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Natural Help for the Sneeze Season - South River Compounding Pharmacy
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Natural Help for the Sneeze Season

South River Compounding Pharmacy / Articles  / Natural Help for the Sneeze Season

Natural Help for the Sneeze Season

For some of us, every time the weather gets just the way we like it, our allergies kick in.
 
Any allergy sufferer will tell you that the change of seasons are the worst. If they’re lucky, they’ll only have one or two months to feel lousy. If not, their symptoms could drag on for about half the year.
 
Of course, allergy sufferers are no small group. Over 30 million American experience upper respiratory problems as a result of airborne allergens, generally pollens.
 
Not really “Mere Allergies”
Normally, your nose and nasal passages work together very effectively to filter the air you breathe. In proper conditions, this means clean, allergen-free air gets to the lungs. Increasingly, however, our nasal passages have to work overtime just to cope with everyday exposures.
 
In fact, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the United States, and in just the past 15 years, cases of allergic rhinitis have increased dramatically. In 2002 alone, approximately 14 million office visits to health care providers were attributed to allergic rhinitis.
 
In some ways this isn’t surprising. We inhale about 20 billion particles every day, and since more people travel for business or own pets than ever before (or both), exposure to new and annoying allergens is probably inevitable.
 
The Path of Air and Pollen
Air enters the nose first, and circulates through the pharynx, larynx and trachea, and then down into the bronchi and the lungs.
 
The familiar shape of the nose is a case of form following function: a septum (the wall dividing the nose) is composed of cartilage and bone and covered by a mucus membrane and six to eight thin, curved bones called “turbinates.”
 
Tissues beneath the turbinates are sensitive to temperature and cause this area to swell when a person is in dry, cold or contaminated air. But, the nasal passages don’t just puff up; they create an abundance of mucus intended to further filter the air. This explains why so many of us get a runny nose when we’re outside in the winter.
 
How Does the Nose Work, Anyway?
There are three ways your nose protects your health:
• It filters air and stops particles (even particles as small as a grain of pollen!)
• It humidifies the air you breathe in — preventing it from drying out the lungs and bronchial tubes.
• It warms cold air to body temperature before it enters your lungs.
 
The Nose and its Defenders
Two of the biggest protectors of our lungs are fairly humble: mucus and the cilia.
• Mucus: This protective secretion isn’t just a byproduct of a runny nose. It contains antibodies, enzymes, water and other proteins. It acts like fly paper, trapping allergens, bacteria and other inhaled particles.
• Cilia: These tiny hairs are found throughout the nasal passage, and work in a wave-like action. They push foreign particles trapped by the mucus to the back of the throat where they are swallowed and destroyed by the acidic environment of the stomach. (Okay, yuck. But it works. Just try not to think about it.)
 
However, when our respiratory system is bombarded by allergens, we miss out on the benefits of this filtering system.
 
When Nasal Defenses Fail
When either of these systems isn’t up to snuff, problems happen. The cilia, in particular, are very sensitive to pollution, secondhand smoke, and cold weather. Likewise, the mucus membranes are easily affected by dry air (especially airline air) antihistamines, and alcohol based preservatives in traditional nasal sprays. Any of these factors can cause the mucosal lining to dry out.
 
When Pollens Get Through
Once our defensive system is compromised, it is easily overwhelmed, allowing allergens direct contact with nasal tissues without the benefit of a mucosal layer of protection. The result? Nasal tissues release histamine to get rid of these invaders — bringing on the sneezing fits so familiar to any allergy sufferer.
 
Histamine–Make it History
Histamine is a chemical released by mast cells (cells that specialize in allergic response) during an allergic reaction.
 
Histamine activation causes the inflammation, poor-quality mucus and postnasal drip (the annoying chronic nasal discharge that makes us reach for tissues all the time). More than just bothersome, though, is the itching, sneezing, wheezing and coughing that usually accompanies allergic reactions.
 
Left unchecked, those symptoms can be downright dangerous, leading to chronic respiratory conditions–possibly even asthma. In fact, nearly all children with asthma also have allergies. Not surprisingly, a major cause of asthma is an allergy to pollens, dust mites, pet dander, smoke and mold.
 
Butterbur and Allergies
Butterbur extract, while well-recognized as a herbal migraine preventative, also shows very positive results concerning butterbur and the allergy season. Recent clinical studies shows that butterbur extract worked very well for classic rhinitis symptoms–runny noses, sneezing, and overall nostril puffiness that defines many days during an allergy season.
 
What’s more, it only took two weeks to show the best results, which were comparable to a prescription allergy medication. The big difference is that butterbur extract didn’t have the sleepy, sedative effect seen in the prescription drug.
 
Quercetin and Vitamin C
Quercetin and vitamin C are natural ingredients that may help during the allergy season, and are as close as your supermarket’s produce department.
 
Quercetin, a natural antioxidant from fruits, vegetables and other plants, may also be an allergy symptom fighter. Research has shown that quercetin inhibits mast cells from producing histamine.
 
Vitamin C has also shown promise in reducing inflammation of nasal passages, and slowing down or reducing the release of histamine as well.
 
If you eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (a good idea whether you not you have allergies), these two ingredients may provide extra allergy protection. Otherwise, a supplemental version with both quercetin and vitamin C, combined with standardized butterbur extract could be the natural “one-two punch” you need to get through the change of seasons naturally, and with a much less runny nose.
 
Stinging Nettle–A Surprising Solution
It sounds like the last herb you’d want to tangle with during an allergy attack, but there is some evidence that stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) extract can provide sinusitis relief. Over half (of the participants in a double-blind study showed improvement in symptoms after 1 week of use.
 
Don’t be Brought Low by Allergies
Allergies can bring us down at the very moment want to be outside enjoying the best weather of the year. Over-the-counter medicines can certainly be a part of that solution, but they can also make fatigued and out of touch. Consider trying a natural approach instead, and stay awake to truly enjoy the days to their fullest.
 

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