What is Hay fever?
A seasonal hay fever sufferer’s life can become unbearable in Spring when their immune system reacts to more airborne allergens the air.
Hay fever, also known as Allergic Rhinitis, is an allergic inflammation of the nasal passages. Symptoms can occur when the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, sinuses and throat become inflamed from exposure to substances such as pollen. Allergan’s are inhaled by an individual with a sensitised immune system which can then trigger an antibody production. The antibody, called immunoglobulin E, or IgE, is stored on special cells called mast cells, which contain histamine. When the mast cells are stimulated by these allergens, histamine and other chemicals mediators are released. Your immune system produces histamine to protect cells from infection, but in the case of an allergic reaction, it can mistake something harmless as a threat. Histamine is a natural chemical produced by the immune system, which increases blood flow to the affected area. Liquid leaks out of the blood vessels, making the mucous membranes lining the nose and throat to swell, and stimulating nearby glands to produce mucus causing symptoms such as itching, swelling, reddening, headaches, sneezing, running nose, itchy or watery eyes and breathing difficulties.
What are some natural ways to reduce your allergies and get some relief?
1. Minimise exposure
One way to help avoid allergies is to identify and then steer clear of whatever it is that’s getting up your nose. If it’s definitely pollen that’s bothering you, try and identify which plants effect you the most and avoid them as much as possible. For example, don’t mow the lawn if you know that it inflames or aggravates your hay fever. If you have to work in the garden, wear a filtered mask and protective glasses and wash your hands, face, hair, clothes and other exposed areas thoroughly when you come indoors.
2. What supplements will help?
• Quercetin – Is a bioflavonoid vitamin that is used for acute or chronic allergies such as hayfever, hives, and asthma. It is a natural anti-histamine and a great antioxidant. Quercetin is by far the most effective nutrient as it works on both settling the immune systems over-activity while mediating the causing factors.
• Zinc – Plays a very important role in regulating the immune system and is a common deficiency. Optimal zinc levels are crucial in any allergy treatment.
• Vitamin C – Boosts the immune system, improves lung function and decreases allergy symptoms. Studies also suggest that vitamin C supplementation has an antihistamine effect.
• Vitamin D - is one of our main immune mediators that help to settle the bodies hypersensitivity to its environment.
3. What herbs will help?
• Echinacea is an immune mediator and immune enhancing. It is also anti-bacterial and anti-viral.
• Elderflower - is a strong prophylactic (preventer) great for hay fever, cold + flu's and asthma . It is also an astringent which can help dry a runny nose.
• Baical Skullcap acts as a natural anti-histamine.
• Albizzia has anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties and is a great herb for both sinus and hay fever.
• Horseradish is a natural decongestant and drains excess mucous from the nasal passage.
• Fenugreek helps prevent irritation and congestion of the nasal passages and sinuses.
• Garlic acts like a natural antibiotic and can have a 'drying out' effect on mucous.
• Chamomile - can calm nervous anxiety which is commonly associated. The tea bags are also great (cooled) to place on itchy and watering eyes.
• Lemon balm is a natural anti-histamine action and is calming and soothing.
• Ginger is a natural anti-histamine and breaks down congestion.
3. What about food?
In naturopathy, we see a link between this type of immune reaction and food intolerances, such as dairy and wheat. Dairy intolerance can be common and add to further inflammation and mucous.
It is worth noting that people with hay fever who are allergic to grass pollens can often have a cross sensitivity to wheat in their diet. A poor diet may lower the immune system and intensify symptoms.
Pro-inflammatory items such as sugar and refined carbohydrates should be removed and anti-inflammatory foods need to be increased, which means mainly vegetables that are rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, including quercetin and Vitamin C. Several studies suggest the bioflavonoid quercetin (found in citrus fruits, onion, berries and pineapple) has anti-inflammatory properties. These are also high in vitamin C - nature's antihistamine. A diet high in coloured veg and fruit can ease symptoms, as can the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, chia, avocado and olive oil.
• Mucous production
Mucous is produced in order to protect the mucous membranes. The problem occurs when there is excess mucus production, which can be stimulated by irritants like dust, smoke, other pollution, chemicals, bacteria and viruses, food additives, and food allergens. Excess mucus is produced to capture these particles and shuttle them out of the body – meaning more coughing, stuffy noses and a harder time breathing.
While the studies are still quite conflicting Dairy is believed to be a mucous-producing food and overexposure can interfere with the body's natural mucous production. Try avoiding all mucous-producing foods to see if symptoms improve.
Mucous Producing foods
• Dairy (with intolerance)
• Gluten (with intolerance)
• Red meat and processed meats
• Alcohol – (aggravate sinus problems)
• Soft drink as it contains sugar and caffeineWhite potato's
• Peanut butter
Mucous Clearing Foods
• Onion (high source of Quercetin)
• Green leafy vegetables
• Ginger (natural anti-histamine and breaks down congestion)
4. The Liver
Specifically, in Chinese Medicine, it is believed in relation to hay fever, conditions of excess histamine might be due to poor methylation of the liver due to lack of nutrients in the diet. High levels of histamine as seen in Hay fever suffers indicate undermethylation. Supplements that increase methylation to lower histamine are indicated. These supplements include taurine, GABA, folic acid, B12, B6, and NAC.
5. The Gut
A healthy gut is essential for a normal immune response.
The bowel microflora –also known as the microbiome – is by far the most important part of our immune system. A good diet feeds and promotes the species that help dampen allergic responses. Sometimes supplementation with probiotics may help hay fever. Probiotics – There are many different strains of probiotics; the most useful for allergies is Lactobacillus rhamnosusGG (LGG®). This strain has been found to be effective in reducing allergies including eczema. Lactobacillus paracasei (LP-33™) has also been clinically trialled in allergic rhinitis to reduce the frequency and severity of hayfever symptoms.
6. Essential oils
Essential oils – Antimicrobial essential oils such as eucalyptus, peppermint, lavender and thyme used in a sinus spray can provide relief from nasal and sinus congestion that occurs with hayfever and upper respiratory tract infections. Vaporisers can be great for hay fever, sinus and asthma suffers.