)
It feels weird, but it works. Studies show that nasal irrigation can help flush allergens, clear nasal and sinus discharge, and relieve allergy symptoms. Use slightly warmed distilled water or boiled tap water cooled to no more than 40°C. Mix 1 cup of prepared warm water with 1/2 teaspoon of table salt and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Use this with your Neti pot or sinus rising bottle to rinse nasal passages once or twice a day when pollen counts are high.