Bad Allergy Season—What Should We Do Now?

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When the wind blows the clouds away, it sure is beautiful in the Bay Area. But allergy sufferers might be less than ecstatic to hear about the high pollen counts on the news and warnings to stay indoors if you have allergies.

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 30 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 and neck pain from sneezing, recurrent or chronic sinus infections, facial headaches, a feeling of a lump in the throat, and even asthma symptoms.

Power up with protein. Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle. Choose lean or low-fat cuts of beef or pork, and skinless chicken or turkey. Get your protein from seafood twice a week. Quality protein sources come from plant based foods, too.

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 medications. These natural therapies bring relief to many people. Acupuncture can be an especially helpful therapy in allergy management.

Managing symptoms more effectively not only helps you 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 don’t know what they’re allergic to; 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 almost impossible to eliminate some allergens like wind-borne pollen. Others may be easier to avoid or limit exposure to, like some foods or pet dander.

Drink half your body weight in ounces of water everyday. Drink between meals, and finish your fluids 2 hours before bed. Use a reverse-osmosis water filter, a Big Berkey water filter, or buy Spring water.


Differentiating and managing indoor vs. outdoor allergens can be helpful in deciding if a good-quality indoor HEPA filter would be a good investment. We recommend and sell the Austin Air Filters; contact Michele for information and prices.

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.

We think ahead

While symptom management is a great place to start, we want you feel better in the long term. 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.

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 histamine release can lead to therapies that get to causes of allergic reactivity.

Mindful living. You've probably heard the old adage that life's too short to stuff a mushroom. But perhaps you should consider the opposite: that life's simply too short NOT to focus on the simple tasks. By slowing down and concentrating on basic things, you'll clear your mind of everything that worries you. Really concentrate on sensations and experiences again: observe the rough texture of a strawberry's skin as you touch it, and taste the sweet-sour juice as you bite into the fruit; when your partner strokes your hand, pay careful attention to the sensation on your skin; and learn to really focus on simple tasks while doing them, whether it's flowering plants or ironing your clothes.

Another example is the use of oral antigens, substances in tiny amounts that could provoke allergic responses at higher amounts, which can reduce allergic reactivity over time. One example of this is the use of local honey or bee pollen to be exposed to small amounts of local pollen.

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-Baueris 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.