Allergies Unboxed: Your Guide to Breathe Easier

What’s the Deal with Allergies?

Allergies arise from our immune system’s overreaction to harmless substances like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. Normally, our immune system shields us from invaders like bacteria. But in allergies, it mistakenly identifies these innocuous triggers as threats, unleashing a chain reaction. This reaction includes histamine, a chemical that causes a variety of allergy symptoms. Those symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • itchy eyes
  • swollen eyelids
  • congestion
  • runny nose
  • itchy throat
  • mouth tingles
  • fatigue
  • disrupted sleep
  • itchy, red rash (hives)
  • eczema flare ups
  • headaches

How Do Allergies Develop?

Genetics: Allergies often run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition.

The Hygiene Hypothesis: This theory proposes that early childhood exposure to germs and a diverse microbiome might “train” the immune system to be less reactive. In other words, if you grew up in a house that was too sanitized, you might be more prone to developing allergies.

Environmental Factors: Pollution and increased indoor living may contribute to allergy development.

Alleviating Allergies: Tips and Tricks

Identify Your Triggers: Knowing what sparks your allergies is the first step to managing them. Keep a journal to track symptoms and potential triggers.

Minimize Exposure: Keep windows closed during high pollen counts. Use air purifiers with HEPA filters and wash bedding regularly in hot water.

Medication: Antihistamines can help block histamine and reduce allergy symptoms. Consult your doctor to find the right medication for you.

Home Remedies

While allergy medications are the fastest way to achieve relief, they aren’t always necessary, especially for lighter symptoms. Here are some natural home remedies you can try instead or alongside conventional medications:

  • Saline Nasal Irrigation: This is a fancy way of saying “rinsing your sinuses with saltwater.” It helps clear mucus and allergens trapped in your nasal passages, easing congestion and irritation.
  • Air Filtration: HEPA air filters trap allergens like pollen and dust mites circulating indoors, creating a calmer breathing environment.
  • Dietary Tweaks: Consider adding quercetin-rich foods like apples, onions, and berries to your diet. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine that may help reduce allergy symptoms.
  • Local Honey (with caution): There’s some belief that consuming local honey can help reduce allergy symptoms due to indirect exposure to local pollens via the honeymaking process. Important note: Honey is not safe for children under 1 year old.
  • Steam Therapy: Inhaling steam can loosen mucus and soothe a sore throat. Consider adding a few drops of essential oils like eucalyptus or peppermint (diluted in a carrier oil) for additional relief.
  • CBD Oil: Due to its anti-inflammatory and calming properties, CBD oil might be helpful for managing symptoms of allergies such as congestion, swelling, and irritation. CBD can also help support your immune system. Read more about how CBD may help alleviate allergies by clicking here.

Allergy Reduction Diet

What you put on your plate can play a significant role in managing (or worsening!) allergy symptoms. This 2023 Study published in Nutrients provides evidence that diet and nutrition are key factors in the development and severity of allergic diseases. So ditch the tissues and grab a fork – it’s time to explore delicious foods that can help combat allergies.

Nature’s Antihistamines:

Mother Nature provides a bounty of allergy-fighting foods rich in:

Quercetin: This flavonoid acts as a natural antihistamine, helping to reduce allergy symptoms. Load up on apples, onions, berries, and leafy greens.

Vitamin C: A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C can help boost your immune system and potentially reduce allergy severity. Citrus fruits, kiwi, and bell peppers are great sources.

Probiotics: These beneficial gut bacteria can help regulate your immune system and potentially lessen allergy symptoms. Incorporate yogurt, kefir, and kimchi into your diet.

Quercetin-Rich Powerhouses to Alleviate Allergies:

As mentioned above, quercetin acts as a natural antihistamine. Foods rich in quercetin can help reduce allergy symptoms. Here are some popular, quercetin-rich choices:

  • Red onions: They boast the highest concentration of quercetin among commonly consumed onions.
  • Apples: Especially the red and red-skinned varieties like Gala or Red Delicious, are a good source of quercetin.
  • Berries: Blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and cherries are all packed with quercetin and other antioxidants.
  • Leafy green vegetables: Kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are excellent sources of quercetin and other vital nutrients.
  • Broccoli: This cruciferous vegetable is not only high in quercetin but also offers other health benefits.
  • Asparagus: This springtime favorite is a fantastic source of quercetin and offers a good amount of fiber and vitamins as well.
  • Citrus fruits: Oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are good sources of quercetin, along with the vitamin C they’re known for.
  • Tomatoes: Both red and yellow tomatoes are good sources of quercetin, and they’re incredibly versatile for cooking and salads.
  • Buckwheat: This gluten-free pseudo-grain is a hidden gem when it comes to quercetin content.
  • Red grapes: While not as concentrated as red onions, red grapes offer a delicious way to get your quercetin fix.
  • Green Tea: This healthy beverage is loaded with antioxidants, including quercetin. It can be consumed hot or cold, and even mixed with fruit juice or local honey for extra tastiness!

