What a beautiful spring we are having in the San Francisco Bay Area this year. With record rainfall breaking Northern California’s 5-year drought, we are witnessing trees coming back to life, explosions of color from a bumper crop of spring wildflowers on our hillsides, and grasses galore! With all those tree, grass and flower pollen taking to air on our cool ocean breezes, more people are suffering from allergies with increased symptoms and greater difficulty controlling them. Many are turning to naturopathic medicine with its legacy of herbal, nutritional, and immune supportive therapies to manage their symptoms more effectively.
At San Francisco Natural Medicine, we’ve been helping people with allergies for 28 years and are here to help you.
We begin by focusing on your symptoms to help you feel better quickly
While symptoms vary somewhat from person to person, the most common ones are itchy nose, roof of mouth, and eyes; sneezing; runny nose; post-nasal drip; and fatigue. Sometimes we also see back pain from sneezing, recurrent or chronic sinus infections, facial headaches, a feeling of a lump in the throat, and even asthma symptoms.
SFNM’s doctors have effective tools for helping manage these symptoms, and we individualize them to meet your needs. Herbal medicines, specific diet recommendations, targeted nutritional support, acupuncture and other therapies can improve your allergy symptoms and enhance your vitality whether or not you are taking common allergy medicines. We have seen these bring relief to many people over the years. Acupuncture can be an especially helpful therapy in allergy management.
Managing symptoms more effectively not only helps one feel better, it also helps prevent sinus infections, susceptibility to respiratory infections, asthma aggravation, and a host of other health conditions. Fatigue is a huge issue for allergy sufferers, thus attention to immune and energy enhancement is a key part of our protocols.
We test as appropriate
Many people with allergies do not know to what they are allergic; they’ve never been tested. They may have a rough idea based on known exposures, time of year, or certain foods, but they do not have the big picture. Having a broad overview can help us make more informed choices about behaviors and exposures. With allergies, it can be hard to impossible to eliminate some allergic substances like wind-borne pollen. Others may be easier to avoid or limit exposure to, like some foods or pet dander. Differentiating and managing indoor vs outdoor allergens can be helpful in deciding if a good-quality indoor HEPA filter would be a good investment.
At SFNM, we have relationships with several trusted labs that do highly specific and sensitive allergy testing. We can test for allergies to foods, molds, inhalants like pollen, dust mites, animal dander, and others.
In addition to these specific allergy tests, we know that other non-allergic immune reactions to foods can aggravate and complicate people’s allergy symptoms. Our doctors often test for these reactions as well, as this frequently missing component of standard allergy tests can bring understanding and more targeted and effective allergy support.
While allergy testing can get expensive, we are often able to do extensive test panels for people with qualifying insurance with just a copay. By the way, SFNM does not mark up or make any money from the lab testing we order.
We think ahead
While symptom management is a great place to start, we want you feel better in the long term. Phase 2 treatment during and after symptomatic help can help “rebalance” your immune system with the goal of making you less reactive over time.
Allergies are an example of an imbalanced immune response. The immune system of an allergic person is highly reactive to environmental triggers, whereas a nonallergic person has little or no immune reaction to the same substances. There are some basic underlying biological differences in allergic vs. nonallergic people that help us better understand how to alter the immune response over time.
For example, people who have allergies make more histamine than others do and frequently have “leaky” respiratory membranes that aggravate the allergic response. Paying attention to how our cells make and use histamine as well as how our cell membranes affect its use can lead to therapies that get to causes of allergic reactivity.
Another example is the use of oral antigens, substances in tiny amounts that could provoke allergic responses at higher amounts, can reduce allergic reactivity in many over time. One example of this is the use of local honey or bee pollen to expose themselves to small amounts of local pollen. At SFNM, we stock a number of these specific antigen combinations.
Finally, we often use herbal medicines and formulas that have passed the test of time in supporting the immune system in people with allergies as well as helping reduce risk of respiratory infection.
As I said above, our doctors are here to help you feel better, manage your allergies more effectively, and support your good health and vitality going forward.
Dr. Carl Hangee-Bauer is SFNM’s founder and Clinic Director. He has a general naturopathic medical practice and specializes in immune support for allergies, autoimmunity and cancer support, functional gastroenterology and pain management. He has over 30 years of clinical experience using individualized care and treatment plans to provide effective naturopathic based care.