by Dr. Kristen Bovee, Peninsula Naturopathic Clinic and Hydrate IV Wellness Centre –
Itchy eyes? Runny nose? Yes, it’s hay fever time! For most of us this marks a joyous return to spending time outdoors; for others it’s the start of congestion, discomfort and daily annoyance. Most people who have allergies are aware of what they are allergic to, but other than taking antihistamines and keeping away from the offending elements, there is little more people know how to do to manage their condition. In my practice, quercetin is often the first line of defense to assist in alleviating the symptoms of hay fever.
Quercetin is a plant nutrient called a “flavonoid” in the polyphenol group (like that in red wine) that gives plants their vibrant colours of reds, purples, orange and yellows. Foods such as apples, grapes, capers, red onions and kale contain significant amounts of quercetin. Being a flavonoid, it exhibits similar protective antioxidant effects on the body as vitamin C and resveratrol. It also has supportive benefits to the immune system and helps to stabilize the release of histamine by our mast cells, making it an excellent alternative to pharmaceutical antihistamines. Below are three main areas in which quercetin has been used therapeutically; it’s an exciting nutrient we should be getting enough of in our diet.
Environmental allergies. Mast cells are the immune cells responsible for allergic responses from the foods we eat or elements in our environment. When triggered, the cells produce a molecule called histamine that is responsible for the swelling, itching, mucous and tears we experience with allergies. In a peer-reviewed study, quercetin was shown to be more effective than the pharmaceutical cromolyn sodium for mast cell stabilization. This makes quercetin an effective natural alternative for IgE-mediated immune responses such as hay fever and other allergic conditions like contact dermatitis.
Gastrointestinal health. Most of our gut issues stem from inflammatory reactions to foods or toxins acquired from our environment. Our GI tract can also be victim to allergic responses that cause histamine to be released and cause our gut to become “leaky.” Because these cells are overturned at a higher rate than other cells in our body, it’s important to protect our gastrointestinal cells to keep them functioning optimally. Most flavonoids, including quercetin, exhibit protective antioxidant and antihistamine effects preventing damage to our tissue including our gastrointestinal wall. Quercetin specifically has also been shown to protect liver cells from damage due to ethanol (alcohol) consumption.
Cancer treatment. Quercetin could potentially rise to the forefront for cancer prevention and treatment. There have been clinical trials performed using it at different doses intravenously with very encouraging results. It has been shown to inhibit cancer progression by blocking growth signals and triggering tumour cell death. It also has been shown to act by MCT1 inhibition associated with mechanisms of some anticancer drugs used today. Currently in my practice, I have begun to utilize intravenous quercetin as an adjunctive anticancer therapy.
With limited options to aid and assist our body from allergic reactions, quercetin is a nutrient that should not be overlooked. Because it can have more difficulty absorbing gastrointestinally, therapeutic doses are usually high. Consider using 500mg two to three times daily a few weeks prior to the start of allergy season for the best responses and to enjoy spring to its fullest.