The longer days, warmer weather and blossoming trees might be welcomed by some of us, but for the 10 million or so people in the UK who are allergic to pollen, the arrival of Spring brings the misery of Hayfever, triggered by tree pollens in March, grass pollens throughout the summer and weed pollens and mould spores in late summer.
What is an allergy?
An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system identifies something as harmful and overreacts to it. Hayfever is the immune system’s attempt to fight off the invader (allergen) by triggering the release of histamine. This produces an increase in mucous production and causes the familiar swelling and inflammation in the nasal passages, sneezing, runny nose, watery and itchy eyes and headaches.
Other common allergens are certain foods, dust, mould, insect stings, medication, wool, metals (especially nickel), household cleaning products, latex, some cosmetics ingredients and animal fur (pet hair can collect pollen, mould spores and other outdoor allergens).
Allergy or Intolerance?
Allergy and intolerance are not the same. With a food allergy, there will be an instant and often violent reaction. With a food intolerance or sensitivity, there will be a delayed reaction, the severity of which will depend on how healthy the person’s gut microbiome is.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
The microbiome is essentially a collection of microorganisms (such as bacteria, viruses, yeast and fungi) which are all essential to the smooth running of our internal ecosystem. A balanced gut microbiome supports a healthy inflammatory response and keeps the immune system strong. It is also essential for optimal digestion, nutrient absorption and elimination. Various diseases seemingly unrelated to the gut can actually be traced back to an imbalance of the gut microbiome ranging from allergies and gut infections to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Type 1 Diabetes.
How to improve the health of your gut microbiome.
- Increase your fibre intake. Fibre provides good nourishment for the gut microbes. Eat a diverse array of colourful fruits, berries and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds.
- Fermented foods have been transformed by microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast, traditionally as a means of preserving food, and are packed with vital nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. fibre, protein and fats. Eat fermented foods such as live yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, natto and sauerkraut.
Dietary approach to Hayfever.
- Wheat and dairy products encourage mucous production and it’s important to reduce their intake or avoid them altogether.
- Sugar can cause inflammation, suppress the immune system and weaken the body’s ability to repair itself. Another substance to reduce substantially or avoid.
- Avocado, nuts and seeds provide healthy fats
- Some people swear by a spoonful of local honey daily, preferably starting well before the pollen season, to reduce their hay fever symptoms. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it works through a process of desensitisation – the heavy-grained pollen collected by the bees appears to act as an effective anti-allergen.
- Horseradish acts as a decongestant. Grate it into roasts and other vegetables.
- Garlic helps clear nasal congestion and is a good source of quercetin which is a natural antihistamine.
- Onions are packed with quercetin, a powerful anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and natural anti-histamine.
- Apples, kale, red grapes, berries, cherries and parsley are additional sources of quercetin
- Pineapple is a rich source of the anti-inflammatory enzyme Bromelain.
- Turmeric contains curcumin which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions as well as anti-allergy properties which inhibit the release of histamine. Turmeric is often used as a dry powder, but try using some fresh turmeric root. Peel, grate and add about 2 teaspoons to rice dishes, stir fries or soups
- Nettle tea can help relieve inflammation of the upper respiratory tract and ease nasal congestion.
- Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory. Add some freshly grated ginger root to a juice of carrot, celery, beetroot and apple. You could also add some green leafy vegetable or herb such as parsley, mint, kale or spinach.
- Increase your vitamin C intake by eating plenty of colourful fresh fruit and vegetables.
Most of the following supplements are available from the Good Health Centre.
Useful Supplements to help you prepare for the Hayfever season:
Starting taking these one or two months before your season begins.
- Blackseed Oil: Studies have found effective results against allergic rhinitis, bronchial asthma and atopic eczema. Dose: one teaspoon daily.
- Applephenon: Polyphenols from apples have been shown to inhibit histamine release and alleviate atopic skin inflammation associated with allergies
Dose: One capsule daily with food.
Supplements to consider that may help reduce symptoms during Hayfever season:
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is the most important anti-allergy vitamin, an effective natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory. Blood levels of vitamin C have been shown to be low in people with asthma. Everyone would be wise to take a minimum of 1g or 2g a day and, if you are suffering from allergic symptoms, consider taking twice this amount. Best taken in divided doses i.e. 1g morning and 1g evening, as vitamin C is water soluble and is not stored by the body for longer than 6 hours.
- Quercetin B5 Plus complex has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antihistamine properties. Quercetin is an important flavonoid which has been shown to inhibit production and release of histamine, especially when combined with Bromelainwhich also contains anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties helping to relieve pain and congestion of inflamed tissues especially in the nasal and respiratory pathways.
