Take Control of Your Allergies

Simple strategies to ease symptoms
Take Control of Your Allergies: Main Image
Paying attention can help you head off allergy problems before they start

If you are all too aware of your watery eyes, stuffy nose, and clogged head but not sure of the cause, do some research. Since your allergies can be in response to virtually any food, airborne substance, or chemical, you must first figure out the culprit before knowing how to best treat the problem. Here are some ways to determine your triggers:

  • Keep a journal of your symptoms, including where you went and what you did, ate, wore, and so on, when you had them. Look for patterns.
  • A food-elimination diet can help you pinpoint problem foods.
  • Ask your healthcare provider whether a blood test for food and chemical sensitivities might be worthwhile.

Find food foes

If you suspect your morning bagel or grilled-cheese lunch might be causing your symptoms, it's time to find out. Temporarily following an elimination diet or a hypoallergenic diet can pinpoint common allergens such as wheat, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, citrus fruits, nuts, peanuts, tomatoes, food coloring and preservatives, coffee, and chocolate. Some popular books offer guidance for people attempting this type of diet. Once you have figured out which foods are causing a reaction, simply avoid them. Frequently, even those foods can be added back into the diet after a period of avoidance (such as 6 to 12 months); however, the allergy may return if the offending food is consumed more than every third or fourth day.

Clean house

Many of the most common allergens can be lurking in places you would not expect, such as your bedroom or under the kitchen sink. To cut down on household allergens try the following:

  • Keep the humidity in your house below 50% to help prevent molds.
  • Vacuum and mop regularly.
  • Choose chemical-free bedding.
  • Cover your mattress and pillows with hypoallergenic coverings.
  • Wash linens weekly in hot water.
  • Replace heating filters regularly.
  • Use natural cleaning products.
  • Use natural cosmetics, soaps, and shampoos.
  • Don't allow pets access to sleeping areas.

Use sneeze-stopping supplements

Some people have found these natural treatments helpful to reduce allergy symptoms:

  • Probiotic supplements keep a healthy amount of good bacteria in the gut, which may improve digestion. They may help control food allergies by aiding the intestinal tract in controlling the absorption of food allergens and by changing immune-system responses to foods.
  • Proteolytic enzymes may reduce allergy symptoms triggered by partially undigested protein because they help to further break down undigested protein into sizes that are too small to cause allergic reactions.
  • Vitamin C and flavonoids including quercetin have been found by some practitioners to help with allergy symptoms.

Think ahead

As you've probably already learned, paying attention to your body's reactions can help you head off allergy problems before they start. Some forethought will help you avoid getting caught off guard when you're out of your regular element:

  • For dinner parties, weddings, and other social events that involve eating, inquire about making special arrangements to accommodate your food allergies.
  • If you have animal allergies, find out before visiting if friends and family have pets that may affect you and plan accordingly.
  • Hay fever sufferers should avoid open-air exercise and social events during the height of pollen season.
Linda Knittel, MA, is a nutritional counselor and health writer specializing in alternative medicine, nutrition, and yoga. After blood tests revealed an intolerance to potatoes, Knittel gave them up for good. She misses French fries but feels much healthier living spud-free.

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