Monday, March 11, 2013

Dealing with Seasonal Allergies- Naturally, and on a Budget

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Nettle juice, nettle tea, water kefir, and raw honey
I am very fortunate that even though I had many health issues growing up and until recently, I have never experienced seasonal allergies. My mother had allergies to ragweed and to freshly cut grass and other similar things, but I never really knew what hay fever was. Until I met my husband, who always had such bad seasonal allergies.
Allergies meaning that during the most beautiful season of the year, the time of year where the weather is just perfect, not too cold and not too hot, where the hillsides are covered in beautiful flowers and the trees are all in bloom, when I want to do nothing but spend time outside admiring the sheer beauty, my husband wants to do nothing other than stay inside with a blanket over his head, suffering because of his incredibly itchy eyes and drippy nose. And no, all the allergy medications that my husband tried didn't help him at all.

And then last year, my husband and I read about the gut/body connection when it comes to allergies, and that seasonal allergies is a type of auto-immune disease, and like other auto-immune diseases can be dealt with by strengthening the immune system and by dealing with the problem from the gut, outward. We learned that pollen is just a trigger, but the real issue is too much hystamine in the gut, which causes all these allergic reactions, from hives to runny noses to itchy eyes. (That's why you take anti-hystamines to deal with those.) Hystamine forms in the gut as a result of eating foods that aren't good for you and gut pathogens proliferate, and after reading this article last year, Mike went off gluten for the duration of allergy season. And it helped a bit, but not 100%.

This year, he has been mostly off gluten anyhow, because I don't cook gluten- he just has occasional gluten out of the house, but he still was having seasonal allergies this year- it just started a few days ago and already it's been bad.
So he decided to take it a few notches further and hopefully kick out the bad histamine producing gut flora by strengthening his gut and avoiding even more foods, in addition to doing whatever he can to strengthen his immune system.

Frugal Seasonal Allergy Fighting- Naturally and Effectively

The protocol he's decided to follow is no dairy, no sugar, and no grains at all. Raw honey is supposed to help with seasonal allergies, so he's using that, but in more limited quantities, and avoiding other sugars (that means natural sugars like coconut sugar and jaggery, the only sugars in my house anyhow), because they feed the gut pathogens.
No grains- well, the only grains we have in our house now anyhow are millet, white rice, corn, and buckwheat, but he'll be avoiding those, especially corn (which is very highly allergenic). He may have white rice but not 100% sure on that. We're experimenting with quinoa to see if he feels ok when eating it (so far so good). Legumes are in.

My husband has told me he wants no grain, and is willing to eat whatever I make for him, and is leaving the final decision as to which foods exactly to make to me, so I'm thinking somewhere between GAPS protocol and Paleo/Primal. May do potatoes and sweet potatoes, but I'm trying to not make them often.
As for legumes, I am making legume based dishes, but I'm thinking of sticking to the GAPS legal legumes (lentils, peas, navy beans) and not every single type of legume.

As you can imagine, this gets pretty expensive- eating so many vegetables- the costs add up. Limited legumes and no grains (and me not being able to eat egg based meals) means more chicken and fish. Pricey.

Here's how I plan on making it cheaper:

Yesterday I stocked up on loss leader items at the grocery store- there were whole chickens, chicken thighs and chicken wings for incredibly cheap, especially compared to their usual prices.(25 cents a pound, 85 cents a pound, and 61 cents a pound.) I bought all I could at that price. (4 lb limit on the thighs and whole chickens, and bought the rest of their stock of wings.)

There were also veggies being sold for dirt cheap (5 cents a pound for tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes, 36 cents a pound for zucchini) and I also bought some dirt cheap produce from the seconds rack (25 cents a pound for green bananas and persimmons.)

On top of that, I've been foraging like crazy, and got an incredible amount of foraged goodies- but more on that in a second.

I'll be making meals that are based on dirt cheap chicken, dirt cheap veggies, and foraged greens, and using permitted carbs like butternut squash, fried green bananas, carrots, and peas to fill the belly, in addition to healthy fats. I and the rest of the family aren't being strictly off grains, so that makes it cheaper, but for the most part, we'll be eating the same foods as my husband. (But breakfast, when he's at work, we will be eating grains.)

Upping the amounts of liquids being drunk is also very important, to help flush the body out, according to some other articles my husband read, so he's drinking a lot.

Because gut health is very important to the overall immune system, and because of the gut health/histamine connection, populating the gut with healthy flora, aka probiotics, is super important. My husband is tanking up on water kefir and kombucha.

Rest is also important, as it strengthens the immune system, so my husband is taking naps every day and trying to go to sleep early.

Drinking bone broth is very healing to the body, so we'll be doing that often.

But one of the most effective things that we've read about to help fight seasonal allergies is nettles.

