Everything You Need To Know About Natural Antihistamines + Why They Can Be Important For Your Health

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For those who struggle with allergies, the weather change that goes along with each passing season is far from enjoyable. Symptoms like itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, sinus pressure, and headaches, can make everyday life almost unbearable.

In conventional medicine, antihistamines are the go-to choice for alleviating these symptoms. However, in my telehealth functional medicine clinic, we like to take a more natural approach to how we treat seasonal allergies.

But first, we have to understand why your body is having an allergic response in order to know why natural antihistamines are a great alternative. So without further ado, let’s dive in.

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The Link Between Allergies + Histamines

Histamines are chemicals in your body that are produced in response to allergens. Specifically, your body produces white blood cells called mast cells to release histamines during the inflammatory-immune response to allergens like the rise in pollen as the weather changes. While this is part of a healthy balanced immune system, chronic allergies are not normal.

As the weather changes the increase in pollen in the air contributes to the rise in season allergy symptoms. However, if your allergies are anything but seasonal, something else is to blame. In fact, our modern world has a lot to do with it.

Everything from toxin exposure, environmental pollution, mold, nutritional deficiencies, and inflammation both trigger an allergic response and mess with your body’s natural ability to fight off allergens. 

Antihistamines work to block your body’s histamine response to this onslaught of allergens in order to bring relief from these uncomfortable symptoms. 

Disadvantage of Artificial Antihistamines

Conventional medicine often turns to artificial antihistamines like Benadryl to relieve symptoms. While these do offer temporary relief, they can come with a slew of other negative side-effects. Basically, you are just exchanging one symptom for another. These include: 

  • Drowsiness
  • Brain fog
  • Insomnia
  • Shakiness
  • Excessively dry sinuses

Even worse, potency of these medications can wear out over time with continued use - leaving you with a baggage of side effects alongside your persistent allergy symptoms.

What is a natural antihistamine?

Certain substances naturally contain antihistamines and other compounds that facilitate in fighting your body’s allergen response. Research is continually evolving surrounding these natural antihistamines, but I have seen strong anecdotal experiences and scientific evidence to support the use of all natural antihistamines. Looking for the best natural antihistamine? Some of my favorites include:

     1. Stinging Nettle

This shrub has been used for thousands of years across the world as a natural remedy for a variety of health conditions. Recently, its use as an antihistamine has been on the rise as well, but further research needs to be done on its long-term efficacy.

How to use: You can find stinging nettle in tea, tinctures, and capsule supplements. 

     2. Vitamin C

Both inflammation and high levels of oxidative stress have been linked to chronic allergies. Vitamin C has been shown to act as both an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. While vitamin C is found in many foods like oranges, peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and grapefruit; a high quality supplement can help give your vitamin C levels a much-needed boost if you are deficient.

How to use: Eat more vitamin C-rich superfoods and/or take a high-quality, bioavailable supplement like LivOn Labs Liposomal Vitamin C.

     3. Quercetin

This antioxidant is also a natural antihistamine due to its ability to inhibit histamine production and pro-inflammatory pathways. Studies have shown that it can also regulate your immune system by balancing your Th1/Th2 white blood cell levels. (1) As these operate as part of your body’s defense system to fight off viruses, bacteria, and allergens, an imbalance of these cells can lead to increased inflammation and a poor immune response to allergens.

How to use: Eat more quercetin-rich plant foods like apples, berries, dark leafy greens, and broccoli. and/or take a high-quality supplement.

     4. Bromelain

This enzyme is uniquely found only in pineapples, it has been used for years to fight inflammation with studies also showing it to be effective at reducing allergy-related inflammation and respiratory irritation. (2)

How to use: Take a high-quality bromelain supplement. It’s important to note that while bromelain is found in pineapples, they actually contain a high amount of naturally occurring histamines, so it's best to avoid eating fresh pineapple if you have issues with histamine such as histamine intolerance.

     5. Probiotics

Your gut is the foundation of your entire health - especially your immune system. In fact, close to 80% of your immune system resides in your gut. That’s why it is so important to prioritize the health of your gut when it comes to fighting off allergies as it directly impacts the strength of your immune system.

