Hay fever is common in the UK as it affects around 1 in 5 people at some stage in their lives. The latest survey from Allergy UK shows that allergies including hay fever are currently on the rise with up to 30 -35 % of people being affected at some stage in their lives.
Hay fever symptoms or seasonal allergies usually occur from late March to October depending on the particular allergen we suffer from. Tree pollen is released during spring; grass pollen is released towards the end of spring and the beginning of summer while weed pollen is released in late autumn. Many can suffer from more than one type of pollen allergen, and may therefore suffer from hay fever for the whole season. During those particular months, the weather is warm, humid and windy and this is when pollen count is at its highest.
Symptoms occur due to a release of a chemical mediator known as ‘Histamine’ by the immune system in response to the substance or stimuli the body is allergic to. They may range from being a nuisance, to a real disruption during an otherwise normal day. Symptoms include but are not limited to:
• Runny/Blocked nose
• Red/Watery /Itchy eyes
• Puffy eyes associated with a swelling of the nasal membrane (the membranes around the nose)
• Loss of Smell
• Pain around the Forehead
• Post Nasal Drip (caused by an excessive amount of mucus accumulated in the throat or back of the nose)
Supporting your body’s natural defences is important not simply during hay fever season but all year round. A healthy body is dependent on a strong immune system which is very much affected by a healthy gut and general lifestyle factors. It is also well researched that those who experience seasonal allergies are classified under the broad medical category of being ‘atopic’. In other words, they have a predisposition towards developing certain allergic hypersensitivity reactions.
The simple dietary and lifestyle measures listed below can support our sensitivity to allergens and similarly support our defences against flare ups from conditions like asthma or eczema
5 Natural Ways to combat Hay Fever
1. Fix your diet with Antioxidants
Fruits, herbs and vegetables are naturally high in antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Specific plant antioxidants like carotenoids, polyphenols and bioflavonoids are known to support the immune system. Latest research has also been focussing on the immune supporting benefits from another group of plant compounds referred to as ‘anthocyanins’. They provide a punchy red-purple colour to fruit and vegetables like elderberry, purple corn, purple cabbage, beetroot, pomegranate, purple potato or goji berries. They can be purchased whole and added to your dishes or some bought in concentrated powders that can be added to smoothies or your breakfast bowl. Spread your servings throughout the day with the aim of reaching a total of 10 servings.
2. Modify the Histamine production
Removing refined sugars from the diet may help, as research finds that refined sugars found in table sugar, cakes, candy and so on cause a blood sugar spike and can activate the release of histamine in the blood stream. Cut down on coffee, as caffeine also contributes to a release in histamine which can make your symptoms worst and cause skin irritations. Sugar is classified as an ‘immuno-suppressant’ so give time for your immune system to work properly by cutting those down. Watch out for fruits and dried fruits naturally high in sugar as well such as figs or prunes. Alcohol will also contribute to a blood sugar spike so keep that in mind.
3. Support your Digestive Health
Top up on those foods that support bacterial growth or contribute to it in a positive way. Fibre in the forms of wholegrains, legumes, oats, fruits and leafy greens. In addition to fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombu, wakame or nori. Avoid processed foods which knock our essential nutrients from our gut. Try out chicory which is naturally high in ‘inulin’, a prebiotic that is great for a healthy gut. A healthy gut will support a healthy immune system
4. Eliminate Stress
Stress zaps out our vitamin C levels whilst also impacting on our immune system and we all know that when we are then under attack from allergens, we will be too weak to fight back. Symptoms of hay fever or other allergies may then be worst or take forever to disappear. So make sure you sleep about 8 hours a day, choose stress reducing activities such as walking, pilates, or simply reading a book and find time to take care of yourself and be with your loved ones. When under less stress, the body can naturally better manage inflammatory reactions. Work out your balance between work and life and adjust where needed by being more efficient with your day.
If you still struggle, supplement with a good B vitamin. B6 in particular helps to control the histamine production. Nettle herbal extract on a daily basis can also help to support our reaction to allergens. Zinc found in meat, seafood, nuts and seeds are found to help stop the production of histamine from specific cells in the body. Supplement if you still struggle with 10 to 15mg of zinc citrate daily. Chamomile is useful in reduced sore and itchy eyes, by soaking two pads of cotton wool in a chamomile infusion and place on the eyelids for about 10 minutes. Bromelain is a natural digestive enzyme found in pineapple and also found as supplements. It has shown to reduce breathing difficulties experienced and the inflammation in the airways by 85 % in clinical studies. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help to reduce the inflammation in the nasal passages and ease the symptoms. Last but not least, Vitamin C is also a potent immune-stimulant and anti-inflammatory supplement