Yes, nettles, that "annoying because they sting you" plant, that foragers love because they're so uber-nutritious and medicinal and all over and free. Which just happen to be in season in my location during prime allergy season.
And did I mention free????
And oh, nettles are nature's antihistamine, supposedly working better than benadryl or sudafed, at least when it comes to seasonal allergies.

I made nettle tea for my husband, and the next day and a half he had no allergy symptoms, despite having really bad allergies for the 3 days prior, but then I ran out of nettles. So his allergies came back for a day and a half (he also had rice and potatoes during that time, maybe that's why?).

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Yesterday, I went to my nettle foraging location and picked a huuuuuuuuuuge garbage bag full of nettles, and my husband plans on topping up on nettles. Nettle tea, nettle juice, nettle smoothies, whatever suits his fancy. No nettle tincture because that takes 6 weeks to make, and I think these are just as effective, but we're experimenting.
Nettles juice ok, but make sure not to over stuff the juicer as it can clog it- I found it best to feed the stem (one nettle plant at a time) in first to the juicer, and when that was juiced, then juice the leaves. With the pulp that remained, I made tea, to get the most of of the nettles.

Today, I made my husband a drink of water kefir mixed with juiced nettles, nettle tea, lemon and raw honey to take to work to drink. (He asked not to send any food with him- just drink- and he wants to eat only once he gets home- fortunately he gets home early, at 2:30 pm.) Chicken wings, fried green bananas, and greens with tahini sauce for lunch. Lentil soup based on chicken broth, with cheapo vegetables, for supper.

Yesterday, we had a milk thistle, cucumber, tomato salad with chicken breast cooked in wood sorrel, wild fennel, and pigweed, with a kombucha viniagrette, with some butternut squash, fennel, tomato, and green apple mash with quick pickled lemons. All free or purchased very on sale.

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So, is it working?

Well, for 3 days, before he was doing anything, he had seasonal allergies bad. He was suffering so much. (And it came right after he had a stomach bug- a weakened immune system opened the door for allergies to start.)
And since he cut out grains and started drinking nettle tea and having lots of probiotics- a few days have been completely allergy free, and 2 days he had mild allergies.

That's a better track record than years in which he used conventional medication! We'll see what the next of the season brings, but we're hoping and experimenting, and so far so good.

Do you or any family members of yours suffer from seasonal allergies? What do you do to deal with them? Does it work? Do you do any of the things listed here? Did you know nettles are an antihistamine?


  1. We use alfalfa tablets for allergies, and nettle tea some. During an allergy flair, we avoid high histamine foods such as bananas, canteloupe, and sunflower seeds.

    I love your blog and am saving money because of it.
    I just had water kefir with lemon, yum! I saw jaggery at the store but didn't know to use it for kefir. Is it difficult to cut a piece off and measure?

    1. Jaggery is a little annoying to use, I'll admit.

      Thanks for the ideas abut the bananas, cantelope, and sunflower seeds.

  2. I megadose on vitamin c and it takes away my seasonal allergy symptoms which are basically being very itchy on every surface of my head. It can make my whole body itchy also if its really bad. My symptoms go away for about 6-8 hours and then come back and take another dose.

  3. Can you post the recipe to make nettle juice and tea please? Also i don't know where to find nettles... does it work the same with the dried nettles from health food stores? Thank you!

    1. Stuck them in the juicer whole, thats it... and watered it down. And tea was just boiling water and nettles. And you can make that with dried nettles.

  4. That's fantastic to know about nettles. My sister will break out in hives randomly (ok, probably not random, but she reacts to so many different environmental triggers that with her job it's impossible to pinpoint). And antihistamines make her too sleepy to work.

  5. What great information! Thanks for sharing! Ive tried knifer water and raw honey, but other then that haven't explored too much. Thankfully my allergies seem pretty mild, but I am defiantly taking your post to heart!


  6. I had hives all over for 2 months & they only went when i stopped eating gluten & started drinking nettle tea. I never relaised at the time it would help, just good luck.

  7. My roommate (who studies Chinese Medicine and acupuncture) just came back from a weekend workshop on diet and nutrition dedicated to seasonal allergies. There was a handy list of foods you should eliminate for two weeks to give your body a chance to heal from inflammation, then you reintroduce to see what you react to even mildly to eliminate. As you begin to reintroduce (and while you're detoxing) you focus on building up your gut flora through probiotics. The person who gave the talk is an MD with a background in natural healing. The idea is the same as yours - our systems have allergies because they're being overstimulated by things in our diet, and then we're miserable.

  8. I'll ask her for the handout she showed me and type it up sometime this week when I get a chance :)

  9. Seasonal allergies can be such a pain in the butt, especially in the spring time when the weather starts to become beautiful and warm. I really liked your tips! If these tips don't work, it may be time to find an allergist to get a proper diagnosis. That way you can get to the root of the problem.


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