Because your gut microbiome is made up of a collection of various bacteria strains - some good and some bad - the goal is to make sure the good guys outnumber the bad. Probiotics work to increase the number of beneficial bacteria in your microbiome.

How to use: Eat more probiotic-rich superfoods like sauerkraut, kefir, and tempeh, and/or take a high-quality probiotic supplement like The Probiotic. Also, feed the good bacteria already in your gut with prebiotic foods rich in fiber, especially garlic, asparagus, and onions. These foods act as a food source to good gut bacteria to facilitate their growth and multiplication in your gut.

     6. Butterbur

Commonly found throughout Europe and parts of Asia and North America, this shrub is often used to treat allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and migraines. Research has compared its efficacy to conventional antihistamines and has found it to be just as effective at reducing symptoms without the drowsiness that accompanies traditional antihistamines. (3)

How to use: Look for a high-quality supplement in capsule or liquid form.

     7. Ginger

This root is more than just a flavorful addition to your recipes. It is actually a powerful antihistamine with studies showing it is actually comparable to the conventional antihistamine Loratadine in treating seasonal allergies without any of the negative side effects. (4)

How to use: Cook with more fresh or ground ginger, drink as a tea, and/or take a high-quality supplement.

Other natural solutions

In addition to switching to natural antihistamines, there are many other natural ways to alleviate symptoms of seasonal - and chronic - allergies, including:

  • Acupuncture
  • Neti pot
  • Essential oils
  • Switch to non-toxic products
  • Get your house checked for mold
  • Use an air purifier at home
  • Change your diet
  • Eat more nutrient-dense superfoods

Working with a functional medicine practitioner can help you further determine the best course of action to address your symptoms.

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Things To Avoid

If you are already struggling with allergies, you don’t want to put more stress on your system. Certain foods are high in histamine or naturally release histamine, which isn’t ideal when you are already dealing with an elevated histamine response in your body. 

While some people can handle these foods just fine, you may want to limit your intake of these foods during allergy season or if you have histamine intolerance. 

  • Alcohol (including wine)
  • Bone broth
  • Canned food
  • Cheese
  • Chocolate
  • Eggplant
  • Fermented food (kefir, kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut)
  • Legumes (soybeans, chickpeas, peanuts)
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts
  • Processed foods
  • Smoked meat products (bacon, salami, salmon, ham)
  • Shellfish
  • Spinach
  • Vinegar

When allergies need medical attention

This happens when there is a dysfunction or deficiency of the enzymes - histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT) and diamine oxidase (DAO) - that break down histamine. Without the enzymes to effectively get rid of excess histamine, you could experience a histamine overflow, which can cause a lot of problems. 

Histamine intolerance is basically an allergic response without the allergen. So if you are experiencing “seasonal” allergies that last all year, histamine intolerance might be to blame. A functional medicine practitioner can help you determine if this is a factor in your health case or if something else is contributing to your chronic allergies.

Next Steps

If you are struggling with allergies, relief can seem like it will forever be out of reach. However, by addressing any underlying health problems, avoiding allergens, supporting your immune system, and switching to natural antihistamines and other wellness tools, it is possible to find relief.

If you are ready to kick your allergies to the curb and want to learn more about how functional medicine can help you find relief from your seasonal allergies, check out our telehealth consultations.

As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.

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References:

  1. Jafarinia, Morteza et al. “Quercetin with the potential effect on allergic diseases.” Allergy, asthma, and clinical immunology : official journal of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology vol. 16 36. 14 May. 2020, doi:10.1186/s13223-020-00434-0
  2. Secor, Eric R Jr et al. “Bromelain Inhibits Allergic Sensitization and Murine Asthma via Modulation of Dendritic Cells.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2013 (2013): 702196. doi:10.1155/2013/702196
  3. Schapowal, Andreas, and Petasites Study Group. “Randomised controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 324,7330 (2002): 144-6. doi:10.1136/bmj.324.7330.144
  4. Yamprasert, Rodsarin et al. “Ginger extract versus Loratadine in the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a randomized controlled trial.” BMC complementary medicine and therapies vol. 20,1 119. 20 Apr. 2020, doi:10.1186/s12906-020-2875-z

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BY DR. WILL COLE

Evidence-based reviewed article

Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.