Spring and summer are a joy. Unless you’re one of millions who suffer with seasonal allergies. Then it can be a really miserable couple of seasons of sniffling, scratchy throat, coughing, itchy eyes – or the alternative – taking medications that make you sleepy, or that you just don’t want to take because you prefer to be au natural.
I suffered from horrible seasonal allergies well into my mid-teens, so I am no stranger to the symptoms. My summers were spent retreating to an air-conditioned room with an antihistamine on those high pollen count days just to be able to breathe easily (you know what I’m talking about…). I loved being outdoors as much as possible so it made me miserable on every level.
It’s even worse if your allergies trigger your asthma – which is the case for many adults and increasing numbers of children.
BREAKING THE CYCLE: NO MORE ALLERGIES FOR ME!
One year everything changed for me. I became a vegetarian (no, you do not have to become a vegetarian to get rid of your allergies!), cleaned up my diet of all sugar, soda, preservatives, additives, dyes and other non-food junk, and drastically decreased my dairy intake (yes, if you want your allergies to go away forever, you will have to do this – sorry).
I went as organic as I could afford to. I did this for political, not health, reasons. I was part of the early movement to “take back our food” and be free of dependence on Big Agra — it took a lot of effort to find local coops and small farms from which to get my foods (no, Virginia, there were no cells phones or Whole Foods back then) – but I felt good about my choices. The unexpected bonus was that health issues, which I just assumed were a normal part of life for me, simply vanished – including my allergies.
That spring and summer came and went without a tickle, sniffle, cough, or medication. Then the next. And the next. At some point I realized what had happened… I had become allergy free. I didn’t even use herbs or supplements at the time because I wasn’t intentionally trying to get rid of them. It was all about the dietary changes.
Even more interestingly, by the time I had kids – in spite of rampant colds, allergies, and asthma on both sides of our families – they weren’t getting sick, needing antibiotics, or having any allergy or asthma symptoms. An original organic foodie, I breastfed each child for a well over a year (or three), introducing healthy, organic, homemade foods slowly into their diets around 10 months to a year of age. They never had juice or sugar, and dairy was at a minimum – occasionally just some organic, live culture yogurt. I was amazed. It was all about their diet, too.
I knew I was onto something.
NOW ITS YOUR TURN: THE 3 STEPS TO FREEDOM FROM ALLERGIES
I love helping my patients become allergy free. Spring and summer are once again enjoyable. Travel to exotic places doesn’t cause them problems. They no longer have to take medications. Some also no longer have asthma attacks. One patient, who had been unable to spend much time at her in-laws’ house because of severe cat allergies, was able to enjoy an entire winter holiday with her husband’s family at his parents’ home for the first time ever – and didn’t requite a single dose of medication.
It’s really not that hard to do. It just takes 3 steps:
Depending on your allergy severity, this can take anywhere from a few weeks to 6 months.
If you’ve got allergy symptoms right now, there is help before you dig in deeper to the next steps. Feel free to jump to the end of this piece and start with But I’ve Got Allergies NOW and work your way backwards. Everyone in this for the long haul, read on…
Just as a caveat, I am not talking about getting rid of severe IgE allergies such as peanuts, bees, medications, or other allergens which can cause you to have an immediate, severe, or anaphylactic reaction. Those tend to be permanent. I am talking about common seasonal allergies such as pollens, dander, and common foods that trigger IgG reactions – the ones that make you miserable but aren’t going to kill you! So please don’t try this treatment and go eat nuts if you’re severely allergic! But if you have the other kind of allergies, over weeks and months, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that old triggers just don’t bother you anymore!
THE GUT AND ALLERGY CONNECTION
All of the symptoms associated with allergies are signs of inflammation: redness, swelling, and itching, for example. To get rid of allergies, you have to get rid of inflammation and hyper-reactivity. The place to start is in your gut.
One of the major jobs of your digestive system is to provide an interface between the external world (foods, allergens, bacteria, etc.) and your bloodstream. It does this in the stomach by using natural digestive acids to break down potentially allergenic proteins and in the intestines via a layer of barrier cells that prevents these proteins from getting into your blood stream. You also have a whole host of special bacteria in your gut, as well as immune cells, whose job it is to break down and get rid of proteins and other molecules that can cause you to get sensitized to them, leading to gut – and systemic – inflammation.
