Try these supplements to boost your immune system and reduce your reliance on over-the-counter medications.
Over half of all Americans suffer from allergies, so you’re not alone if you’ve been sneezing, coughing or wiping your watery eyes. Although there is no magical cure for spring allergies, there are a number of ways to combat them, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs. You may also want to consider natural therapies. There are a wide variety of natural supplements that you can take to help ease allergy symptoms. Here is a list of some of the most well-reviewed supplements for allergy support. Just like OTC and prescription treatments, health supplements can cause side effects or can react with medications you’re taking so be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before you start taking any natural health herbs.
Astragalus – A traditional Chinese remedy for allergies, buy astragalus to support the immune system.
Butterbur – The herb butterbur (Petasites hybridus) shows potential for relieving seasonal allergy symptoms. Taking butterbur supplements may reduce hay fever symptoms. Taking 100 mg daily of this herbal extract can improve nasal airflow by cutting down leukotriene, a compound that kick-starts many allergic reactions. In one Swiss study, butterbur was just as effective as an over-the-counter antihistamine for reducing allergy symptoms.
Evening Primrose – This oil works two ways to suppress allergies. First, allergic reactions cause inflammations and evening primrose oil acts as an anti-inflammatory to decrease the reaction. Secondly, it stimulates the white blood cells that regulate the production of histamines and antibodies.
Gamma Linolenic Acid – GLA has a long history in folk medicine for treating allergies. People who have allergies may require additional essential fatty acids and have trouble converting LA (Linoleic acid) to GLA. Studies have found that women and children who are prone to allergies have lower levels of GLA.
Green Tea – Drink a cup of tea. It delivers EGCG, an antioxidant that blocks production of histamine and immunoglobulin E, both of which trigger allergy symptoms.
Probiotics – Increasing beneficial bacteria may prevent allergies. Probiotics benefit the immune system and could, therefore, reduce allergies.
Omega-3s – Scientific studies have shown fish oil can help alleviate hay fever, sinus problems and allergic skin conditions.
Quercetin – This flavonoid, found naturally in onions, apples, and black tea, has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to block histamines or reduce the release of histamine, which decreases symptoms.
Skullcap – This herb has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to treat hayfever. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antihistaminic properties.
Spriulina – Studies suggest this blue-green algae can boost the immune system and protect against allergic reactions.
Stinging Nettle – The roots and leaves of the stinging nettle plant (Urtica dioica) have been used to treat everything from joint pain to prostate problems. Some people use freeze-dried stinging nettle leaves to treat allergy symptoms.
Vitamin C – This well-known immune-boosting antioxidant lowers histamine levels in the bloodstream, which could prevent the onset of allergies. 2,000 mg of vitamin C can cut histamine levels (which trigger allergy symptoms) by up to 40%, improving breathing and your airway.
Acidophilus/Probiotics – Studies have shown that taking acidophilus, a probiotic, can help reduce the frequency and severity of infections. Acidophilus is the friendly bacteria that lives in our digestive tract. Our gut bacterial balance is affected by the use of antibiotics, the birth control pill or excess sugar and carbohydrate intake. Everyone can benefit from the use of probiotics for healthy digestion and immunity. Acidophilus has also been found useful in the treatment and prevention of skin conditions, allergies and thrush (yeast infections).
Multivitamin/Mineral – Vitamins and minerals are necessary for proper growth, metabolism, digestion, immune system function, muscle and nerve function and detoxification processes in the liver. Scientific studies have shown that the majority of us are deficient in many essential nutrients because of poor dietary habits and other factors that may deplete nutrient levels such as caffeine, drugs, stress or pollution. A full-spectrum multivitamin and mineral product, in a highly absorbable form, is essential to ensure the foundation of health.
In a study published in Nutrition Research, researchers found a significant increase in cells and chemicals that play a role in immune function in those who consumed a daily multivitamin, compared with the same markers in those taking the placebo. Compared with individuals taking the placebo, those taking the multivitamin supplement had 53 percent fewer days of illness due to infection.
