Hay fever does not need to spoil your spring and summer
Our fantastic guest blogger, Fiona Hayers from Nourish from Within, has shared with us her latest very topical notes, this time about hay fever, the issues around the subject, and its effects. Much to consider as always, and we hope that this will motivate you to get in contact with Fiona directly to see how you can benefit.
No individual advice is provided in this blog
Itchy, watery eyes? Constantly sneezing? As much as you are overjoyed that winter is behind you, the thought of the next few months dosed up on antihistamines is not a welcome one. But while Mother Nature can be cruel, she is also kind. It might surprise you to know that changing what you eat can have a big impact on the severity of your symptoms.
According to Allergy UK, as many as 30% of adults and 40% of children suffer from allergic rhinitis (the medical term for the condition), an allergic reaction to pollen. You might start noticing symptoms in March when the tree pollen season starts. Then there’s the grass pollen season, followed by the weed pollen season, which can go on into September.
If this is you, I sympathise: itchy, red or watery eyes; runny or blocked nose; sneezing and coughing; itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears; loss of smell; earache; headache; and feeling exhausted. I recall picking my daughter up from nursery many years ago looking as if she had done a few rounds in the boxing ring her eyes were so swollen and red.
I didn’t want to give my 4-year-old antihistamine tablets each morning but I didn’t want her to suffer either so I did some research and found ways to use food and supplements to initially manage her symptoms and over the years reduce her reaction to the odd sniffle for a few days.
How to use foods to manage your hay fever
There are some foods will make the symptoms of hay fever worse, so try to cut these out or reduce them as much as you can during hay fever season. Other foods are naturally anti-inflammatory, so you’ll want to ensure you’re getting plenty of these in your diet.
Foods containing high levels of histamine can intensify symptoms. These include chocolate (sorry about that), tomatoes, aubergines and many fermented foods like vinegar, sauerkraut, yoghurt, miso, soy sauce, and canned fish.
There are also foods that, while they are not high in histamine themselves, are ‘histamine liberators’ and can trigger your cells to release histamine. These include strawberries, pineapple, bananas, citrus fruits and egg whites.
Foods containing wheat – like bread and pasta, cakes and pastries – can also be problematic for people with grass pollen allergies.
Dairy products like milk and cheese stimulate the body to produce more mucus, making blocked noses or ears much worse. Matured cheeses also tend to contain high levels of histamine. And sugar, which causes your body to produce more histamine, can further exacerbate your symptoms.
Foods to increase or add into your diet to help manage your symptoms
Some foods are anti-histamine foods and disrupt or block histamine receptors, helping to reduce allergy symptoms. These include foods that contain the plant chemicals quercetin and beta carotene, and those high in vitamin C (see below).
Local honey also may be helpful because, although it contains trace elements of pollen, over time it may help your body become more familiar with the pollen entering your system and reduce the inflammatory response it makes. I buy local honey at either the farmers market or our local farm shop – it is slightly more expensive, but I only use it during the spring/summer months.
Quercetin containing foods
Examples: Onions, garlic, goji berries, asparagus, all berry fruits, apples, kale, okra, peppers, plums and red grapes.
Beta carotene containing foods
Examples: Sweet potato, carrots, butternut squash, red and yellow peppers, apricots, peas, broccoli, dark leafy greens like kale, and romaine lettuce.
Vitamin C containing foods
Examples: Blackcurrants, blueberries, peppers, kale, collard leaves, broccoli, kiwis, mango, courgettes, and cauliflower.
What you drink also makes a difference
Drink plenty of water. Keeping well hydrated is helpful for all aspects of health. In the case of hay fever, it thins the mucous membranes and reduces that ‘blocked up’ feeling.
Green tea is packed full of antioxidants, which are helpful for the immune system generally. It has also been proven to block one of the receptors involved in immune responses. I recommend a decaf green tea such as Clipper Decaffeinated Green Tea.
Ginger tea has been shown to help reduce allergic reactions by lowering your body’s IgE levels (the antibody involved in the specific immune reaction associated with hay fever). Try putting a slice of fresh ginger in a mug of hot water.
Peppermint tea or fresh mint tea is worth trying because peppermint contains menthol, a natural decongestant that may help improve sinus symptoms.
Add nettle tea to your shopping list for its ability to relieve inflammation of the upper respiratory tract and ease nasal congestion, sneezing and itching.
Other foods to consider adding
Hay fever is an inflammatory condition and may be further helped by including other types of food that calm the inflammatory response. Top of the list are foods containing anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids, which I often recommend to clients struggling with any inflammatory condition. These include all types of oily fish (like salmon, trout, sardines, halibut and cod) as well as flaxseed and walnuts.
Coconut oil is another anti-inflammatory oil and can be used in cooking and baking or added to smoothies.
As well as adding flavour to your food, herbs like parsley, sage, thyme, oregano and basil have anti-inflammatory properties as do many spices, including turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, fennel and nutmeg.
While the main problem for hay fever sufferers is the pollen itself, you may also find that hidden food intolerances are making matters worse. I offer a range of testing options at my clinic if this is something you would like to explore.
What about supplements?
Sometimes it is difficult to make enough changes initially to reduce the symptoms or symptoms are very severe. In these cases, there are supplements that I recommend to my clients.
To find out more, why not use the following link to book yourself in for a complimentary health review call and take the first steps to a summer without uncomfortable hay fever symptoms - please contact me on 07734111347 or via email Fiona@nourishfromwithin.co.uk and I would be delighted to chat thorough your needs and circumstances.