iStock_000005578178XSmallIt’s that time of year when flowers bloom and leaves pop, setting the mold, pollen and other respiratory irritants airborne. From sneezing and coughing, to runny nose, head congestion, fatigue, swollen and itchy eyes, the symptoms of allergies debilitate millions of people a year, usually in the spring and fall. To stifle the symptoms, you rush to the drug store for the latest and greatest allergy medication. However, you also dread the side-effects of the drug-based anti-histamine and decongestant just as much as you dread the allergy symptoms themselves.

As I dig through the research to gain a greater understanding of the mechanisms underlying allergies, allergic rhinitus, uticaria (hives), and other respiratory conditions, a theme keeps popping up that I need to comment on. Panic-driven headlines are everywhere:  “Health officials predict this to be the worst flu season in 30 years!” “The worst cold season in 5 years.” “Experts say this is going to be the worst allergy season ever!” Really? Who are the experts? Who are the health officials? Sounds like another marketing ploy by the news media to stir up fear and get people to react, to buy whatever is the current solution to the new or health-threatening epidemic. Fear motivates…doesn’t it? 

An allergy is an immune reaction to a substance or antigen in the environment. The antigen could be a certain protein in a food source, e.g., peanuts, or an antigen found in the air, like pollen. For many, these antigens can cause anything from a mild immune reaction to the debilitating and miserable symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. The reason for your suffering is an imbalance in certain white blood cells in the body which are programmed to search and destroy the presenting antigen. Once the white blood cell comes in contact with the antigen, the white blood cell signals other cells to release histamine and prostaglandins, chemicals that make you sneeze, itch and feel miserable.

Proven Relief
Many over-the-counter drugs aim to block these inflammatory chemicals, but chemical interventions always have list of side-effects. A common antihistamine called Zyrtec has a long list of potential side effects, which include:  fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeat, weakness, tremors (uncontrolled shaking), or sleep problems (insomnia), severe restless feeling, hyperactivity, confusion, problems with vision, urinating less than usual or not at all, dizziness, drowsiness, tired feeling, dry mouth, sore throat, cough, nausea, constipation and, last, headaches. Um, sounds like relief to me. My sneezing stopped, but now I’m constipated and can’t pee. My mouth is dry, and I have a sore throat. I have a splitting headache, and I can’t sleep…great!

OPCFor this reason, I recommend OPC-3, a natural supplement containing two very powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and anti-histamines:  grape-seed extract and pycnogenol. Pycnogenol is a natural plant compound found in the French maritime pine. Proven through research, Pycnogenol eliminates free-radicals to prevent oxidative damage to cells, improves immune function, strengthens blood vessels, and is an incredible antihistamine. According to Phytotherapy Research, Pycnogenol dramatically reduced allergy symptoms in test subjects, when taking it prior to full-blown allergy season. 

Grape-seed extract is derived from grape seeds which contain polyphenols and OPC’s (oligomeric proanthocyanidins). These plant-based compounds are also a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which helps with the allergic response. 

Before you run to your favorite drug store, consider nutraMetrix OPC. Dosing and amounts vary depending on your individual needs. Please call for more information.  

Last, Dr. Oz recommends Pycnogenol for wrinkles. 

References: 

Dale Wilson, Malkanthi Evans, Najla Guthrie, Prachi Sharma, Joshua Baisley, Frank Schonlau, and Carolina Burki. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Exploratory Study to evaluate the potential of Pycnogenol® for Improving Allergic Rhinitis Symptoms, Phytotherapy Research, 2010 

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