Maya's Happy Place

A multiple food allergy kid grows up.

Spring Allergies and Environmental Allergy Survival

Spring allergies have been kicking me back into bed for the past two months. Every time I spend more than fifteen minutes outside, I have to shower as soon as I get home or else I will face hives, sneezing and itchy eczema on my face later on from my hair which basically becomes a dry Swiffer to the outdoor environment, holding on to grass and tree pollens, then bringing them back into my home and onto whatever furniture I sit or lay on.

With pretty flowers and greenery comes lots of pollen spores!

If I’m already dealing with even a delayed reaction such as to dairy or a soy derivative from a day or two prior, I notice my spring pollen and dust mite allergies are much more sensitive than usual. The reason for this is that allergic reactions are cumulative….meaning that if you add on another allergen for your body to react to while its already flooding histamines into your system, it is much harder for your body to fight, resulting in a much worse reaction than you normally have.

At that point, the only thing you can do is Damage Control, but I’m going to go much deeper, into the immune system. I’ve mentioned cutting out some of these things in my blog posts before but this time I think it is important to go into the ‘whys.’ And its almost ALL about the hormones…

1. Cut Out Sugar

       Sugar is probably the worst thing for your immune system during an allergic reaction. When I was little my mom completely banned me from eating anything sweet or drinking sodas or sugary drinks. The only sweet thing I was allowed was 100% juice. I remember asking her why and she told me that it dries out the skin. I obliged without a second thought, because I did notice I itched more on the days I ate a lot of sugar. Sugar definitely triggers inflammation.

Eliminate sweets and opt for fresh organic fruits instead!

The real answers are a bit more complicated than my mom’s answer to me at five years old. Over the years, I learned that sugar is the primary offender for candidiasis or excess yeast in the intestines. Recent findings have shown that taking probiotics regularly can greatly reduce allergic reactions and symptoms. If this is the case, look at the opposite view…the more yeast overgrowth you have in your gut, the worse off your allergies and immune system will be!

Now I’m not saying to go on a hardcore anti-candida diet; most of the offerings are rather bland and tasteless. If I do this, the foodie in me dies a very quick death. So instead, I take a supplement known as Oreganol P73 by North American Herb and Spice. I take five drops twice daily on a regular basis and during an allergic reaction, I double that. It is pure Mediterranean oregano oil, which is an powerful antifungal and antiviral. I’m not going to lie, its gross and burns your throat so you will need a small juice or water chaser. My whole family takes it especially in the fall and winter and has beat cold and flu season with it for two years now.

Sugar also increases your body’s production of insulin, which over time, can lead to many various health problems, including weight gain and diabetes.

2. Cut Out The Caffeine

       I’m the first to admit I’m a major caffeine addict. The problem here is that caffeine dehydrates every organ in your body, making each work harder to function. It also increases all of your stress hormones, which wreaks havoc on your immune system and your circadian rhythm a.k.a sleep cycle, thereby hindering your body’s natural ability to heal (during sleep’s REM cycle/ Rapid Eye Movement stage).

For those of us with thyroid issues, caffeine increases cortisol which slows down your thyroid even further! If you take levothyroxine, the thyroid hormone like I do, drinking coffee within 60 minutes reduces absorption. Who knew?

If cutting out caffeine is not an option for you, try getting that pick-me-up from yerba mate. You can find this tea at most health food stores or vitamin centers. It does have about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of tea but it is the lesser of two evils and you might even find you like the clarity high and focus much more than what you get from a cup of coffee!

If you’re sleepy, don’t fight it with more caffeine!

Also make sure you are getting your vitamin D….whether it be from an hour a day in the sun or through supplements if you are more of a night person and don’t really leave the house during the day.

On days that I’m having a reaction, I completely eliminate any caffeine, take a hydroxyzine and go to sleep. Healing is your number one priority and if you fight your body’s need for rest when it is basically under attack and need to go for that extra cup of coffee or two to function, you are basically burning the candle at both ends and killing yourself…I would know, I did it for years.
 If you live with severe food and environmental allergies or other chronic disease, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Instead, find a way to get your rest. Get a note from your allergist. If it is really bad, apply for disability. And in the meantime, seriously, don’t kill yourself….its just not worth it.

3. Eliminate Possible Sources of Pollen

      I’ve said this before but the most important thing after a day of being out is to shower before you get in bed (with freshly laundered sheets, of course!). During the Spring, Summer and Fall months its important not to go more than a week without changing your sheets. This will make a huge difference in your allergies, especially if you adhere to the ‘shower before bed’ rule.

  • Once I’m showered, I also never sit on any furniture unless I’ve covered it in clean, freshly laundered 100% cotton sheets. This keeps any pollen or allergens from sticking to me and me taking them to bed.

