If, like one in five Brits, your summers are plagued by sneezing, watery eyes and fatigue, chances are you’ve tried every product out there to curb your hay fever. But if you’re looking for a more natural way to manage the symptoms then we’re here to help. We spoke to nutritional therapist Jodie Brandman to find out the best ways to stop it interrupting your summer fun…
Firstly, what actually causes hay fever?
For sufferers of hay fever, when pollen enters the body it is labelled as an intruder. Antibodies are then produced, and a chemical called histamine is released, creating immediate inflammation, blood vessel swelling and dilation, skin irritation and itching. The linings of the nasal passages therefore become inflamed, which can restrict air-flow, and excess mucus can block the sinuses, travel down the throat, or block the ears. As this is so energy intensive, hay fever sufferers can eventually become exhausted, may have difficulty sleeping, and even become at risk of depression.
Does anything make you more susceptible?
Not everyone is susceptible to hay fever but there are some circumstances that can put certain people more at risk than others. These include existing asthma, stress, nasal polyps, illness or a lower functioning immune system, pregnancy, food allergies and digestive issues such as SIBO or leaky gut.
And the remedies?
Unfortunately, most conventional hay fever remedies have side effects that include drowsiness, dryness of the eyes, nose and mouth, restlessness, insomnia and abdominal discomfort. The good news is there are lots of natural ways to help ward off any symptoms. Here's what you should try...
Heal The Gut
A whopping 70% of the immune system is in our digestive tract so it’s worth making sure you resolve any underlying issues in order to protect yourself from hay fever. Working with a functional medicine practitioner can help determine if there are any bacterial imbalances and support you on gut healing protocol, which may involve pulling out common allergens from the diet such as gluten and dairy, and topping up your beneficial bacteria with a high dose of probiotics.
Manage Your Stress
Stress can have a negative impact on your immune system and can make allergies worse. Studies have even found that by carrying out stress reduction techniques, hay fever symptoms can reduce. Remember, stress may not just be emotional, as the body can become stressed through eating processed foods and sugars, having caffeine, and carrying out frequent, intense exercise.
Avoid Certain Foods
Certain foods are either high in histamine, promote histamine release, or block enzymes that break down histamine, so try to avoid the following:
- Alcohol (especially beer, wine and Champagne)
- Fermented foods and vinegars
- Bananas, strawberries and papaya
- Dairy products like milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter
- Certain vegetables such as avocado, aubergine, tomatoes and spinach
- Tea including black, green and mate
Dehydration can trigger the release of histamine, so upping your water intake could help with your hay fever. Camomile, ginger, and peppermint teas have been shown to reduce certain symptoms, so try and swap these out for your coffees and black teas, which can be dehydrating on their own.
Add Immune-Boosting Foods To Your Diet
Help strengthen your immune system, reduce inflammation and include natural anti-histamines in your diet in order to support your body before and during hay fever season. Include the following, or take as supplements:
- Omega 3s found in oily fish, walnuts, chia and flax, to reduce inflammation
- Vegetables and berries, which are high in antioxidants and help prevent the release of histamine
- Herbs like echinacea and elderberry to boost the immune system
- Quercetin from kale, watercress, capers and red onions, as this is a natural antihistamine. Supplemental forms of 1000mg a day may also be useful, however it may interfere with certain medications so always check with your doctor first
- Bromelain from pineapple, which helps the absorption of quercetin, and is also found in supplement form
- Vitamin C from leafy greens, peppers, goji & camu camu for immune support
- Spirulina, which is proven to improve nasal congestion and sneezing, stopping the release of histamine
- Zinc in supplement form to support the stress response
- Local raw honey to help build a tolerance to local plant antigens
Any final tips and tricks?
Wash your clothes and hair after going outside or spending time an a highly-pollenated area, as the pollen can stick and keep your immune system on edge. You should also consider a nasal wash to help flush excess mucus, and natural pollen barrier balms to prevent pollen from getting up your nose.
For more information, visit JodieBrandman.com