Everyone around me seems to be itching, sneezing and streaming. It’s most attractive!
If you suffer from hay fever, I really do feel for you. The itchy eyes, sore throat, runny nose and constant sneezing can feel debilitating. High pollen levels at the moment means you could be in for a tough time. There is however a silver lining as there is so much you can do nutritionally to help significantly reduce your symptoms. Read on to find out more …
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergic immune response usually triggered by pollen and grasses. The tree pollen season in the UK (suffered by 25% of people) usually starts late-March to mid-May, while grass pollen (causing the majority of hay fever) comes in from late May to July. The body releases histamine which brings about the symptoms such as sore, itchy eyes and sneezing. Energy levels can take really a hit due to the effects on the respiratory system and from taking medications to counteract the symptoms which often cause drowsiness.
What can be done?
The key to managing hay fever is to cut down on mucous producing foods whilst increasing your intake of anti-histamine anti-inflammatory foods.
Mucous producing foods, materials and food sensitivities (the baddies to avoid)
- Fatty foods and dairy products (cheese and milk especially!)
- Wheat (bread, pasta, croissants, beer)
- Sugar – chocolate, sweets, cakes, alcohol!
- Junk/processed food
- Processed meats
Most people think that because their hay fever is due to airborne substances that food in not an issue, but you may have food sensitivities that are aggravating your symptoms. Milk and wheat are the most common offenders (replace milk with almond, oat or rice milk, wheat with wheat free versions or alternatives such as sweet potatoes). Sugar and processed foods are inflammatory, irritating the nasal passages so avoiding these can really help.
Pet dander and pollen, perfumes, pollutants and household detergents:
These can also be mucous producing so avoiding these should help!
Anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine foods (the goodies to include):
When you have allergies, the membranes lining your nasal passages become inflamed and irritated. They begin to produce excess mucous as a way of flushing out whatever is causing the irritation – whether a virus, or bacteria, or allergens. Eating anti-inflammatory foods like the ones listed below should help to reduce your symptoms, as will consuming foods which are natural anti-histamines, and those which stop the body from producing too much histamine)
- Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
- Flax and chia seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Spices – garlic and turmeric
- Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables (full of Vitamin C and Quercetin which are natural anti-histamines)
- Nuts, sunflower seeds, onions, cabbage, apples and blackberries are high in magnesium, calcium and flavanoids, which prevent the body from producing too much histamine.
Boost your immune system
As mentioned above, hay fever is the result of a heightened immune response, thus repeated allergies can be caused by a weakened digestive and immune system. Eating as described above will help, as will reducing stress levels as this can dampen immune function. Probiotics can also be very beneficial in supporting the digestive and immune functions,
Toxins in the body (alcohol, refined sugars, food preservatives and additives) can cause allergic responses in the body such as sneezing, itching and a runny nose and further weaken the immune system and should thus be avoided.
- A good quality fish oil can really help to reduce any inflammation in the body
- Probiotics help to support the digestive and immune system (although avoid the yoghurt drinks which a high in sugar!)
- Zinc is also great for boosting the immune system.