Best Supplements for Seasonal Allergies

Kate Rhéaume, ND (Inactive)
Young woman sneezing from allergies

Allergic rhinitis – from the Greek rhino for nose and -itis for inflammation – can be miserable. Up to 30% of people endure this annual torment, a number that has grown in recent decades. [1]

Seasonal allergies cause many symptoms that can disrupt your life. These include:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye redness
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Itchy throat or ear canals
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Mood problems
  • Asthma
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sinus irritation 

Is it Allergies or a Cold?

Many of the symptoms of seasonal allergies overlap with those of the common cold or other infections. Symptoms that suggest something other than allergies include fever, swollen lymph nodes, extreme fatigue, body aches, and a significant cough. A mild sore throat or slight cough might occur with seasonal allergies due to post-nasal drip. But if those symptoms are pronounced, they point to other causes.

When is Allergy Season? 

Cottonwood trees and black poplar seeds floating in the air

The timing of allergy season for you depends on what triggers your symptoms. For many people, it’s spring, fall, or both. Spring pollen from trees (not flowers) can trigger an immune overreaction that leads to the telltale allergy symptoms. Although fall allergies are often called hay fever, it’s ragweed pollen, not hay, that’s the most common culprit in autumn. Many people with allergies also react to grass pollen or mowed grass particles in the air, meaning the seasonal sniffles can last all summer long. Sadly for some, allergy season is year-round. Indoor allergens such as dust mites and pet dander can extend the need for allergy relief throughout the winter months. 

Top Three Supplements to Fight Allergy Symptoms

There are natural ways to combat seasonal allergy symptoms. Specific nutrients can influence the way your body reacts to airborne allergens. By getting more of these, you can minimize an over-the-top immune response.

1. Quercetin  

This bioflavonoid vitamin-like molecule is best known as an antioxidant and blood vessel protectant. Many people also swear by quercetin to quell their seasonal allergy symptoms. There is science to justify the loyal following: quercetin has been shown to stabilize mast cells. [2] Mast cells are the immune cells that release misery-inducing histamines. Making mast cells less likely to spill their contents means less histamine ruining your spring day.

Top up on quercetin before the pollens fly to avoid the histamine blues. Ideally, start taking quercetin a few weeks prior to the time your allergy symptoms normally start. A hot tip for supplement shoppers is that the bioavailability of standard quercetin is just so-so. Look for an advanced absorption form to get the most bang for your buck. That may also help quell symptoms already in full swing.

2. Omega-3s

Helping heart health, brain health, cognitive function, and mood? Sometimes it seems like there’s nothing omega-3 essential fatty acids can’t do. Studies show they also play a role in achieving a more balanced response to potential allergy triggers. Allergens are less likely to set off an inappropriate immune reaction in human mast cells with higher levels of omega-3. [3] The same research showed that higher dietary intake of omega-3s is linked to decreased allergic sensitization (how easily allergies are triggered). Interestingly, the effect was most pronounced in people under 40. 

Omega-3s are most readily available from deep, cold-water fish such as salmon and sardines. Eating fish daily is problematic due to unavoidable environmental contaminants. Top-quality fish oil supplements deliver a daily dose of pure omega-3, as environmental toxins have been removed from purified fish oil. People who follow plant-based diets or are allergic to fish can get omega-3 supplements from microalgae.  

3. Probiotics  

What happens in the gut profoundly affects our entire immune system. The intestinal microbiome is home to trillions of microorganisms – some helpful, some potentially harmful. A balanced microbiome plays a critical role in helping us walk the delicate line between essential protection against invading pathogens and tolerance of harmless but still immune-triggering substances in our environment. If the harmony between good and bad bacteria is off, it can throw our immune response out of whack. [4]

Woman coughing and sneezing

Researchers have looked at supplemental beneficial bacteria in managing allergies triggered by grass pollen, tree pollen, dust mites, and more. [5] Probiotic supplements may tip the balance in favour of immune tolerance. Consider taking probiotics daily before and during the peak of your allergy season. 

Kate Rhéaume, ND (Inactive)
Dr. Rhéaume is a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

1. Asher MI, Montefort S, Björkstén B, et al., & ISAAC Phase Three Study Group. Worldwide time trends in the prevalence of symptoms of asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in childhood: ISAAC Phases One and Three repeat multicountry cross-sectional surveys. Lancet (London, England). 2006; 368(9537):733-43.

2. Weng Z, Zhang B, Asadi S, et al. Quercetin is more effective than cromolyn in blocking human mast cell cytokine release and inhibits contact dermatitis and photosensitivity in humans. PloS One. 2012; 7(3):e33805.

3. Hoff S, Seiler H, Heinrich J, et al. Allergic sensitisation and allergic rhinitis are associated with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet and in red blood cell membranes. Euro J Clin Nutr. 2005; 59(9):1071-80.

4. Jiao Y, Wu L, Huntington ND, et al. Crosstalk between gut microbiota and innate immunity and its implication in autoimmune diseases. Front Immunol. 2020; 11:282. 

5. Yang G, Liu ZQ, & Yang PC. Treatment of allergic rhinitis with probiotics: An alternative approach. N Am J Med Sci. 2013; 5(8):465-8.