by Paul D. Rothwell, M.D.
As April showers bring May flowers, many of us are affected by seasonal allergies. This is particularly true in our state where “the wind comes sweeping down the plains.” The shelves at the local drugstores are replete with various cough, cold and allergy remedies—so many that it can be overwhelming, causing a person to just grab one and hope. The problem is that many of these over-the-counter medicines have undesirable side effects and many just don’t work. It’s important to read the fine print.
Allergy shots, known as immunotherapy, can be beneficial in selected cases, specifically with a life-threatening allergy, such as to bee venom. This type of therapy involves injection of a specific allergen meant to desensitize a person to exposures. Tiny amounts of these allergens stimulate the immune system without triggering a full-blown allergy attack. The amount of allergen is increased slowly over time so the allergy sufferer can develop a tolerance to it. This process can take six months or longer. It’s a good example of homeopathy being applied to conventional medicine; and although this type of therapy is supported by reliable published data, it carries some risk, may not be effective, and, as stated, takes time.
There are many natural remedies that may help with seasonal and environmental allergies. Using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in the home may be beneficial, but people can’t stay home forever. Noted integrative physician Dr. Andrew Weil has suggested decreasing the consumption of milk and milk products, which contain a protein that may irritate the immune system. Many people may not be aware that 70 percent of the immune system is in the gut. Avoiding gluten, which is Latin for “glue,” may also prove beneficial. Gluten is perhaps the number one cause of impaired T-cell modulation in the gut and has been linked to various disorders, including “leaky gut syndrome” and autoimmune disorders.
According to Weil, symptomatic relief of allergies has been achieved with various natural remedies, including stinging nettle leaf and quercetin. Quercetin is found in high concentration in apple peel. Remember “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Allergy patients have also shown positive responses to a product from Ortho Molecular known as Natural D-Hist. This contains vitamin C, bromelain and N-acetyl-L-cysteine, in addition to both stinging nettle leaf and quercetin.
Many allergy patients have also benefited from the use of essential oils, humankind’s first medicine. Both Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese manuscripts tout oils as medicine. There are 188 references to essential oils in the Bible. Commonly mentioned oils for allergies include lavender, peppermint, melaleuca (or tea tree) and eucalyptus. Roman chamomile is also known for its antihistamine effects. For allergy sufferers, anything safe is worth a try; and it’s certainly better than playing remedy “roulette” at the drugstore.
Paul D. Rothwell, M.D., is an integrative medicine physician and owner of Wellness & Longevity, located at 7530 NW 23 St., in Bethany. For more information, call 405-787-8556 or visit WellnessOK.com.