EPA/DHA fish oils – Healthy types of oils are necessary for the formation of every cell in the body. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the components of essential fatty acids, are natural anti-inflammatory agents and my favourite year-round supplement. Their anti-inflammatory action makes them useful in treating and preventing heart disease, and they also have beneficial effects on cholesterol, triglycerides and on the tendency of blood to clot. Essential fatty acids help to moisten the skin and improve bowel function. Symptoms of depression, ADD/ADHD, schizophrenia and memory loss may improve with essential fatty acid supplements. Finally, fish oils are also very useful for the treatment and prevention of skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
One German study involving 568 people found that a high content of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cells or in the diet was associated with a decreased risk of hay fever.
Plant sterols – These are one of my favourite products. Plant sterols modulate your immune system. If some aspects are running too high (as in autoimmune diseases or allergies) they help to bring them down. Or if they are running too low (like with frequent colds or the flu) sterols help to increase your immune system function. They decrease the specific immune factor that causes the allergic response and the release of histamine. Therefore, it is beneficial for allergy sufferers to try to balance their immune system with sterols and sterolins. Sterols also decrease levels of cortisol, the “stress” hormone, which is essential for keeping your immune system strong.
Vitamin E – A fat-soluble vitamin that’s also an antioxidant. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, antioxidants help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals that can cause disease. It also helps the body produce red blood cells and aids the body in utilizing vitamin K. The Mayo Clinic says vitamin E may help reduce nasal allergies, but more studies must be performed before a definitive association can be established. Foods containing vitamin E include eggs, sunflower seeds, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables and asparagus.
Vitamin C – Typically thought of as a vitamin that helps boost the immune system, but this vitamin has other functions as well. This vitamin is used in the synthesis of collagen and the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, as well as functioning as an antioxidant, says the Linus Pauling Institute. Although studies are conflicting, vitamin C may also help stimulate production of white blood cells, which help fight bacteria and infections. The Mayo Clinic says vitamin C may reduce the duration of colds in some people, but more research needs to be done. Dietary sources of this vitamin include citrus fruits, broccoli, cooked leafy greens and potatoes.
Vitamin A – A is a group of compounds, some of which function as antioxidants. Vitamin A helps promote healthy mucous membranes, which help keep bacteria out of the body. The vitamin also helps regulate the immune system by stimulating white blood cell production, says the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. There are two types of vitamin A, depending on whether the dietary source is an animal product or plant product, says the Office of Dietary Supplements. Good sources of this vitamin include fortified milk, liver, cheese, carrots, spinach, oatmeal and kale.
Zinc – A mineral that may be naturally found or added to foods, and is also available as a supplement. Zinc plays a role in immune function, wound healing, protein synthesis, the senses of taste and smell, and normal growth and development. The Office of Dietary Supplements describes zinc as possibly reducing inflammation in the nasal mucosa, but there are no data to prove this. Zinc has been shown to shorten cold symptoms, including nasal discharge, but more studies need to be performed. Dietary sources include oysters, beef shanks, chicken legs, lobster, pork shoulder and cashews.
Buffered Ascorbic Acid – Take up to 2000 mg daily. This is an excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Don’t exceed this as a total daily dose during pregnancy, including what is in your prenatal vitamin.
Magnesium may ease breathing. This mineral helps relieve constricted airways in the lungs. One study found that lab animals severely deficient in magnesium had higher blood levels of histamine when exposed to allergens than animals getting enough magnesium. If you are going to add a magnesium supplement to your diet, make sure the amount in your multi and additional supplement of magnesium do not exceed 350 mg combined.
Daily amount: 200 mg
Vitamin C stops histamine. Studies have shown that high levels of vitamin C help reduce histamine release and make histamine break down faster once it is released. Other studies have shown that vitamin C deficiency can send blood levels of histamine soaring.
Daily amount: 200-400 mg
Bioflavonoids help too. These chemical compounds, which are closely related to vitamin C, may help reduce the body’s release of symptom-producing histamine. The chemical structure of bioflavonoids is similar to that of a drug used in asthma inhalers. Experts recommend eating bioflavonoid-rich foods such as citrus fruits, cherries, dark grapes, broccoli, and red and green peppers, and drinking herbal teas.