In the summer months, we enjoy blue skies, lazy days at the beach, and rambles across fields of corn swaying in the breeze. Idyllic! Well, for most of us. For some though it’s Hayfever season. At its worst it can be quite debilitating, with symptoms such as watery, itchy eyes, a runny nose and scratch throat for starters. Constant sneezing, being ‘bunged up’ and a fuzzy head that feels like a constant dull cold, are common experiences. Daily suffering can be draining and make the summer months feel utterly miserable.
As a common allergic seasonal condition, hayfever is on the rise, especially in children. Pollen is to blame. It is a fine dust released by plants during their reproductive cycle. The first culprit of the year is tree pollen, followed by grass – the biggest culprit, and finally weed pollen.
When we inhale pollen our immune system responds accordingly by assessing whether it is a threat, as it would bacteria or a virus. In doing so the body elicits a rapid inflammatory response and the sufferer experiences the host of annoying symptoms mentioned. But because pollen exposure can be on-going, so is the body’s response to it.
What causes the inflammatory response? It’s a chemical called histamine which is released in the body in response to pollen. Therefore, keeping histamine levels low, or reducing duration within the body is a good idea.
One way to do this is to drink plenty of water! Keeping well hydrated is helpful for all aspects of health. In the case of hayfever, it thins the mucous membranes and reduces that ‘blocked up’ feeling. You can even try adding some fresh lemon which helps to remove histamine from the body faster- it tastes pretty good on a salad too.
Reduce your intake of pre-packaged meals/sauces intake and increase the amount of fresh fruit, vegetables, quality meat and fish where possible. Again this takes some pressure off the body, which is dealing with many jobs at any one time, hopefully putting more energy into reducing symptoms.
When cooking with garlic/onions, cut and leave them for ten minutes to release the plant chemical – quercetin, which has natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties. Consider making a tasty onion soup, and increasing your intake of other quercetin rich foods, apples (skin on), berries and broccoli
For some, there are possible risk factors to hayfever, for example those who already suffer from asthma, eczema or have a family history. Other reasons for an increased susceptibility to hayfever, could be our greater exposure to toxins from food, the environment, cosmetics, clothing, cleaning products and much more. These can affect gut health, immunity and our liver’s ability to remove toxins, which can link back to increasing inflammation throughout the body.
Lifestyle changes which can help to improve hay fever symptoms:
- Close your windows when the pollen count is high.
- Avoid histamine rich food, such as alcohol, cured meats, and aged cheeses.
- Avoid drying washing outside on high pollen days.
- Shower before bed and wear wrap-around sunglasses when outside to reduce exposure to allergens
- Monitor the pollen count by checking your local weather conditions. On wetter days, the pollen count tends to be lower.
- Consuming local, unpasteurised honey daily (not suitable for babies) and ideally 1-2 months before onset, has been shown to reduce symptoms by gently de-sensitising the immune system response. Purchase from a local producer or health food shop.
- Consider purchasing an air purifier, which can filter out some airborne allergens. Even Himalayan Salt lamps are known for their air purification properties.
If you suffer from hay fever, making dietary and lifestyle changes, and starting early before the pollen season, could help with the management of symptoms. Hopefully you will be able to enjoy outdoor living a little more often, walks, pic-nics, swimming and all the good things that summer brings!
Please note, this is not an exhaustive list and some suggestions may not suit everyone. If hayfever is getting in your way, or you experience other allergies, then please feel free to contact me for a personalised approach.