Seasonal allergies: Treat the cause, not just the symptoms

The conventional approach to seasonal allergy management may help to alleviate symptoms, but it does not address the real cause.

by Dr. Tricia Pingel — 

Sneezing, sniffling, itchy eyes and scratchy throat — allergy season is here again. Seasonal allergies afflict millions of people and are often treated with antihistamine drugs, shots, creams and sprays. The conventional approach to seasonal allergy management may help to alleviate symptoms, but it does not address the real cause.

Why do people have allergies? Why can one person stand in front of a tree, breathe in its pollen and feel fine, while another person sneezes and struggles to breathe? Is it the tree’s fault? The problem is actually manifested from inside the body of the sufferer.

There are two types of allergies for which people seek medical treatment. IgG allergies are long-term, slow-growing allergies, most commonly caused by certain foods. IgE allergies are what affect most people and are caused from breathing in pollen or other allergens. Standard medical treatment is to suppress a patient’s histamine response or administer an inhaler. This may treat the symptoms, but does not address why the problem is recurring.

Intestinal health

Most often, chronic and seasonal allergies are linked to intestinal health. Sufferers have either an overgrowth of yeast and flora, or a low amount of good intestinal flora. When a person breathes in an allergen and has a negative response, it is due to the fact that he or she suffers from inflammation in the intestinal lining.

Inflammation of the nose, ears and throat are commonly recognized in the treatment of allergies, but a fact that is often overlooked is that they are mucosal tissues, just like the stomach and intestines. For this reason, inflammation is not localized to the nose and throat. Medical history usually reveals that a person who suffers from chronic allergies also has a digestive problem that causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

To help a seasonal allergy sufferer, this inflammation needs to be treated. Amino acids, such as L-glutamine and a high-quality dose of probiotics, are administered to help heal the mucosal tissue and reduce overgrowth of intestinal bacteria such as yeast or strep.

Inflammation of the intestinal tract also may be caused by IgG allergies to certain foods — most commonly, dairy, soy, corn, eggs and wheat. It is important to identify these allergies and remove them from the patient’s diet. Once the problematic foods are eliminated, the person may begin to get relief within weeks or months.

Sublingual immunotherapy

Standard therapy for chronic allergies consists of a series of weekly allergy shots made from every allergen in the air, even those that are not an issue. The idea behind this is that it creates an immunity to everything that is in the air, but it is actually unnecessary.

An alternative to weekly injections is sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) — a treatment mixed only with compounds of the allergens that a person reacts to. It is self-administered from home via a spray under the tongue, making it ideal for younger patients. In the beginning, SLIT is given daily, but over time, it decreases the body’s response to allergens and may be given less frequently, if at all.

In one case, a child patient who suffered from exercise-induced asthma began this treatment, and after one month displayed no symptoms, not even a runny nose. He has yet to use his inhaler after four months of therapy.

Nutritional IVs

Immune support through nutritional IVs is another way to treat seasonal allergies. With this treatment, immune system-boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, selenium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and B5, B6, B12 and B complex are placed in an IV bag, along with liquid for hydration. It is then administered into the vein of a patient for 30 to 45 minutes. Many people may find this treatment most effective at the beginning of allergy season to give the immune system an extra boost.

Nutritional IVs may be given weekly, twice a month or monthly, based on the needs of the patient. Most seasonal allergy sufferers require this treatment twice a month. Injecting the nutrients directly into the vein allows for immediate absorption, helping those patients who have inflammation in their mucosal tissue to absorb the nutrients more efficiently than they would orally.

Herbs and supplements to alleviate allergy symptoms

Quercetin is a flavonoid (plant-based chemical) that is found naturally in many food sources such as apples, onion skins and raspberries. Quercetin performs an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function, and some research has shown it also prevents immune cells from releasing histamines. It is also available as a dietary supplement.

Nettle, also known as a stinging nettle, is a plant that contains high levels of iron, vitamin C and carotenoids. Commonly used as a diuretic, the stinging nettle helps the body to rid itself of excess fluid and toxins. It has been known to treat seasonal allergies by inhibiting the release of histamines in the body. The actual nettle plant is covered in small fibers that cause a painful rash on the skin if touched, but this plant can be cooked to deactivate the stingers or can be consumed as a supplement.

N-acetyl-cysteine comes from the amino acid L-cysteine and is a precursor to glutathione, a molecule produced in the body and found in every living cell. It acts as an antioxidant and immune system booster. N-acetyl-cysteine is often given to patients to treat respiratory conditions and to break up mucus. It may be taken as a supplement.

For people suffering from seasonal allergies, there may be a number of causes. Due to possible side effects, it is always important to seek the health care advice of a naturopathic physician before administering herbal remedies.


Dr. Tricia Pingel is a naturopathic medical doctor located in Scottsdale, Ariz. She treats a variety of conditions, including menopausal symptoms with bio-identical hormone replacement, infertility, thyroid disorders, anxiety/depression, gastrointestinal concerns, such as gas/bloating, food allergies, celiac disease, IBD and more.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 6, December 2011/January 2012.

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