Dr. Mila McManus
I rarely come across someone in my practice or personal life who doesn’t have issues with allergies. If you don’t suffer with allergy symptoms, then chances are you know someone who does. There are plenty of medications on the market, both prescription and over the counter, for treating allergy and sinus issues. It’s important to remember that over-the-counter medications aren’t necessarily safer than prescription drugs and aren’t without potential side effects. I suffered with severe allergies and eczema, and mild asthma, for the first 30+ years of my life. I remember starting allergy shots at the age of 4 or 5. I typically required 3 different medications at any given time which barely controlled my misery. I thought a medical degree would prepare me for finding the best cure for my symptoms, but alas, I was wrong. It wasn’t until I discovered holistic medicine that I was able to determine the root causes of my allergies and eczema and cure them once and for all. I’ll come back to that a little later.
Let’s talk about potential side effects of various allergy treatments. From various sources (references below), I’ve compiled a list:
- Anti-histamines (these side effects are more common and/or severe with first generation anti-histamines such as Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) and Chlorpheniramine)
o Weight gain (yes, really)
o Impaired learning
o Blurred vision
o Urinary retention
o Linked to suicide cases in teens and adults
- Decongestants (e.g. Pseudoephedrine, Phenylephrine)
o High blood pressure
o Irritable mood
- Nasal steroids (e.g. Flonase, aka Fluticasone)
o Unpleasant smell or taste
o Nasal irritation
o Stunted growth in children
o Suppressed immune system
o Glaucoma (with long term use)
o Cataracts (with long term use)
- Leukotriene Inhibitors (e.g. Singulair, aka Montelukast)
o Irritable mood
o Aggressive behavior
o Depression/suicidal thoughts or behavior
- Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots or SCIT)
o Discomfort at injection site
o Exacerbation of allergy or asthma symptoms
If you asked me 12 years ago if I thought I would ever be allergy-free, I would have answered “not in a million years”. Forward to today and I can happily say that I am symptom-free! It did take 5 long years of being on the wellness path (healthy diet, elimination of allergenic foods from diet, handful of vitamins/supplements, restoring my gut health, constant detoxification, balancing hormones) and taking sublingual allergy drops, but when I consider how many years I still have to live, 5 years is trivial. I’d also like to mention that I had a terrible chemical sensitivity, such as immediate headache and general discomfort being around fragrance, and that took an additional 2 years to overcome.
Below is a list of some better, safer alternatives for treating your allergy and sinus problems, some of which I mentioned already:
- Sublingual Immunotherapy (also known as allergy drops or SLIT)
o Much safer than allergy shots.
o NOT FDA-approved yet, but many doctors (self-included) use SLIT “off-label”, meaning the allergens used to concoct the drops are FDA-approved, but for use in injections rather than sublingual liquid.
o SLIT has been successfully used in Europe for decades.
o Recently the FDA approved a sublingual tablet that specifically treats grass allergy, but must be started 4 months prior to the season and is very expensive. In addition, most people with allergies are allergic to several, if not numerous, allergens, which this tablet will not treat.
o Contributes towards a more permanent solution for allergy symptoms rather than a continual “band-aid” with antihistamine type drugs.
- EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)-an acupuncture based treatment
- Supplements that have natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory activity in the body
o Click here to learn more
- Essential oils
o Click here to learn more
- Restoration of gut health which includes dietary changes, removal of opportunistic microbes such as yeast, repletion of good gut bacteria with probiotics, and eventual healing and sealing of the gut.
o 80% of your immune system is located in your gut, so it’s important to support gut health in order to support your immune system against over-reacting to harmless allergens, which is what triggers allergy symptoms.
o A study published in 2008 showed that people who took probiotics throughout the allergy season had lower levels of an antibody that triggered allergy symptoms. Other research has found that giving probiotics to newborns and pregnant females may help prevent childhood allergies.
- Irrigation of sinuses, such as with a neti pot
o Thins mucus and flushes sinuses. This also helps to remove allergens from the nasal mucosa which are stimulating the allergic response.
- Chiropractics-while not a specific allergy treatment, can be a great supportive therapy to improve overall health