- Dose: 2 a day with food.
- Beta Glucans modulates the immune system, helping to bring it back into balance. It helps to reduce the reactivity of the immune system and reduce the intensity of hay fever symptoms.
- Omega 3 Fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and can help to support a healthy balanced immune system.
- Vitamins A C D E and Zinc are the foundational nutrients of the immune system and support the integrity of the mucous membranes of the respiratory system, including the sinuses, throat and lungs. A quality multi vit and mineral will cover these needs.
- Vitamin D3: a deficiency of this can have a negative impact on the immune system. Medichecks is a reliable laboratory that offers a test for vitamin D deficiency for £39. Birmingham NHS hospital offers a finger prick test for £29 www.vitamindtest.org
- Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria that support the 70-80% of immune cells that are present in the gut
- Pollinosan Hayfever Nasal Spray cleansesthe nasal passages of pollen and other allergens, house dust mite or animal. It restores fluid and moisture in the nasal passages, making the nose feel soothed and more comfortable. Also available in tablets and eyedrops.
- Haymax is a natural organic barrier balm that is applied to the rim of the nostrils and has been proven to trap more than a third of pollen from entering the body. It can also reduce dust and pet allergens. Some people also find benefit applying the balm to the eye sockets.
Homeopathy and hayfever
Over a hundred remedies have been identified as being effective in treating allergies and hay fever. As always, it depends on the individual’s symptoms, and a remedy that’s right for one person may not be right for another. It’s therefore best to consult a professional homeopath to ensure a positive and lasting result. The practitioner will prescribe an individually tailored course of treatment, based on your medical history, constitutional traits and the allergy’s symptoms. Homeopathic remedies are highly diluted natural substances, mostly plant and mineral. The pharmaceutical preparation process removes all toxic effects, so the treatments are easy, gentle and safe for everyone, including children and pregnant women.
The following are a few of the more commonly used homeopathic remedies for the acute symptoms of hay fever. Only one remedy can be used at a time, so the patient’s specific symptoms need to match as closely as possible the remedy symptoms described.
This remedy, prepared from the red onion, treats the symptom of streaming eyes and nose that are worse in warm and stuffy rooms. (People who need All-c may even crave and feel better for eating onions.) Their nasal discharge burns while tears from the eyes are bland – the opposite to Euphrasia’s symptoms. Sneezing can be intense and frequent and eyes are sensitive to the light.
This is one of the most commonly used remedies for hay fever. Burning or itching in the nose, eyes or throat being a strong indication. The discharges from both eyes and nose will be burning. Symptoms improve in the open air, and the eyes are sensitive to the light.
Another common remedy for hay fever, with lots of sneezing, streaming eyes and nose. If the water from the eyes burns the cheeks and the discharge from the nose is not burning, Euphrasia will be the most likely remedy. The remedy is indicated if symptoms improve in the open air – obviously away from pollen. The eyes are sensitive to the light, as with Arsenicum and Allium Cepa.
Initially, there is a streaming, bland discharge from both the eyes and nose with lots of sneezing. Later, the nasal discharge becomes thick and clear like egg white with loss of taste and smell. This is not one of the main remedies for hay fever but it can bring great relief to the type who gets easily sunburned, and feels generally miserable, uncomfortable, blotchy and irritated in the sun.
This is one of the best remedies when there is lots of sneezing, streaming from the eyes and nose, and an irritable, nasty mood. (If the patient is sweet tempered this is unlikely to be the right choice) The symptoms are worse in dry air and relieved when the atmosphere is damp.
The main indications for this remedy are a weepy, needy emotional state with discharges that are thick, bland (not acrid) and green or yellow. Pulsatilla frequently has one side of the nose blocked or congested.
Watery, burning nasal discharge, or a blocked nose, when outside. Frequent sneezing. Blocking of nose on alternate sides. Burning pain in eyes. Symptoms worsened by warmth and becoming warm in bed. Better for being in open air. May be opinionated, lack motivation and desire sweets, alcohol, and spicy food.
Cold compress: Dry itchy eyes usually respond well to a cold compress. Submerge a clean cloth in a bowl of ice and water and place it onto your closed eyes for 5 – 10 minutes. You can also use a bag of wrapped frozen peas.
Tips for reducing exposure to pollen:
- Wear sunglasses outside to prevent pollen getting into your eyes.
- Keep car windows closed when driving.
- Avoid cutting grass and playing or walking in grassy areas particularly in the early morning, evening and at night when pollen counts are highest.
- Avoid drying clothes outside, to prevent pollen coming into the house and keep your windows and doors shut.