A Healthy Balance: The nose knows- tips for addressing spring allergies

Gazing outside at the bountiful greenery and colorful blossoms of rhododendrons, unmown grass, and myriad wildflowers that have planted themselves on my doorstep, I heave a sigh at the thought of running the gamut.

Spending time outside or even sleeping with the windows open can lead to a runny or stuffy nose and crusty eyes for many of us who suffer from seasonal allergies. But what can we do?

This happens every year and there’s no getting around it, right? While we may never be able to completely eliminate some allergies, there are some ways to minimize them to an almost unnoticeable irritation.

Eat more fruits and veggies: The benefits of quercitin (a bioflavonoid found in apples and other fruits), and other vitamin forms (particularly A and C) have been shown to have anti-histamine activity without all of the side-effects of anti-histamine medications. Try adding an apple to your lunch, some bright leafy greens to your dinner salad, or even slipping a powdered supplement such as Emergen-C to your water to increase your intake of these natural allergy-stoppers. Fruits and veggies not only provide relief from stuffy noses and crusty eyes, they’re also powerful cancer-fighters as well as helping to lower cholesterol and weight because of their high concentrations of fiber and complex carbohydrates.

Use a Neti pot: Pick one up at your local health food or herbalist store (or from your naturopath). These “teapots” get filled with salt water (or herbal “tea” as your naturopath prescribes) to flush out your nasal passages and sinuses, helping to remove any pollen that may be trapped there. The trick is to use enough salt so it sucks the fluid out rather than dumping more water into your sinuses. We recommend about a half teaspoon of salt per cup of water or slightly more. Follow the instructions that come with the pot. These are best to do in the shower.

Simple hydration: Try an over-the –counter nasal spray (such as Simply Saline, which only contains salt water or one with eucalyptus or mint) to refresh your nasal passages, or eye drops that offer a natural alternative to chemical rehydration. Maintain water intake at around 2 leters or more a day and follow every cup of coffee with a glass of water. In addition, making sure you get your essential fatty acids from fish, nuts, and other sources will allow your body to utilize water best as well as repairing cell membranes and dampening inflammation.

Avoid inflammation in general: It’s always easiest for your body to address occasional insults if it’s not being overstimulated or taxed by common ones. Stay away from cigarette smoke and alcohol and work with your doctor to minimize any other potential inflammatory sources. By increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables and fresh fish, you won’t be as hungry for pro-inflammatory processed foods, dairy, and red meats.

Dr. Katie Baker is the owner of Stone Turtle Health, a naturopathic family clinic here in Ballard on 8th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 62nd Street (www.stoneturtlehealth.com). She can be reached at info@stoneturtlehealth.com with questions and or suggestions for column ideas.

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