If Austin weren’t such a great city, many people would likely choose to live elsewhere due to the severe allergies that affect Austinites during the fall and winter. While ragweed tapered down in November, we only catch a quick break before Cedar Fever hits, traditionally lasting December through February. How can you find relief season after season? To catch a break, it’s important that you give yourself a break.
Let’s look at what happens in the body during allergy season. An allergic response happens when the immune system reacts to a particle or substance that enters the body that is traditionally harmless, such as pollen from trees or grasses.Sensing a threat, our immune system develops antibodies to ward off these specific allergens. Histamine is released, and we experience sneezing, itchy eyes and mucous production.
Studies show that there’s a relationship between stress, immunity and allergies. Under stress, the nervous system responds with changes in chemicals and hormones, weakening the resilience of the immune system. When the immune system is down from warding off stress, the sneezing, itchy eyes and mucous production is up. While stress doesn’t cause allergies, it heightens the body’s reactivity to them. Be mindful this holiday season that a relaxed and resilient body is far more equipped to handle allergic triggers!
Here are a few ways to give your allergies — and your stress — a break.
- Get to the source of your stress. Is there a way to eliminate or reduce the root cause of your stress? Are you overworked or overcommitting yourself? Getting enough sleep? It may be time to reconsider your priorities. By prioritizing your health, you are prioritizing feeling better.
- Establish a meditation practice. Psychological stress weighs you down and lowers your immunity. Try meditating to reduce stress and cultivate inner peace. While this doesn’t provide immediate relief for your allergies, it strengthens your resilience to stress which only benefits you — and your allergies — long-term. Focus on deep breathing during stressful situations during the holidays. Again, take a proactive stance on your well-being.
- Make exercise a priority. Find movement that you enjoy, whether it’s swimming, walking, running, sporting activities or yoga (indoors may be best for allergy sufferers). If you sign up for a team, join a class, hire a trainer, or commit to working out with a friend, you’ll be more likely to stick with it! Exercising reduces the release of stress-related hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, while simultaneously releasing endorphins — the brain’s “feel-good” chemical. Endorphins provide you with a boost of energy, which can counteract the low-energy and fatigue present during allergy season. A natural decongestant, epinephrine is also released during exercise. A win-win!
- Reduce your sugar intake. Sugar wreaks havoc on the immune system. Given the approaching holidays, make it a goal to limit your sugar intake. Replace high-sugar drinks with sparkling water or simply water with a splash of lemon. Fill up on lean protein, vegetables and healthy fats before making a trip to the dessert table. Reducing sugar can keep your stress and allergy symptoms down, and your immunity up.
- Lastly, be proactive and prepared. Prevention is an important step in combating seasonal allergies. Know your allergic triggers. If you suffer from allergies but aren’t sure what specifically sets you off, consider getting an allergy panel test done, typically covered by insurance. The key here is to have a plan before your body is in a heightened state of reactivity.
Need help making lifestyle modifications? Set up an appointment with one of our Wellness Practitioners or stop by Peoples Rx to learn about our other favorite allergy and stress remedies!
Health & Wellness Coach Katie Hazekamp specializes in helping you discover the pathway to improved health, life balance and meaning. She received her certification as a holistic health coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and guides individuals to find their healthy balance through nutrition, self-care behaviors, and healthy lifestyle practices. Katie partners with you to shift what is needed, helping you to design a clear, actionable plan to get you feeling your best in mind, body and spirit.