Ten natural tips to avoid hay fever
Yay, the sun is here! But for some that means misery and sniffles. Hayfever or Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis affects around 2% of the population and often begins in childhood, though it can develop at any point during life. Symptoms of sore eyes, blocked stuffy nose, itching, headaches, coughing and sneezing are truly troublesome for these sufferers.
Airborne particles are released from local trees, grasses and flowers that are inhaled. Some people only react to tree pollens (these are predominant from early to late spring), others to grass (late spring through to July) or to flower and weed pollens (early spring to early autumn). Allergic rhinitis may also occur due to dust mites, moulds or animal hair, and pollution could also be a cause but more research is needed.
Hayfever is caused by these inhaled pollen invading the body which are perceived as foreign attackers causing an overstimulated immune response and the release of histamine. This is a malfunctioning of the immune system where usually harmless environmental substances are interpreted as being destructive - causing the immune system to react incorrectly towards them.
Conventional treatment focuses on antihistamine drugs to block the release of histamine from the mast cells lining the nose and throat thereby reducing the symptoms. However these just mask the symptoms. Long-term use of medications may not be ideal as they work like a defence mechanism of the body to protect us from truly harmful pathogens. Also in doing this, these drugs can damage the delicate mucosal lining that is covered with billions of friendly bacteria. These gut flora are responsible for 70% of the total body's immune system. An altered gut flora, or a less diverse range of species, has been observed in those suffering allergic diseases.
Hayfever has increased over the years in the population and some people put that down to the hygiene hypothesis. This hypothesis is based on the fact that we are not subjected to enough bacteria as a baby/child in order to build up a strong immune system. By being overly clean and using antibacterial sprays and wipes, we are destroying all the bacteria including the friendly ones that could be protecting us. By letting your baby eat dirt, it builds up a resistance to the nasty bacteria that may strike in the future, and they will be more equipped to fight off infection.
Did you know?
- People with asthma and eczema are more likely to develop hayfever. The three conditions are classed as atopic conditions or atopy.
- If your parents have an allergy, you may be prone to a different allergy.
- 70% of your immune system is comprised in your gut.
What can we do to help hayfever sufferers?
1) Eat healthier
Poor digestive health can have an impact on the severity of hayfever. Eating slowly in a relaxed atmosphere (not in front of the TV) and chewing your food thoroughly can improve digestion immensely. Also, cooking with lots of lovely natural flavours such as onions, garlic, cayenne pepper, ginger and turmeric, and consuming Omega three fatty acids in oily fish and flaxseed, are said to contain natural anti-inflammatory compounds.
2) Get out in the sun
It's a catch-22 situation because hayfever sufferers tend to stay indoors to avoid the pollen, however 20 minutes of sunshine a day without sunscreen can build up natural levels of vitamin D to support the immune system.
3) Avoid dehydration
Drinking 2 litres of water and herbal teas could be a solution. Histamine is naturally produced when we are dehydrated to cause an increase in thirst. Wheat, dairy, sugar, alcohol and caffeine all cause stress and dehydration on the body so alternatives to these should be found.
4) Ditch the dairy
Foods to avoid are milk and sugar as they create a build-up of mucus and catarrh.
5) Reject the NSAIDs (Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)
I realise this is difficult and sometimes impossible, but If you can avoid taking pain killers, try to. NSAIDs cause damage to the intestinal wall and the friendly bacteria, which leads to leaky gut causing a hypersensitive immune response.
6) Eat a rainbow coloured amount of fruit and vegetables
Immune support in nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E, zinc and selenium, and antioxidants are said to help prevent the release of inflammatory chemical histamine. Choosing a rainbow coloured basket of vegetables and salads when you go shopping will provide you with this.
7) Look after your liver
By overloading the body with toxins and chemicals, which we are subjected to every day, will cause more stress and dehydration, weakening the immune system and affecting the liver. Any excess chemicals will make the liver's job a lot more difficult and is more likely to cause hayfever and allergies.
8) Get a bee in your bonnet
Eating a spoonful of local honey daily at the build up to hayfever season can build your immune system to the local pollen. So get shopping at your local farmers market.
9) Natural remedies
Quercetin and Bromelain works as an anti-inflammatory agent by deactivating enzymes that produce inflammation and strengthening cell walls that would normally release histamines into the bloodstream.
Camomile contains natural antihistamines that can fight against histamines in the bloodstream.
Nettle contains biologically active compounds that reduce inflammation.
Nettie pot flushes out the pollen sat in the nostrils.
Pine bark extract blocks histamine release from mast cells.
Build-up the immune system by putting those friendly bacteria back in. There are thousands of species of bacteria which we have no idea about so taking a multi-strain of probiotics will help. Also eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha and live yoghurt are prebiotics, which help the gut to produce friendly flora.
Last but not least, ensure you check the pollen count on the forecast, stay in doors if it is particularly bad and close the windows and doors. Also, don't plan on gardening that day!