Quercetin and Seasonal Allergies
Like clockwork, those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies are running to the drug store to stock up on Benadryl in hopes of combatting the running nose, watery eyes, headaches, that seem to spring up this time of year.
Over the counter medications can be helpful in the short term, but they merely mask acute symptoms. In addition, when taken in excess they can have long-term side effects.
What if we told you there are natural ways to effectivley reduce allergies? That contrary to traditional medications, natural allergy relief can actually benefit the body in several ways above providing symptomatic releif? We'd love to introducing to quercetin- a potent antioxidant that will make the transition into spring a breeze.
What’s Happening in Seasonal Allergies- the SparkNotes version
Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever are an exaggerated immune response to a harmless substance. The top allergens that people react too are pollen, dander, mold and animal hair.
Typically speaking in hay fever, we see an exaggeration of the TH2 immune response, with a simultaneous decrease in TH1 immunity. For simplicity sake, the body thrives when TH1 and TH2 are in balance. Hint: we can work to balance these through natural remedies!
When we react to an allergen, the body responds in two phases. The first phase occurs roughly 15 minutes after exposure and it’s characterized by the release of histamine from mast cells. About 6 hours after the acute response to the incoming allergen, cells begin to release a whole swarm of inflammatory cytokines. The release of cytokines contributes to the constant nasal congestion and airways swelling.
When it comes to assisting the body in mitigating allergy symptoms a few points need to be taken into consideration. The most effective management strategies will do three things
1) Stop histamine release
2) Balance out TH1/TH2 immune responses
3) Inhibit the inflammatory cascade
A bonus would be a therapy that also address the oxidative damage from the on-going inflammatory response seen in those with chronic hay fever.
What is Quercetin and How Can it Help Hay Fever?
Quercetin is a flavonoid and potent antioxidant. It’s found in several foods and is one of the most well researched phytochemicals. It has also been extensively studied in attenuating allergies. Clinically, quercetin is able to reduce allergy symptoms through acting as an antihistamine, modulating the immune and reducing airway inflammation.
Mechanisms of Action
Quercetin is an effective anti-allergenic agent for seasonal allergies because its mechanisms of action hit all three of the above points.
Most notable, quercetin has been shown to stabilize mast cell membranes. This allows quercetin to downregulate the production and the release of histamine. This takes care of the acute allergic reaction. It also helps to reduce the release of inflammatory cytokines that occur hours after the acute reaction through its anti-inflammatory properties. A plus is that querectin has an infinity for the airway and nasal cavities- both of which are affected in he case of allergies.
There is good evidence that suggests quercetin may also drive TH1 immune activation while suppressing TH2 immunity. This leads to a balanced immune response, priming the body to be less responsive to an allergen over the long-term.
The Caveat: Using quercetin is an effective anti-allergenic compound, however it requires a loading phase. Quercetin, if used for allergies should be taken before the onset of allergy season. We recommend starting a quercetin supplementation 2-4 weeks before your seasonal allergies usually kick in. It is recommended to take quercetin daily for the duration of the allergy season. With this being said, starting quertcin once allergy season has started can still provide benefits, however during the transition phase a conventional treatment option may be utilized as well and slowly phased out!
Can I Get Enough Quercetin from Food?
Unfortunately, when it comes to managing allergies a supplement is almost always necessary. This is because the concentration in food sources vary. They vary from source to source, but the quercetin content of foods is also dependent on where it is grown and what cultivation processes were used. In addition to this the bioavailability of quercetin found in food, due to the food matrix is also subject to inconsistencies.
When using quercetin therapeutically, which is the case in allergy management a consistent supply at a therapeutic dose is needed.
** supplementation is the preferred source.
Research varies on this, but a general rule of thumb is 500mg 2x/day taken with food.
What Will You Notice?
The effects of quercetin will greatly depend on the severity of individual seasonal allergies. Most people notice a significant reduction in symptoms, while some people have reported a complete remission with the use of quercetin.
Since quercetin also works to balance TH1 and TH2 immunity- using it over several seasons combined with nutritional and lifestyle medicine, it can be a part of a protocol to help curb allergies for good.
Additional support can be found from herbal medicine. Nettle tea and Reishi mushroom are great to layer onto a base of quercetin. Nettles provide increased histamine and mast cell support and reishi helps to stimulate TH1 immunity.
Curious to try it out? Now is the perfect time to start taking quercetin, you can read more about it here- and the best part? Unlike over the counter medications, quercetin has several other benefits in the body. If you try it, let us know what else you notice ;)
This article is not medical advice and is intended for educational purposes only. Also check with your primary care provider when starting a new supplement or adjusting medications.
Author: Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin