Allergies are the worst. We spoke with Dr. Payel Gupta, Certified Allergist and Immunologist and Chief Medical Officer at the newly launched, Cleared to talk about solutions, which medications are safe, and which are potentially dangerous. Cleared makes a potent drinkable shot with reishi, pine bark, curcumin and other immune-boosting superfoods and herbs designed to support the bodies immunity against allergic attacks, we’re also listing a few of our favorite supports to help you fight seasonal allergies at the bottom of our interview.
The Chalkboard: Dr. Gupta, a few common OTC allergy drugs have recently been found to potentially increase the risk for Parkinson’s Disease. This news has surprised and alarmed many who rely on daily allergy medicines to function without a severely cloudy head or other debilitating nose and throat symptoms. What’s your perspective on this?
Dr. Payel Gupta: The OTC allergy medications that are linked to this side effect have what we call anticholinergic properties. Cholinergic receptors in the body mediate many different functions in the body, by blocking those receptors we can get a lot of ill impacts on the body, potentially like dementia, as mentioned. Many older allergy medications have these anticholinergic effects as well as the antihistamine effects. These negative effects generally tend to impact older people more than younger people. Older antihistamines like diphenhydramine or Benadryl (diphenhydramine) can be found in a lot of medications that are over the counter like Tylenol PM.
TCM: What keywords should allergy drug users look to avoid on drug labels with those concerns in mind?
Dr. Gupta: Look for these ingredients with anticholinergic properties in your over the counter medications:
Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton, Wal-Finate, Aller-Chlor, ED Chlorped Jr, ChlorHist, Pharbechlor, Chlorphen SR, Ed-ChlorPed, Chlor-Tabs, Allergy-Time)
Doxylamine (Aldex AN®, Nighttime Sleep Aid, Unisom® SleepTabs)
In addition, decongestant medications are also medications that I want people to use sparingly. For people with high blood pressure these are definitely dangerous, and for everyone else, decongestants should also generally only be used for 2-3 days at a time and not daily as they increase the heart rate and are not healthy to be used daily.
TCM: For some, despite the risk, daily medication is a non-negotiable. For these at-risk patients, what do you recommend?
Dr. Gupta: I would recommend the use of what we call second generation antihistamines – these antihistamines do not have the anticholinergic effects that might be related to the risk of Parkinson’s. These include Fexofenadine or Allegra, Cetirizine or Zyrtec, Loratidine or Claritin to name a few.
Nasal sprays are also a great option with limited side effects depending on what your symptoms are.
In addition, I would also recommend talking to an allergy specialist to see what your options are for treatment, which you can do virtually on our platform, Cleared.
Figuring out what you are allergic to and the different treatment options that are available to you based on what you are allergic to will help in picking a regimen that has the least side effects.
TCM: While herbal remedies like butterbur and specific honeys, plus tools like neti pots and humidifiers exist to support those with seasonal allergies, most of them don’t hold a candle to the symptom reduction provided by the OTC drugs many are accustomed to. I’m all-in on holistic and natural remedies, but even I am stumped on this one. What’s the solution? What are your insights?
Dr. Gupta: Natural remedies like the neti pot can be very helpful. Integrative medicine relies on using evidence-based natural therapies. At Cleared, we have used research to create supplements for daily sinus and immune support from common irritants like pollen, dust, ragweed, and pet dander. Using integrative approaches, allowing for safe OTC meds and supplements, is a great way to combine natural and eastern medical principles. I always like relying on both.
TCM: Overall immunity is strongly connected to allergy issues. Can you explain how important it is for those who have severe allergies to understand this?
Dr. Gupta: Allergic reactions are caused by an abnormal reaction in which your immune system thinks that harmless substances like dust, mold, or pollen need to be attacked.
The body produces antibodies that cause the release of chemicals that in turn cause inflammation in the body and can lead to congestion of the nose, itchy watery nose and eyes, and sometimes wheezing in those with allergic asthma.
If you have uncontrolled allergies, that inflammation can make it harder for the body to fight infection. In contrast, if you have an immune system that is not working well and have infections that are not controlled, then you will also have more issues with your allergies because of the inflammation caused by the infections.
TCM: Allergies are so disruptive to daily life. Many who suffer from them are looking for a one hit wonder pill, while the true solution exists in a concert of protocols. If so, can you explain?
Dr. Gupta: Depending on your symptoms and the severity of your symptoms, you may need multiple medications.
For some mild allergy sufferers, a second generation antihistamine may work well and feel like that “one hit wonder” pill. For others with more moderate to severe allergies, they will need a combination of meds. Nasal sprays are a great treatment option and can make a big difference with minimal side effects if used correctly. In addition, for those with symptoms of itchy watery eyes, they may also need an eye drop to control their symptoms.
TCM: Where should those who suffer from severe seasonal allergies, but who would like to veer away from any meds with potentially dangerous side effects start?
Dr. Gupta: If you have never seen an allergy specialist, I would highly recommend it. By talking to an allergy specialist, you can find out what your options are for treatment. They will start by figuring out what you are allergic to and the different treatment options that are available to you based on what you are allergic to – this will help in picking a regimen that has the least amount of side effects.
There are options like immunotherapy which can help you get rid of your allergies and should definitely be considered in someone with severe allergies, but even in those with moderate to mild allergies.
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As Dr. Gupta states above, seeing a integrative allergy specialist who can recommend specific treatments to meet your needs is the best place to start. Here are a few other lifestyle supports that may help you to fight seasonal allergies depending on what you’re dealing with…
+ Use a Humidifier At Night: Many allergy sufferers sleep better with the use of a gentle humidifier while sleeping. Humid air can soothe the airways reducing irritation caused by allergens. Try an ultrasonic mist version like this model from LEVOIT
+ Try a Neti Pot: Annoyingly low-tech, nonetheless, many find that consistent use of an Ayurvedic neti pot can severely reduce allergen exposure when used correctly. Nasopure makes one that uses potent salts to clear the airways and, although we’ve not personally tried this one, the science and ratings behind the product are significant.
+ Use An Air Filter At Home: Indoor air pollution is a real thing. Try an air filter like LEVOIT’s True HEPA filter which comes in a variety of sizes and price points depending on the size of your home.
+ Try a Xylitol Nasal Spray: Xylitol is a sugar alternative with safe sinus-clearing benefits. Some find xylitol a natural alternative to OTC nasal rinses that works well for them. We like Xlear Brand to support nasal decongestion.
+ Try Immune Modulators like Reishi and Moringa: Boost your overall immunity to resist the overwhelm of seasonal allergies. Immunity is usually built over time. Supporting your overall immunity day to day can potentially have an effect on the way your body responds to allergens. We like powerhouse herbs like moringa and reishi for long-term immune support.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.