For many people, the blossoming flowers of spring or the crunching leaves of fall signal a welcome change of season and the ushering in of beautiful weather, but if you’re one of the estimated 10 to 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children that suffer from seasonal allergies, you may not be welcoming the new season with open arms (1). Symptoms like a sniffly, runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and congestion can zap your energy and all of the fun out of your day, sometimes for weeks on end. Traditional treatment for seasonal allergies includes antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays, but these treatments only address the symptoms associated with seasonal allergies, not the cause. What if there was a way to prevent seasonal allergy symptoms naturally? It may be possible to take vitamins for allergies.
What Are Seasonal Allergies and What Causes Them?
The term “allergic rhinitis,” or hay fever, is often used to refer to the group of symptoms affecting the nose and sinuses that are commonly experienced by seasonal allergy sufferers (2). People develop seasonal allergies when their bodies start to overreact to an environmental substance that causes other people no problems, such as certain types of pollen. Many people don’t realize that allergies, including seasonal allergies, occur when the immune system perceives an otherwise harmless substance and begins to attack. When allergy attacks occur, your body begins to release inflammatory mediators, including histamines, causing inflammation in the body. The symptoms triggered by inflammation include:
- Running nose
- Itchy/watery eyes
- Itchy nose
- Nasal congestion
- Sinus pressure
Many people have allergic rhinitis year-round and may be responding to a variety of different allergens in the environment, but when experienced seasonally, allergic rhinitis is usually caused by sensitivity to airborne mold spores or different types of pollen. Some people are unlucky enough to have allergic rhinitis year-round, with symptoms escalating during certain times of the year due to reactions to multiple allergens.
By the Digits
$18 billion: the annual cost of allergies to the healthcare system and businesses in the U.S. (3).
#6: allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. (3).
90%: average amount of time that Americans spend indoors (4).
200%: in a National Health Interview Study, the prevalence of respiratory allergy (hay fever) among children increased with income level; the highest prevalence rates were found in children whose family income was equal to or greater than 200% the national poverty level (5).
60-80%: odds that a child with two allergic parents will develop allergies (4).
What is Inflammation and What Causes it?
We’ve already established that seasonal allergy symptoms are predominantly caused by inflammation, but in order to understand how to prevent and treat inflammation, it’s important to know what causes it. First thing’s first - inflammation actually isn’t a bad thing most of the time! It’s our body’s immune response to foreign substances, which prevents things like cuts and infections from killing us, so you could say it’s pretty important. Where inflammation becomes problematic is when it becomes chronic and is linked to our diets and other environmental factors, like questionable ingredients in your multivitamin (a great reason to switch to GEM), or mold in your home.
Inflammation also occurs in response to things like a cut or infection by a virus and can cause symptoms like redness, heat, swelling, pain, or even immobility (6). Sometimes, you’ll have no symptoms of inflammation at all, while other times, you’ll be sneezing up a storm thanks to pollen floating around in the air.
Can Seasonal Allergies be Treated with Vitamins?
If you’re sick of popping Benadryl like they’re candy and don’t love the idea of taking daily allergy medication, you’ll be excited to know that vitamins can help treat seasonal allergies naturally. We know that consuming enough vitamins and minerals through food is important in building a healthy immune system, but recent studies show that vitamins themselves can actually serve as a treatment for allergies.
Never heard of quercetin? Maybe not, but we bet you’ve heard of chia seeds and cocoa powder- two main sources of this antioxidant.
A 2013 study demonstrated that quercetin has natural antihistamine effects making it particularly effective at preventing and reducing allergy symptoms (7).
A 2007 study Showed that quercetin also reduces the inflammatory response in the airways, diminishing seasonal allergy symptoms. Quercetin is most effective when taken along with vitamin C (8).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation and support overall immune health, and they’re beneficial for both current and future residents of the planet. Studies show that pregnant women who take omega-3 supplements during pregnancy are less likely to give birth to newborns with allergies.
Additionally, people with diets that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids showed fewer allergy symptoms overall, including sneezing, itching, and runny nose. Common sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, but the GEM Daily is also packed with the good stuff thanks to coconut, another common source.
It’s estimated that approximately 42 percent of Americans have insufficient levels of vitamin D, which is unfortunate since studies show that this vitamin plays a major role in diminishing allergy symptoms and preventing the onset of allergies in children (9). Deficiencies in Vitamin D are linked to higher levels of allergies in patients, as correcting the deficiency was found to lead to a reduced incidence of allergy symptoms and was also shown to help protect children considered at risk of developing allergies from actually developing allergies (10).
How Do I Get the Right Levels of Vitamins and Minerals to Help Treat Seasonal Allergies?
It’s all well and good to say that if we simply have the right levels of vitamins and minerals in our bodies, we’ll suffer less from seasonal allergies and have reduced inflammation, but this sometimes feels easier said than done. There’s no question that eating a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in nutrition is the key to a healthy immune system. After all, malnutrition has been shown to be the most prevalent cause of immunodeficiency, and an immune system lacking the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients it needs is more susceptible to things like illness and allergy (11). The ideal way to address nutritional deficiencies is by ingesting real, whole foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals because our bodies were designed to eat and digest food rather than supplements. While bulking up your diet with extra fruits, veggies, and whole grains is a great place to start, GEM can help round out the areas in which most women were found to be lacking nutritionally.