Sneezing? Sniffling? Swollen, itchy eyes got you down this month? With the clocks going forward it’s time for the pollen to start hitting. The UK pollen forecast can be found here.
Hay fever, also known as Allergic Rhinitis, is an allergic inflammation of the nasal passages. It occurs when an allergen such as pollen or dust is inhaled by an individual with a sensitised immune system, triggering 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 pollen and dust, histamine and other chemical mediators are released. This causes itching, swelling, and mucus production.
Many people with undiagnosed food intolerances find that the hay fever season may push them over the edge and they start suffering even though they might not have been a sufferer in previous years. Signs and symptoms include sneezing, runny nose with a clear, thin discharge, congested (“stuffy”) nose, postnasal drip, sensation of blocked ears, watery, bloodshot eyes, itching of nose, soft palate, ear canal, eyes, and/or skin, fatigue and trouble sleeping. Antihistamines are the first line of defence in allopathic medicine, the problem with these over-the-counter antihistamines — aside from their obvious side effects of drowsiness, cloudy thinking, dry mouth and, for some, accelerated heart rate — is that they don’t stop the problem from happening in the first place, they just mask the symptoms for several hours.
Use food as your medicine
The nutritional approach to hay fever involves cutting down on foods which encourage mucus production, while boosting foods that have natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties.
Foods to avoid / reduce
Dairy products: increase mucus production.
Meat: arachidonic acid contributes to allergic and inflammatory reactions.
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: contain histamine.
Foods to seek out / increase
Soya products (if you want to replace dairy).
Fish: high in omega 3 fatty acids which have an anti-inflammatory effect.
All vegetables other than tomatoes.
All fruits other than oranges.
Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds.
Garlic and onion.
Fruit, honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup or barley malt as sweeteners if required.
Beans, lentils and tofu.
Drink two litres of water a day.
Top foods to consume
1. Vitamin C Vitamin C is one of nature’s great wonders. Foods rich in vitamin C should be eaten as soon as possible when fresh, as they lose their strength after being exposed to air, or being processed, boiled, or stored for long periods of time. Good food sources of Vitamin C to combat the histamine are blackcurrants, red bell peppers, kale, parsley, broccoli, brussels sprouts, mango, watercress, cauliflower, red cabbage, strawberries, spinach, elderberries, peaches, asparagus, cantaloupe melon, cayenne pepper, green peas, radishes, raspberries, yellow summer squash, sweet potatoes, loganberries, new potatoes, lettuce, bananas, kiwi, honeydew, pineapple and cranberry juice. A vitamin C deficiency can raise your body’s levels of histamine, according to a study published in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” in 1996.
2. Flavonoids Flavonoids, such as quercetin, are a group of plant pigments that are largely responsible for the colors of many fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Quercetin appears to reduce the release of histamine from cells and is also believed to stabilise cell membranes so they are less reactive to allergens such as pollen. Good sources of quercetin are citrus fruits (avoid oranges), onions, garlic, apples, parsley, tea, broccoli, lettuce, legumes, red and purple berries, and wine.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to reduce allergic reactions through their anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in such foods as cold-water fish (like salmon) and walnuts. You can also get your Omega-3s from flax seed oil and grass-fed meat. Healthy fats and oils such as olive oil, quality fish oil and even moderate amounts of animal fats are important for a healthy immune system. Studies show that those who eat mostly polyunsaturated and trans-fats, as found in many margarines and processed foods, are more likely to suffer allergies.
Supplements For those that dont like/want to eat their fruit and veg you could resort to supplements. The most efficient way for your body to absorb the majority of vitamins or minerals is as a whole food, when taking supplements to ensure bioavailability you need to ensure you take a high quality product. Before taking any supplement, consult a health professional to identify the safest product, dosage and the best product for you.
Homeopathy There are many different homeopathic remedies available for hay fever. With homeopathic remedies its best not to purchase a blend off-the-shelf, in many cases this won’t work since it may not have the specific remedy for you included, its not personalised. Contact Weleda, Helios, or your local practitioner for further advise.
Journal of the American College of Nutrition; Vitamin C Depletion is Associated with Alterations in Blood
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: Allergy and Asthma: Sinusitis
World of Molecules: Quercetin
University of Maryland Medical Center: Quercetin
Harvard School of Public Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Combination
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Copyright: Susan Monk 2017