Many allergy sufferers know all too well the symptoms of hay fever, caused by pollen released from budding trees and plants. The airborne pollen is easily inhaled through the nose and mouth and, for sensitive people, it can cause a series of miserable symptoms, such as itchy watery eyes, sneezing and a scratchy throat.
Hay fever results when the immune system identifies pollen as a foreign invader. Our body will produce antibodies in response and these antibodies will bind with certain cells and release inflammatory chemicals such as histamine. Most antihistamines work to suppress histamine reactions and lessen your symptoms. However, there are natural ways to build up the body’s defences to allergens instead of medicating with over the counter drugs.
Diet has also a role and it can help with allergies. Certain unique herbs and botanicals, for example, can work together to balance inflammation, regulate healthy immune responses and provide antioxidant support. Tannins, flavonoids and polyphenols are considered “cooling” components that provide wide-spectrum immune support and help bring overall balance to the body’s systems.
You can help reduce histamine levels by eating plenty of magnesium and methionine rich foods. Good sources are sunflower seeds, nuts, oats and leafy greens.
On the other hand, there are foods that seem to aggravate the symptoms of hayfever and should be avoided especially during pollen season:
- Dairy products, as dairy increases mucus production.
- Wheat and wheat products such as pasta, bread and noodles.
- Caffeine and alcohol: a congested liver can increase hay fever symptoms.
- Tomatoes, oranges, cheese, red wine, chocolate as they all contain histamine.
Instead it is better to opt for anti-inflammatory foods, high in omega 3 fatty acids, like wild salmon, fresh anchovies, or supplement with a good quality cod liver oil. Most vegetables and fruits are also a good choice. Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds. Raw honey, if tolerated, or maple syrup as sweeteners (and in small amounts), are a better choice than white sugar. Finally, beans, lentils, herbal teas and always include plenty of water a day.
Integrate with supplements (when necessary)
Vitamin C is also useful as it works as a natural anti-histamine, as well as quercetin, which studies show it reduces the release of histamine from cells and can help to stabilise cell membranes so they are less reactive to allergens such as pollen.
Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, which boosts the integrity of the mucous membrane. All fruit and vegetables, in general, are good sources of anti oxidants.
Essential fatty acids, as mentioned above, have strong anti-inflammatory effects and can help reduce the symptoms of hayfever. Good choices are nuts, seeds and wild salmon.
Ginger is a great all round anti inflammatory food/supplement. There is also evidence that it slows histamine production.
The amino acid methionine, sometimes in combination with calcium, can also act as an effective anti-histamine. Every individual, however, needs a specific and unique approach.
Along with a healthy and appropriate diet, desensitisation can have profound healing effect on our body. It takes work and commitment from the patient, who might not necessarily benefit from the results in a short time.
And because hay fever sufferers, just like my daughter and my husband, often have food allergies which they might not be aware of, or that are difficult to avoid, a test for this would be highly helpful, as the two conditions can exacerbate each other.
Hay fever self help suggestions:
- Avoid outdoor activities, especially those with a direct contact with pollen.
- The use of a good air purifier with HEPA filters would be beneficial.
- Air the house, bedroom and bed linen early in the morning when the pollen count is still relatively low.
- Early evening and mid morning bring the highest concentration of pollen in the air, so it best to avoid going out.
- Vitamin C is a natural anti-histamine, we take at least 2 grams daily.
- Sunglasses can help protect the eyes when outdoors.
- There are lotions available to be applies just in the inside of the nostrils as an extra barrier to trap pollen grains.