Nothing ruins a fabulous sunny day faster than red, itchy eyes and a runny nose. With summer here (yes – I am saying it!), we enter into the wonderful season of long days, bikes, hikes and patios. But we also dive itchy face first into the season of allergies.

You may have noticed the subtle signs of everything you own being covered in a fine yellow dust of pollen. Or the not-so-subtle signs of being a disgusting, snotty mess.

What is happening to me?

An allergic reaction is your immune system responding to what it perceives as a threat. This is quite an amazing function of the human body – our specific defense system stalks and eliminates with startling precision almost any type of intruding pathogen.

When our immune system recognizes a foreign invader (antigen), it acts to destroy it. It does this by releasing antibodies, which use a variety of techniques to deactivate an antigen. In the case of allergies, the antibody released is often immunoglobulin E (IgE), which is a Y-shaped antibody that binds to white blood cells and triggers the release of histamine and other chemicals that mediate inflammation.

Histamine is one of the main culprits behind the runny, itchy, watery mess of a human you become. To soothe yourself of seasonal allergy hell, you want to meet histamine head on.

Help me

Over-the-counter allergy meds advertise their ability to do just that, but they can leave you feeling groggy, dry, and generally less than awesome. Leave the drugstore meds behind and use these natural remedies instead.

Vitamin C with bioflavonoids

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for our immune system. When taken in high doses – 1 to 2 grams – it exhibits an antihistamine effect by reducing blood histamine. Vitamin C is water soluble and safe at higher doses. You may experience a laxative effect, which is known as reaching “bowel tolerance.” You can use bowel tolerance as a guide to determine what dose your body likes and needs.

Quercetin

Quercetin is more than a cool word that starts with a Q. It’s also a flavonoid (plant pigment) found in onions, broccoli, apples, berries, and grapes. Quercetin has many health-boosting benefits including those with anti-allergic actions. Quercetin can help inhibit the release of histamines from mast cells and basophils – the white blood cells that IgE binds with. This can provide relief for your itchy, watering eyes and runny nose.

You can easily add quercetin into your diet by eating plenty of apples – especially the peel – and onions. Saskatoon berries, which grow freely in Whitehorse, also pack high levels of quercetin.

If you are supplementing with quercetin, it is best take with Vitamin C and bioflavonoids as this enhances the overall effect.

Eliminate mucus-causing foods

While this won’t reduce allergies or histamine, eliminating mucus-causing foods can help prevent the further exacerbation of symptoms. Dairy, oranges and bananas can all result in excessive mucous production.

Adding pungent foods to your diet can help to protect our lungs and relieve any stuck, mucous-laden areas of your respiratory tract. These foods include garlic, onion, ginger, horseradish, radish, cabbage and hot peppers.

Support your liver

The lovely, hard-working liver plays an essential role in the daily detoxification and elimination of all the junk – including antigens – we come into contact with on a regular basis. When your liver is overburdened to begin with, it can’t do an effective job of dealing with the extra load of antigens. Giving your liver some love can help keep symptoms down.