Allergy-Inducing Foods to Limit:

While you’re filling your plate with allergy-fighting superstars, consider limiting some potential triggers:

Dairy: Dairy products can sometimes increase mucus production, worsening allergy symptoms for some people. Consider plant-based alternatives like almond milk or oat milk.

Processed Foods: These foods are often loaded with inflammatory ingredients that can worsen allergy symptoms. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods for optimal benefits.

Refined Sugars: Sugar can suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to allergies. Opt for natural sweeteners like fruits or local honey.

Health Is Wealth

By incorporating these tips and suggestions, you can turn mealtime into an ally in your fight against allergies. Remember, a healthy diet is a cornerstone of overall well-being, and it can play a significant role in managing your allergies.

How Indoor Living Contributes to Allergies

We spend a significant chunk of our lives indoors – working, relaxing, escaping the elements. But what if this haven from the outside world is also contributing to our allergies? 

Dust Bunny Domination & Beyond:

Dust mites, microscopic critters that live in house dust, are a major allergy culprit. Research suggests that between 5-30% of the population is sensitive to dust mites. To be specific, it’s the waste products of dust mites that trigger allergic reactions, and unfortunately, those waste products are so tiny that they float around freely in the air inside our homes. 

Dust mites have been known to trigger rhinoconjunctivitis (defined by having eye and nose problems at least twice a week), allergic asthma, and eczema.

  • Dust Mite Domination: Studies show that the average American home harbors millions of dust mites, particularly in bedding, carpets, and upholstered furniture.
  • Allergic Reactions: Dust mite waste products are a primary trigger for allergy symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny nose.
  • Limited Airflow: Modern homes tend to be tightly sealed for energy efficiency, but this also reduces airflow and traps allergens like dust mites indoors.

Beyond Dust Mites: Indoor Allergy Threats from Synthetic Materials

While dust mites are a major concern, there are other indoor allergy triggers often associated with modern, synthetic materials:

Off-Gasing: New carpets, furniture, and building materials often emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during off-gasing. These chemicals can irritate the respiratory system and worsen allergies, among posing other serious health risks. Vinyl flooring, while often considered a better alternative to carpet, is made from chlorinated petrochemicals, and can also be a culprit. 

Carpets and vinyl floors can off-gas for several years after installation. Constantly breathing in the airborne chemicals they release can trap your body in a year-round allergic response. 

Synthetic Fabrics: Polyester bedsheets and furniture coverings can trap dust mites and allergens more easily than natural fibers. Switching to breathable, natural fibers like cotton or linen can significantly reduce allergen build-up and create a more allergy-friendly sleep environment.

Mold & Dampness: Mold spores, ever-present in the air but thriving in damp environments, can wreak havoc on allergy sufferers. These tiny particles are easily inhaled and can trigger allergic reactions.  Mold doesn’t directly cause allergies, but it can irritate the immune system of people who are already sensitive. 

Embrace Nature to Breathe Easier:

Here are some ways to create a more allergy-friendly indoor environment by embracing natural materials and practices:

  • Natural Flooring: If you own your home, consider replacing carpets and vinyl with hard floors like wood, tile, or natural stone. These are easier to clean and trap fewer allergens. Opt for low-VOC options when selecting new flooring materials.
  • Breathable Bedding: Ditch the polyester sheets! Polyester, which is made with a petroleum-based plastic, has taken over the textile market due to its cheapness, and many people are allergic to it without even realizing it. Invest in comfortable, breathable 100% cotton sheet; cotton is often cited as being dust mite resistant. Wash your sheets weekly in hot water (at least 130°F or 54°C) to kill any dust mites that do accumulate.
  • Airflow: Open windows regularly to increase ventilation and reduce allergen build-up. Fresh air is a natural purifier!
  • Natural Light & Plants: Natural sunlight helps reduce mold growth and can boost your mood. Houseplants can also help improve indoor air quality by filtering out pollutants.
  • Control Dampness: Control humidity levels in your home (ideally between 30-50%) to discourage mold growth. Opt for natural ventilation and moisture-absorbing materials whenever possible, instead of relying solely on mechanical dehumidifiers.


Allergies shouldn’t hold you back. By understanding the science behind them and taking proactive steps, you can manage your allergies and enjoy a healthy, fulfilling life. You can help reduce symptoms of allergies by ensuring that you’re eating the foods that reduce allergies (namely fruits and vegetables, especially those containing high levels of quercetin and Vitamin C) and by limiting foods that contribute to allergies (namely dairy, processed foods, and sugar). You can also take steps to reduce your exposure to allergens by understanding your triggers and acting accordingly. Ensuring a clean air flow, limiting exposure to toxins, and regularly handling dust build up can make a huge difference.

Stay healthy, friends!