Are Your Allergy Meds Causing Weight Gain? Try These Natural Remedies Instead

Allergy season is in full swing, leaving millions of us sneezing and sniffling. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: New York City allergist Jennifer Collins, M.D., estimates more than 1 in 4 women with allergies don’t know they have them, as symptoms often don’t appear until later in life. “Allergies are becoming increasingly common for reasons we don’t fully understand. In fact, many of my female patients think their allergy symptoms, like fatigue and fog, are just part of daily stress.” When allergies are diagnosed, many women reach for antihistamines. But the medications may also cause weight gain. A Texas A&M study found that children taking allergy meds had a higher body mass index, and Yale researchers found that people who used prescription antihistamines to relieve allergy symptoms were more likely than non-users to carry excess pounds. The good news: Natural strategies can also help in place of medications! Here are three to try.

Best foods: These colorful choices

Quercetin, a powerful antioxidant found in plants, may reduce allergy symptoms. “It works by calming the mast cells that trigger allergic reactions,” says David C. Leopold, M.D., network medical director of Integrative Health and Medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health. Good sources of quercetin include apples, onions, broccoli, blueberries, and green tea. “As an allergy sufferer, I like managing as many symptoms as possible through diet, and we typically can get up to 40 mg. of quercetin daily from fruits and vegetables,” he says. To reap the most benefits, he recommends also supplementing with 300 mg. twice daily. One option: Allergy Research Group Quercetin 300.

Best supplement: Butterbur

The herbal remedy butterbur may quell allergy symptoms as effectively as the popular over-the-counter medication Zyrtec — without potential side effects such as weight gain, according to a study published in The British Medical Journal. “Butterbur contains anti-inflammatory compounds called petasins that alleviate allergies,” explains integrative health specialist David Kiefer, M.D., assistant clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin. He adds a note of caution: “In its raw state, butterbur contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which are toxic to the liver , so it has to be specially processed to get rid of them.” Dr. Kiefer’s advice: “Look for ‘PA-free’ on the bottle, which means the toxins are removed.” He recommends taking 50 mg. three times a day. One to try: Solaray Butterbur Root Extract 50 mg.

Best nasal spray: ‘Ancient’ salt

“Washing your nasal passages with a saline solution mobilizes mucus, clearing out pollen,” says Dr. Collins. Proof it works: In a study at UC San Diego, patients who used saline nasal rinses significantly eased allergy symptoms. To boost the benefits, opt for a rinse infused with Dead Sea salt. Research in the journal Operative Techniques in Otolaryngology found that the salt improves symptoms, thanks in part to its rich stores of magnesium, which has been shown to decrease symptom-causing inflammation. One to try: Nasova Saline Spray with Natural Dead Sea Salt.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.