If the advent of spring means the start of your hay fever, here’s some all-natural ways to soothe your symptoms…
Most of us can’t wait for the first signs of spring - the advent of warmer temperatures, brighter days and new growth. However, for around 13 million adults in the UK, this new season spells one thing - the start of hay fever and months of misery. “Your immune system, confused as to how dangerous something like pollen is, launches an onslaught against it,” says Alison Cullen, Nutritional Practitioner for A.Vogel. “Swelling, heat, itching, mucus – these are all the immune system’s tactics for getting rid of an enemy. In the case of pollen, this response is not needed, and we don’t enjoy the results.”
The good news is there’s plenty you can do to lessen your allergy load this spring and summer. And the sooner you get started the better. Read on to discover what foods you should be including and what you should be avoiding to help manage your hay fever symptoms this season.
What you eat can have a big impact on the severity of your hay fever. Including foods that are rich in flavonoids – powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits – can help by blocking the production of histamine, responsible for so many of the debilitating symptoms.
Berries and cherries: Both rich sources of vitamin C. “This vitamin can be really beneficial due to its effect on histamine,” says Alison, “Vitamin C reduces the levels of histamine in the bloodstream, preventing the secretion of histamine by white blood cells and increasing the detoxification of histamine.2”
Carrots: High in beta carotene which the body converts into Vitamin A. This important nutrient helps keep the respiratory tract mucous membranes healthy and therefore less sensitive to airborne allergens such as pollen.
Garlic: A good source of quercitin, a flavonoid and potent antioxidant that regulates the mast cells’ production of histamine.
Ginger: This warming spice is a great natural decongestant. Either add it, freshly grated, to your meals, or drink as an infusion.
Oily fish: “Oily fish, like sardines, salmon and mackerel, are rich in the anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils which can help reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals,” says nutritional health expert, Marilyn Glenville. Aim to eat a couple of portions a week to help ease hay fever symptoms.
Turmeric: This super-antioxidant spice contains anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory and natural decongestant properties. It helps prevent the release of histamine. Use it in your cooking or make it into a tea.
As histamine is the major culprit when it comes to producing many of the symptoms of hay fever misery, it makes sense to cut down or cut out foods that contain it to avoid intensifying your symptoms. These include:
Fermented foods: According to Alison, “Research has shown that bacterial products caused by food fermentation can potentiate histamine release1 .” This, added to the fact that fermented/preserved food may contain higher levels of histamine than fresh foods, means it’s best to go easy on products such as vinegar, sauerkraut, yoghurt and canned fish.”
Caffeinated drinks: Tea, coffee, colas and energy drinks contain enough histamine to cause problems and aggravate your symptoms.
Chocolate: Unfortunately, chocolate contains high levels of histamine so is bad news if you suffer from hay fever. Best to avoid until your symptoms subside.
Alcohol: Beer, wine and spirits all contain histamine. As well as exacerbating your symptoms, alcohol is also very dehydrating which will only make you feel worse.
“Certain herbs have a natural antihistamine effect,” says Dr Chris Etheridge, a medical herbalist practitioner. “Opt for green tea, chamomile, elderflower, ginger, peppermint, nettle and aniseed to help limit the effects of hay fever, and sip these throughout the day. They will also help keep you hydrated, so it’s a win-win.”
Dairy products can stimulate the production of mucous, making symptoms such as a blocked nose or blocked ears much worse. Milk protein, or casein, increases mucus production in most people and acts as an immune system irritant when allergies are present. When looking for dairy alternatives, read product labels carefully to make sure they don’t contain casein.
“It’s a good idea to avoid refined sugars until your symptoms have gone,” says Dr Chris Etheridge. ‘’When histamine is released, adrenaline is pumped up in order to reduce the inflammatory effects of histamine. However, if you consume large amounts of refined sugars, these work against the body’s natural adrenaline, making its attempt to settle histamine futile.”
Dietary changes will be more effective at easing your symptoms if you act early on. Ask your GP to refer you for an allergy skin prick test to identify which common pollens affect you so you will be able to anticipate which months your symptoms are likely to be worse.
Natural ways to ease your symptoms
A. Vogel’s Pollinosan Hayfever tablets, 120, £10.50. A combination of different therapeutic herbal remedies to relieve the symptoms of hay fever and other forms of allergic rhinitis. Available from Holland & Barrett and selected health stores.
HayMax Organic, drug-free allergen barrier balm, 5ml, £6.99, from Holland & Barrett and Boots.
Pukka Turmeric Gold, £3 for 20 sachets, from Ocado, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Boots.
Puressentiel Respiratory Hypertonic Nasal Spray, 15ml, £9.99, from Boots. com, Amazon, Wholefoods, uk.puressentiel.com.
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