For some people spring means renewal, but for allergy sufferers it means itching, sniffling, sneezing and watery eyes. Allergies — with symptoms ranging from sinus congestion and hay fever to asthma, dermatitis or hives — are a sign of impaired immune function. Depending on the particular allergy; allergy season can begin in the early spring and persist until late fall. This leads many of us to reach for standard over-the-counter relief like antihistamines and decongestant medications, which can cause undesirable side effects like drowsiness or dizziness. But regardless of your allergy or the season, you can instead opt for immune-enhancing supplements that will keep your immune system strong while providing health benefits instead of unwanted effects.
Here are our recommendations for three supplements to add to your allergy-fighting arsenal.
1. Vitamin C with bioflavonoids
Allergens cause certain cells in the body to produce histamine, which is responsible for common seasonal complaints like tearing, excess mucus and a runny nose. Vitamin C prevents the formation of histamine, while typical over-the-counter antihistamine medications work by interfering with the histamine after it is produced. Vitamin C’s immune-enhancing effect also makes it essential in preventing infection as well as in shortening the duration of an illness.
To maximize effectiveness, vitamin C is best taken with bioflavonoids — the natural pigments in fruits and vegetables — in divided doses spaced throughout the day. The bioflavinoids enhance the activity of vitamin C in the body and help to stabilize mast cells, which secrete the histamine linked to allergic reactions.
Studies have shown that taking acidophilus, a probiotic, can help reduce the frequency and severity of infections. Acidophilus is the friendly bacteria that lives in our digestive tract. Our gut bacterial balance is affected by the use of antibiotics, the birth control pill or excess sugar and carbohydrate intake. Everyone can benefit from the use of probiotics for healthy digestion and immunity. Acidophilus has also been found useful in the treatment and prevention of skin conditions, allergies and yeast infections.
3. EPA/DHA fish oils
Healthy types of oils are necessary for the formation of every cell in the body. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the components of essential fatty acids, are natural anti-inflammatory agents and our favourite year-round supplement. Their anti-inflammatory action makes them useful in treating and preventing heart disease, and they also have beneficial effects on cholesterol, triglycerides and on the tendency of blood to clot. Essential fatty acids help to moisten the skin and improve bowel function. Symptoms of depression, ADD/ADHD, schizophrenia and memory loss may improve with essential fatty acid supplements. Finally, fish oils are also very useful for the treatment and prevention of skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.