  • Wear house slippers or flip-flops which you only use in the house; this way, once you’re showered you don’t track allergens and pollen from the floor onto the sheets on furniture or your bed. This goes a long way in keeping your areas clean! Trust me, wearing socks around the house is like wearing dry Swiffers on your feet then taking those allergens to bed!
For people with eczema and allergies, flip flops are not just for the beach!

  • Its also a good idea to invest in having a good lint roller in your bedroom at all times to eliminate pollen or dust as it accumulates during the week. I use it nightly on my pillow, underneath and the side of the bed that I sleep. If you don’t have a lint roller, be sure to change your pillowcase every other night, especially if you have longer hair. The lint roller is also very effective for cloth furniture around the house, but doesn’t replace the covering with a sheet as I talked about earlier.

  • Make your bed every morning and always use a comforter or coverlet on top of your sheets. This is not only a good practice and makes you feel good, but it also does a decent job of keeping dust or other allergens from floating around the room off of your inner sheets and your skin.
    Always cover your sheets and pillows!

  • Never EVER open your bedroom window for extended periods of time or with a fan on, unless your sheets on your bed are covered and your HEPA air purifier is running. Opening your window while you sleep without a filter and it is basically like rolling outside on the grass! Your beddings will accumulate the pollens and have you sneezing and itching in no time.
  • Invest in a really good HEPA air purifier for your room. I know they can be expensive but you can find great deals on Amazon while reading ratings before you buy; only trust ratings that are 4.5-5 stars only. I keep it in my room for a few days then move it to the living room for a day or two.

  • Never go outside with your hair wet. What picks up more dust when you are cleaning tables or surfaces; a wet paper towel or a dry one? This is why I say do not go out with wet hair. Unless you are at the beach or pool and going to take a dip, its a bad idea. I learned from careful self-observation that once your hair dries (especially if it is not tied back if its long) your hair will dry and make you sneeze and your face will itch like crazy once you get home. The best thing to do on high-pollen days or if you know you’ll be outside for longer than fifteen  minutes is: If you have long hair, make sure its dry then tie it back or put it in a bun. Or wrap in a scarf (there are tons of ideas on Only take down your hair and wear it loose when you are indoors. If you have shorter hair, you can simply wear a hat or scarf. The key here is to keep pollen from sticking to the inadvertent pollen mop on your head!

  • Remember never to drink juice, coffee or tea with your Allegra! Anything not water will keep the medicine from being absorbed by your body! I usually take my Allegra in the morning or afternoon and my Up-and-Up brand cetirizine hydrochloride (Target’s brand of Zyrtec….the only one I know of that does not contain soy) in the evening.

  • Exercise. I cannot stress enough the way exercise really boosts the immune system, keeping your body from reacting to allergens the way it does if you’re constantly sedentary. My cousin, who has the peanut allergy as well as severe asthma literally eliminated most of his asthma symptoms over the years by working out hard a few times a week and even training for mini-marathons; at the moment, he’s currently hooked on CrossFit. Although I’m terrified of dancing, I’m hooked on my Wii Zumba Party so I usually do my crazy cardio in my living room. Attempting to follow the moves for 40-minute and 60-minute or more workouts gets me drenched in sweat and my muscles aching…in my opinion the sign of a great workout. A day or two a week I go to the gym for a few hours, workout on the elliptical and all the weight machines then de-stress on the HydroMassage machine (@ Planet Fitness). I kid you not, the days after working out with cardio for at least an hour or more are the days I only need one allergy med as opposed to two. It is important that your workout helps you to feel good, whether you are in your living room at midnight (like I am, because there is less chance of family seeing me attempt to dance) or if you are just walking around your neighborhood a few times listening to your Pandora and EndoMondo apps on your phone and blasting music you love! For those of you who don’t know, Pandora is a radio station app that allows you to add your favorite styles of music by inputting your favorite artists, then it suggests others along those genres. EndoMondo is an app which tracks your speed and distance as you walk or run. Both apps are on Android and completely free. I’m sure they have them for iPhone users, too!
When walking, make sure you breathe and try to let go of any worries; this is your time. I know this might sound a bit odd to some, but I like to practice visualization techniques while I walk outside by picturing a vacuum above my head with a hose going all the way up to the heavens and as I take each breath, I picture any worry or negative emotions as little dark shadows leaving my body and traveling up into this vacuum and out of my body. Then I picture the sun’s rays (or you can utilize God’s love or universal peace or the love from whatever deity you believe in) filling me with pure light. This technique helps tremendously not only to relax you but it also helps to heal your sprit. I am a deep believer in the mind/body/spirit connection and anything you can do which makes you feel good and puts your mind and heart in a good place will help lower stress levels and thereby decrease your body’s production of histamine while lowering inflammation.

Hopefully some of these tips help save your sanity during the flowery, green months and give you some fun ideas for revamping your immune system while allowing you to enjoy the gorgeous weather!


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