Another reason to sneeze
Just as we get over our winter colds, sniffles and sneezes, another reason to sneeze arrives. Hayfever season! Be it tree pollens or grass pollens, for many people the spring and summer months are blighted by this allergic response.
The typical symptoms of hayfever, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing or a sore throat are caused by the release of histamine from the immune system’s Mast cells. Histamine triggers an inflammatory response in the body, leading to increased mucus production, smooth muscle contraction and dilatation of the blood vessels.
Nutritional support can help to alleviate the symptoms of hayfever. By eating particular foods and using certain supplements you can reduce the need for anti-histamines to control your symptoms. It is best to start with these dietary changes early on in the season, and then continue them throughout, for maximum effect.
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found in abundance in red wine, tea, onions, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, asparagus, apples, and berries. It can help to relieve hay fever symptoms by stabilising the membranes of the Mast cells that release histamine. This means less histamine is released. As quercetin accumulates in the skin and leaves of these fruits and vegetables you should try to eat these too.
Eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables will maximise your intake of beta carotene and vitamin C. In the body, beta carotene is converted to vitamin A. Adequate vitamin A is essential for healthy mucous membranes, such as those that line the nostrils. Vitamin C can decrease histamine production and supports the immune system.
Spices like ginger and turmeric also have strong anti-inflammatory actions. Try adding freshly grated ginger to fruit juices or drink it with hot water and a couple of slices of lemon. Turmeric works well in soups, stews and curries. Aim to eat ½ teaspoon a day.
Vitamin B6 may also be helpful. Good food sources include avocados, bananas, chicken, egg yolks, sunflower seeds and walnuts.
If there are any foods which you know or suspect you may have an allergy or intolerance to, try to stay away from these. Eating them will only add to the load on your immune system and could exacerbate symptoms further. Common food allergens include wheat, dairy and citrus fruits.
In addition to eating the right foods, take precautions to minimise your exposure to allergens. Most pollen is released early morning or late evening so try to stay inside during these times. Keep windows shut when cutting grass or driving, or if it is a particularly windy day. Wearing sunglasses will help to protect your eyes from exposure to pollen grains, and could make you look cool too!
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