When you are taking medications for reflux (like a PPI such as Prilosec) this takes out the first line of defense – your stomach acid. When your gut barrier gets weakened from chronic exposure to foods that irritate your gut, or when the good bacteria get out of balance from antibiotics, you can develop a leaky gut. Foreign proteins get into your system and place your body on red alert to react to many triggers in your environment.
So the first step to quieting down your body’s over reactivity is to heal your gut. This will reduce both seasonal allergies and common food sensitivities.
THE 4R PROGRAM FOR GUT HEALING
To simplify the process of healing the gut, I teach my patients the 4R program. It takes about 4-6 weeks and it looks like this:
Let me break this down for you:
Remove: This is done with an Elimination Diet. An elimination diet is 2 weeks of eating a simple diet from which you have removed the most common food triggers including gluten, sugar, dairy, eggs, soy, coffee, soda, and artificial ingredients – as well as anything you typically crave (i.e., sugar, carbs, salty snacks). Ideally, you would also stop many of your medications, especially reflux medications, NSAIDS, and antibiotics – but talk with your doctor first! If you have reflux, DGL licorice is a great alternative to PPIs and H2blockers. It safely heals the stomach without the potentially serious adverse effects of the above medications.
The elimination diet takes little bit of planning and coordination, especially with kiddos, but it is simple and makes a huge difference. I’ve got a blog coming soon on how to do one. You can also use The Ultra Simple Diet by Dr. Mark Hyman for guidance.
If you have constipation, you’ll want to deal with this now. Get plenty of fiber in your diet and drink ample water, too. Supplements such as flax seed, psyllium, and magnesium citrate are safe for most people to take daily. For kids, slippery elm, which tastes like maple syrup, may be used, 1-2 tsp daily in oatmeal or a smoothie. The goal is 1 healthy BM every day.
Replace: After 2 weeks on the Elimination Diet, start taking a good quality digestive enzyme product (you can give these to kids over 4, too). This is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, too.
Reinoculate: After another week, add in a good quality probiotic. Also safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and for kids.
Repair: The following supplements can now be taken for about a month (up to 6 months) to help to heal the intestinal lining:
Even after you complete all of this, you’ll want to keep your diet as healthy as possible – indefinitely. You can reintroduce some of the typical allergens you’ve removed, but do it one by one, each a few days apart, noting any symptoms that might arise when you resume eating them. If you have any allergy symptoms, that food might not be optimal to include in your diet. You can also continue on the gut healing supplements for 3-6 months, and then see how you do with a challenge of that food. As for sugar, baked goods, additives, and junk food – you’re going to want to leave those out pretty much forever. They’re not good for you – or anyone.
BUT I’VE GOT ALLERGIES NOW
I know … 4 weeks+ is a long time to get your gut repair on when you’ve got symptoms now. Never fear! There’s help! My favorite herbal medicine and nutritional supplements work wonders even in a pinch. Most patients who switch to them do not have to use OTC or prescription allergy meds again. If you don’t do the 4R program, symptoms may come back, so you’ll need to keep treating with these natural supplements.
If you are doing the 4R program, go ahead and add all of these in from the beginning of your Elimination Diet and continue to take all of these throughout allergy season.
These herbs and nutritional supplements are best taken on a daily basis. Taking them before allergy season even starts can prevent symptoms altogether. They can also be used on an as needed basis.
If you haven’t yet hit allergy season in your region, start now to get a jumpstart.
Whether you’re doing the 4R program or not, you will get seasonal allergy relief from this plan. If you choose to do the 4R program, you may find that like me, changing your diet not only frees you from being dependent on a food industry that is not in our best health interest, but it also frees you from seasonal allergies – 4Ever.
Dr. Aviva Romm is the mother of four grown children, a Yale-trained physician specializing in integrative medicine for women and children, a midwife, a herbalist, an award-winning author, and the creator/owner of WomanWise, on-line courses dedicated to vitality and optimal health for women and children. An internationally respected expert in botanical and integrative medicine for women and children, she has spent nearly 30 years as a health care practitioner and advocate for the health and environmental concerns of women and kids.
