Perennial Allergic Rhinitis
For millions of Americans, spring’s pollens and hay fever, summer’s dust and dryness, and fall’s rotting leaves and molds bring on a myriad of allergy symptoms. Perennial allergic rhinitis is a common type of allergic reaction that is an IgE-mediated inflammatory disorder of the nasal mucosa. The affliction affects approximately 10-20 percent of the American population. Rhinitis may be caused by certain environmental agents, food sensitivities, metabolic conditions, structural abnormalities and/or synthetic drugs. In recent health studies, it has been shown that allergic rhinitis sufferers reveal a measurable decline in physical and mental health status and an increased inability to perform normal daily activities.
Many medical texts state that food sensitivity reactions are rare and that the antigen is far more likely to be airborne pollen or mold. In the case of perennial allergic rhinitis the culprit is more likely to be dust, chemicals, pollution or animal dander.
Most people take prescription medicines (Clariten, Zyrtec, Allegra) or over-the-counter products (Chlor-trimeton, Benadryl) called antihistamines to provide symptomatic relief. In addition, decongestant drugs and corticosteroid drug therapy is often prescribed by a physician. Although these drugs are effective to some degree they frequently are accompanied by such side effects as drowsiness, dry mouth and urinary retention. Generally these drugs seem to have good short-term effects, but when medication is needed on a long-term basis, alternative methods of treatment should be considered. Many natural medicines and therapies can help to manage allergies. These naturally occurring substances actually play a “preventative” role in allergy relief and asthma, although moderate to severe asthma should always be monitored by a physician.
Rhinitis is characterized by symptoms such as runny nose, itchy, red and watery eyes, wheezing, coughing, congestion, sneezing and rhinorrhea. Other symptoms include a profuse, clear, running mucous, obstruction of the nasal passages, nasal and pharyngeal itching. These allergens are irritants that affect the release of histamine from our mast cells and elicit these bothersome symptoms. Allergic rhinitis can occur seasonally as in hay fever but it can also occur perennially. One of the worst exacerbations of allergic symptoms is asthma which can be life threatening if not treated.
The ELIMINATION DIET can frequently be a useful tool in identifying and desensitizing the allergen associated with increased perennial allergic rhinitis symptoms.
- VITAMIN C (ASCORBIC ACID)
Vitamin C has been found to exert a number of antihistamine effects in addition to its immune-boosting and antioxidant characteristics. In allergic rhinitis, as plasma levels of ascorbic acid decrease, histamine levels increase significantly. Many trials have substantiated vitamin C’s essential role in blocking histamine. Vitamin C is non-toxic and virtually free of side effects, with the exception of diarrhea and abdominal bloating. Dosage: 1,000-3,000 mg a day.
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found in a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs. It inhibits the inflammatory process, is a potent antioxidant, and prevents the breakdown of collagen matrix. Frequently, membrane stabilization results in the prevention of mast cell degranulation (see “allergies”), decreased inflammation, and inhibition of leukotriene production. Dosage: 250-600 mg 3 times a day, 5-10 minutes before meals. Quercetin is also available as a nasal spray called QC Spray (Thorne Labs).
- METHYLSULFONYLMETHANE (MSM)
MSM is an organic sulfur-containing compound that occurs naturally in a variety of fruits and vegetables. In a recent study patients taking up to 2000 mg of MSM daily showed significantly reduced allergic symptoms with both improvement in upper and lower respiratory symptoms by day 14.
Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme from the stem of the pineapple plant. Bromelain has been found to be an effective mucolytic and anti-inflammatory agent in respiratory-tract diseases. Safe for use in children, one study showed 85% of sinusitis patients received bromelain obtained complete resolution of nasal mucosa inflammation. Dosage for allergic rhinitis: 500 mg 3-4 times a day.
- GRAPESEED EXTRACT
This potent bioflavonoid may help with the absorption of vitamin C and quercetin and suppress both airborne allergies and mild food intolerance. Grape seed effectively blocks histamines and inhibits mast cell production. It is effective whether environmental or especially food allergens are the culprits behind the allergic rhinitis symptoms. Grapeseed oil is found in our Maggie’s Balm CBD product.
- OTHER HERBALS: GOLDENSEAL, ECHINACEA, GINGER, FENUGREEK
The combination of herbs in controlling allergic rhinitis (especially in the presence of eczema) is well documented. Goldenseal is effective as a mucous membrane tonic and as an antibacterial. Echinacea is used for cases of blocked sinuses with or without infection. Ginger as an herb provides anti-inflammatory activity, and fenugreek has a demulcent activity on mucous membranes. Dosage: As directed on package, or as directed by a qualified practitioner.
- STINGING NETTLE
The leaves of the nettle species contain histamine, serotonin and acetylcholine. This herb works in a way similar to its allopathic antihistamine counterpart. Dosage: 300 mg per day of freeze-dried stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) is recommended for treating allergic rhinitis. Side effects are rare; take on an empty stomach.
- N-ACETYLCYSTEINE (NAC)
NAC is a natural, sulfur-containing amino acid derivative that detoxifies as well as protects cells against oxidative stress. It has been documented as an effective mucolytic agent in individuals with asthma, sinusitis, cystic fibrosis, and pneumonia. Because of its affinity for mucous membranes, NAC is effective in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Dosage: 500 mg twice a day.
- PERILLA SEED EXTRACT
Perilla seed extract brings about long-lasting herbal relief that may be as effective as prescription antihistamines without the side effects. Perilla modulates IgE-mediated immune response, supports healthy histamine levels, and provides optimal antioxidant protection. It is marketed in the U.S. as Allermin and Perimine. Dosage: 100mg once or twice a day. Chewing gum is available for acute relief (safe for children).
- BUTTERBUR EXTRACT
Butterbur extract may be as effective as the antihistamine Claritin for the management of symptoms associated with seasonal allergic rhinitis. Dosage: As directed.
- NETTE POT
Nette pot can safely be used with mild salt water as a nasal douche.
Allermin. Information brochure from Sisu Natural Products, U.S.A. 2000. www.sisuhealth.com
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Janowiak, JJ, Hawthorne, GA. A Comprehensive Approach to Controlling Allergies and Asthma. Alternative & Complementary Therapies, Oct. 1999. Pp. 254-265.
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