Do you have a headache over seasonal allergies? Do you suffer from sneezing, itchy eyes, and a scratchy throat every time when winter arrives? Just so you know, one likely cause of this situation is the histamine build-up in your body.
In this case, prescribed histamine medications are available to relieve the allergies effectively. However, these pharmaceutical treatments have a handful of side effects, including drowsiness and nausea.
Natural antihistamines come as a lifesaver for those with seasonal allergies. How do these foods work? And are they helpful as advertised? Find out the answer in this article.
First thing first. You may wonder, what is histamine?
Histamine is a useful chemical naturally produced in the body and in some certain foods as well. Typically, enzymes will break down the internal histamine to prevent build-up. However, if the process fails, histamine will accumulate, which results in unpleasant symptoms.
The role of antihistamine is to block the activity of histamine in the body, thereby relieving the severity of allergic symptoms. Unlike over-the-counter antihistamine medications, natural antihistamines have little side effects. On top of that, it is clear that drug tolerance seldom happens with natural treatments.
However, you cannot expect immediate relief with a natural antihistamine. The medications usually come into effect after about two weeks of use.
Top 5 Natural Antihistamines
#1. Vitamin C
We are all familiar with vitamin C – the nutrient commonly found in fruits and vegetables. You may be pleased to know that it also acts as a natural antihistamine.
According to scientists, oxidative stress is a primary culprit behind allergic diseases. As vitamin C contains antioxidant and inflammatory properties, it will come in handy in treating allergies. It is suggested that you take at least 2 grams of vitamin C per day, coupled with other natural treatments to get the best results.
One word of caution, though, is overdose on vitamin C can result in diarrhea.
Vitamin C is abundant in a wide variety of fruits and green vegetables, including guavas, blackcurrants, red bell peppers, green sweet peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, mustard greens, mango, cauliflower, red cabbage, strawberries, papayas, green and white cabbage, spinach, citrus fruits, elderberries, peaches, asparagus, green onions, new lima beans, black-eyed peas, green peas, radishes.
You can increase the intake of vitamin C by consuming supplements as well.
Bromelain is an enzyme mainly found in the core and juice of pineapples. Alternatively, you can take in bromelain in the supplement form.
Scientific research has shown that bromelain is a popular remedy for swelling or inflammation, thanks to its anti-allergic properties. In addition, it can relieve respiratory distress caused by allergies.
The research also points out that taking 400 to 500 mg daily is an ideal suggestion. However, oral consumption of bromelain may result in some adverse reactions, menstrual disorder, for example.
Another well-known natural antihistamine is quercetin – an antioxidant flavonoid found in several plants.
A research conducted on mice found that quercetin could suppress histamine and reduce the adverse effects of allergies. According to Esposito, a naturopathic physician, quercetin typically works by blocking the activities of mast cells, which trigger the histamine response in our body.
Quercetin is naturally abundant in apples, berries, black tea, broccoli, grapes, green tea, peppers, red onions, red wine, etc. However, experts advise you to take quercetin supplements rather than rely only on these foods. This is because the content of quercetin in foods is significantly lower compared to that in the supplement.
Although quercetin is safe for the majority, it may cause headaches and tingle in some people.
#4. Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle, also known as nettle leaf, is a plant native to North America. It is a popular natural herb for eczema or hay fever medication. Due to the histamine-blocking properties, stinging nettle is probably useful in treating seasonal allergies.
The efficacy of nettle leaf is proved in one study at Northwestern Health Sciences University College of Chiropractic and the National College of Chiropractic Center. Fifty-eight percent of participants in the research reported relief of allergic symptoms after using 300 mg of freeze-dried stinging nettles daily.
Stinging nettle is available online or at any health food stores out there.
Butterbur is a plant extract of a shrub grown in Asia, Europe, and some parts of North America. It is frequently used in the treatment of migraines and hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis.
Further research focusing on the real efficacy of butterbur, however, as current studies reportedly received funding from industry manufacturers. Also, there is no research about the long-term effects of this plant extract.
For some people, butterbur can cause a list of side effects such as breathing difficulties, diarrhea, drowsiness, fatigue, itchy eyes.
What To Know Before Consuming Natural Antihistamines
As mentioned above, natural antihistamines have fewer side effects compared to pharmaceutical ones. However, these natural treatments still pose potential risks to your overall health. For example, you may be allergic to a particular food containing natural antihistamine.
If you are under medical treatment, it is essential to consult your doctor before taking in any natural antihistamine in supplement form. You may not know if your supplements will interact with other medicine and lead to unexpected consequences.
Another threat of natural antihistamines is that experts cannot predict their exact effects on patients as there is a lack of scientific evidence. It is an entirely different case with over-the-counter and prescription antihistamine, of course.
Alternative Options To Treat Allergies
If you want to reduce the allergic symptoms immediately, try the below alternatives:
#1. Allergen Avoidance
The most straightforward way to fight against allergies is to identify the allergen and limit exposure to it. The common allergens include pollen, pet dander, or mold spores.
Antihistamine medications also play a role in relieving allergic symptoms by simulating the histamine breakdown process in the body. Some medical treatments available by prescription are oral medications, nasal sprays, as well as eye drops.
If allergy medications fail to solve the problem, let’s count on immunotherapy. What is it?
During immunotherapy, the doctor will inject a series of allergy shots containing allergen into the blood of patients. Over time, the body will be desensitized to the presence of an internal allergen, and the allergy symptoms will disappear.
The process of injection may take place over several years.
The Bottom Line
Handling seasonal allergies is undoubtedly a hard nut to crack, but natural antihistamines can be of great help. The common natural treatment for histamine buildup includes vitamin C, bromelain, quercetin, stinging nettle, and butterbur. These antihistamines work as effectively as pharmaceutical ones, and the former reportedly have fewer side effects.
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