Pollen, Dust, Allergies and You

The earth is alive! The flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and pollen is blowing in the wind. And that means … allergies. If you are dealing with watery eyes, a running nose, and sinus pressure, this article is for YOU!

The word allergy describes a hypersensitivity of the immune system to typically harmless substances. It occurs when our bodies’ immune system reacts to something we ingest, inhale, or touch. Allergies were first noticed and given a name in 1906 by a German doctor whose patients reacted more strongly to their second dose of the smallpox vaccination. The name allergy originates from the German word Allergie. It stems from the combination of the Greek root Allos, meaning other, different, or strange, and Ergon, which means activity, function, or task.

Allergies appear in many forms throughout the year… not just during the spring. However, allergies like allergic rhinitis, atopic eczema, and asthma correlate to our surrounding environment and can flare up in the spring when dust and pollen levels are high. So, what exactly is happening to your body during these reactions? Why are some spring seasons worse than others? 

When dust and pollen are released into the air in the spring, these antigens are breathed in and become stuck in our sinuses. When pollen becomes stuck in the nasal tissue, sneezing is triggered. If exposure to pollen and dust lasts for two to four days, your body produces antibodies. Antibodies are used to attack invading items like viruses, toxins, and bacteria. All this is happening behind the scenes with that running nose and watery eyes. Those symptoms are the side effects of your body and its immune system trying to flush the antigens or pollen and move those toxins out of your system. 

Why is it that some years our allergies are worse than others? Part of the answer is an obvious one; some years, there is more pollen and dust in the air; thus, in turn, there is more for your body to handle. However, that is just one aspect. When considering our immune system and all the processes in place, when pollen activates our immune system to produce antibodies, these processes take nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. These vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to increased inflammation and a depressed immune response. A few things that can exacerbate vitamin deficiency are chronic stress, illness, food irritants, lack of sleep, lack of nutrient-dense foods, etc.

If you have been ill or more stressed than usual going into a season where you typically have allergies, this could worsen overall symptoms. How do you modulate this, and what vitamins and minerals should you add to your supplements?

Vitamin D: has a direct effect on the body’s response to infection and can reduce systemic inflammation. 

Magnesium: an essential mineral for anti-inflammatory and antihistamine reactions in the body. It is one of North America’s most common mineral deficiencies, affecting up to 80% of the population.

Fish Oils/ Omegas: act as an anti-inflammatory and moderate the allergic response. 

Vitamin C: plays a role in supporting the stabilization of the immune system and the release of histamines. 

Aside from adding supplements, many herbs can also support your body and immune system during this time. When focusing on herbal support, I consider the following herbal actions:  Hepatics, Immunomodulators, Nutrients, and Astringents.

Hepatics are a group of herbs that support the liver; thus, they support the removal of toxins from your body. 

  • Dandelion Root       
  • Burdock Root              
  • Milk Thistle

Immunomodulators are herbs that work directly with the immune system; they can be stimulating and balancing.

  • Echinacea Root
  • Astragalus Root
  • ElderBerry

Nutrients are herbs that are food-like and rich in vitamins and minerals.

  • Nettle Leaf
  • Oat Straw
  • Rose Hips

Astringents are herbs that tone and reduce inflammation of the mucous membranes; these are good for running noses.

  • Yarrow 
  • Boneset
  • Nettle Leaf

By Megan Fuhrman-Wheeler
It is her goal to spread herbal knowledge to rural America in a safe, constructive, and accessible manner.

Owner, MEGAN & CO. Herbal Apothecary + Teahouse
Trained at the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism
Certified Clinical Herbalist
Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Certified Flower Essence Practitioner

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