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Nutrition Feature Article

Allergy Treatment Without Medication

 Itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing and coughing are all signs that allergy season has arrived, and it's hitting harder than ever, with experts predicting this will be the worst allergy season in a decade. While many sufferers typically reach for an arsenal of over-the-counter or prescription medications to fend off symptoms, others may be bothered by the potential side effects or unable to take some due to certain medical conditions. The good news is you may be able to treat your worst allergy symptoms without medication.

Supplements and lifestyle strategies may promise relief. But be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, as they may interact with other medications you're taking, says Roberta Lee, M.D., vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center and author of "The Superstress Solution." In addition, read the box for the appropriate dosage and take according to the directions or as instructed by your doctor.

Read on for AOL Health's expert's picks for natural allergy relief.

Watch the Clock
To keep pesky pollen, grass and other allergens at bay, keep your windows closed in the morning and at dusk, when allergens are at their peak. Avoid exercising during those times, as well.

"If you're running at that time of day, you're basically inoculating yourself," says Lee.

Take a shower after being outside to scrub off pollen and other allergens. Same goes for Fido. Give your pets a good washing so they're not dragging pollen into the house.

Neti Pot
The fewer allergens you have in your system, the less you'll sneeze and sniffle. Take a deep breath outside, however, and you'll inhale pollen and other allergens that stick to your mucus membranes. That's where a Neti Pot comes in handy. The hypertonic saline wash can flush out these allergens in your nasal passages.

"Pre-made nasal irrigation solutions found at the drugstore are perfectly fine to use," says Lee.

She recommends using the Neti Pot twice a day.

This ingredient, found in many spicy foods, comes from the chili pepper plant and can act as a pain reliever. It may also clear up your congestion. An over-the-counter nasal spray for allergies, called Sinol, uses capsaicin.

"The spray has an apparent effect on nasal membranes to reduce irritation by allergens such as pollens," says Clifford Bassett, M.D., a member of the faculty at New York University School of Medicine and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Long Island College Hospital SUNY at Brooklyn.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Oily fish, green leafy vegetables, flax seed and hemp seed are all rich in omega-3.

"The trouble is most people don't get enough in their diet," says Lee. "I prescribe omega-3 for general health as an anti-inflammatory."

This can help reduce inflammation, which amplifies an allergic response. Lee recommends eating oily fish such as salmon, tuna, herring and sardines once or twice a week. If you're not a fish eater, take one to three grams of omega-3 fatty acids from supplements each day.

Vitamin D
Found in sunlight and naturally occurring in some foods, such as egg yolks, herring and cod liver oil, vitamin D is vital to protecting muscle strength as we age and in preventing cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases and may offer asthma and allergy protection. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels. Lee recommends taking 2,000 international units of vitamin D3 a day if they're low. Or, if it's a warm, sunny day, expose one third of your body to the sunshine for 10 minutes.

Ginger and Turmeric
Your spice cupboard is home to a host of tasty allergy remedies.

"Get involved in your senses and enjoy spices that inadvertently make your food healthier," says Lee.

Both tumeric and ginger are powerful anti-inflammatories that may help reduce nasal and sinus inflammation. And unlike medications, they are also high in antioxidants. Lee says you can reduce inflammation and add more vitamins to your diet all at once by drinking two to three cups of ginger tea a day or cooking with two to four grams of tumeric a day.

"It's kind of like getting two medicines in one."

Stinging Nettle and Quercetin
Your body's mast cells are filled with chemicals that cause inflammation. Exposure to an allergen can cause the mast cell to rupture, releasing chemicals that start an allergic reaction. Stinging nettle and quercetin are anti-inflammatory supplements that can act as mast cell stabilizers. Lee recommends taking two to four capsules of stinging nettle every four to six hours. Quercetin works like a natural Benadryl, Lee says. Take 500 mg twice a day.

This herbal supplement avoids the chain reaction of an allergy attack and decreases swelling.

"It helps with itchy eyes, swelling in your nose and coughing."

She recommends taking about 50 mg twice a day.

This ancient medical practice can alleviate many allergy symptoms. But, Lee cautions, you should find an acupuncturist who has trained for at least four years. Lee says you may want to visit an acupuncturist as often as twice a week when your symptoms are at their worst. During the winter when allergies subside, you may not need to see someone at all.

Reduce Stress
Pollen isn't the only thing that makes a bad allergy season. Chronic stress can contribute.

"People with asthma have far worse asthma when they're stressed," says Lee.

Allergies are similar. To alleviate stress, Lee recommends an anti-inflammatory diet and deep breathing exercises.

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