Connect with Aviva:
Hi Jessica, I believe in synchronicity so when I was guided to you .on FB I was intrigued and inspired. I turned 46 last week and my husband bought me your book. I wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a beautifully presented way. My copy is now filled with tabs and post it notes with actual notes throughout. I am dairy intolerant since having my gallbladder removed 15+ years ago, I don't eat meat, very minimal gluten and was told 12 months ago my gut was not digesting my food properly so I wasn't receiving sufficient nutrients and taking supplements would be a waste of time. My weight fluctuates tending to gain rather than lose but now I believe I have a tool to help me bring my body back into balance that I need for my health and longevity of life - so again thank you. The first few steps to creating a stronger path forward for my health has found its foundation in your beautiful book, The Healthy Life.
With kindest regards Samantha
I'm writing this email because I wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and how you really helped me in my health journey. Thank you for sharing all your advices and experiences.
When I started my studies, I was drinking lots of coffee and I was eaten the wrong foods, and feel bad about it, I wasn't at my best. So I had done some research on the net but at first I didn't found advices that are for me, and then I found your blog. It was exactly what I was looking for, good advices and healthy recipes. Now I'm following your advices on rest more, and snacks between meals and prep the meals and take time for myself to reconnect with my body and let go my anxiety, etc, and I have a more balanced life and have a new relationship with food thanks to you.
I bought your book and it's honestly the best book I have ever bought. I suffer from IBS and anxiety. I have paid so much money seeing naturopaths however after reading your book and all of your tips I'm noticing so much of a difference, so simple and easy to follow. And symptoms have dramatically decreased. Also you have helped me to relax. Currently drinking the protein health smoothie! Thankyou your amazing.
Hey Jessica! I haven’t yet brought ‘The Healthy Life’, but I do have the clean life and your slim down plan! I would like to thank you so much for the knowledge your share and the message you put across about health and wellness. I’m studying Nutritional Medicine in Melbourne and absolutely love the philosophy that you share with your JSHealth community. The work you’ve done to show people that leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t boring, tasteless, difficult or depriving is amazing and hope to share the message myself one day. You’ve inspired me to start my own blog , to share the message and have taught me so many things about my own health! You should be proud of your achievements! Thank you again
I searched for help and tips through the Internet and found Jessica Sepel. This is seriously not exaggerated, but she was the reason why I have dared myself to eat again, to have snacks in between, to nourish my body. I could slowly improve my negative thoughts about my body image and my stupid anxiety of gaining weight. Besides, The Cleanest Gut was awesome too! A huge thank you! Especially from my mum. Seriously, without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!
Congratulations on your new book! It looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few years and you’ve inspired me to slowly but surely eat healthier without giving myself a hard time when I don’t. It made me so happy (and weirdly proud) to see the Daily Mail article on The Healthy Life. I remember trying out your recipes before you even had your eBook out! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Keep up the great work.
Cooking in this way truly brought out the foodie in me and has instilled a huge passion for health and wellness! Life throws you hard and frustrating things sometimes but I truly believe that this is where we learn more about ourselves and what our passions in life are! Thank you for inspiring me on my journey to health and wellness!
I am a yoga teacher in Johannesburg and am thrilled to have bought your book today. I love making healthy, nutritious food for my family, friends and fellow yogis! Thank you for this book and your inspiration (had to share a pic of my book on my recipe stand in the kitchen).
I bought your beautiful book during the week and told my bestie to go out and buy it also! I love love love it. It is the book I would give to my younger self if I could (I am 41 years old). Everything is just so sensible and informative and is definitely a book all teenagers should have. This should be a text book for girls becoming teens. I will love going back and re-reading it many many times and can't wait to make more of the recipes. Thank you Jess - you are an incredibly inspiring woman and you should feel so proud
My fiancé bought your book and we have cooked some of your meals. Amazing! I love your outlook on a healthy lifestyle and your hints and tips with preparing tasty meals are fantastic. Thanks for reviving us to live a healthier lifestyle and get our bodies wedding ready.
I want to empower you to make good choices, every day. I want you to enhance your understanding of health and nutrition. I'm committed to making sure you live the best life. Because you deserve it. Are you ready to start feeling great?
Let me know your email address so I can send you an eBook '7 Days on my plate' - a little gift from me to you!