Hay fever is a common allergy that affects 1 in 5 people at some time in their lives. Tree, grass and weed pollen, which are often more prevalent in the spring and summer, can aggravate the membranes lining the nose and eyes. The body reacts by producing histamine, stimulating inflammation and leading to the symptoms we are familiar with – sneezing, itching and redness of eyes, and a runny or blocked nose.
Supporting the immune system with the right nutrients through diet and supplementation can have a very positive effect upon symptoms. People sometimes find that the effects are cumulative, that is to say, that by continually supporting their immune system, their symptoms gradually improve each year.
Foods rich in vitamin C can help build the immune system, as well as having anti histamine and anti inflammatory properties. Beta carotene containing foods are precursors to vitamin A, and can boost the integrity of mucous membranes. Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables are good sources for both of these vitamins, as well as containing other anti oxidants which can support the immune system. Quercetin, a plant based flavonoid has been found to be particularly anti-inflammatory and can be found in green tea, red onions, red grapes, tomato, berries (especially raspberries and cranberries), and apples.
Natural enzyme, Bromelain, has also been shown to relieve symptoms of hay fever or sinusitis, being a decongestant, anti inflammatory and anti histimine. Pineapple is high in bromelain and may support healthy nasal and respiratory airways.
Omega 3, an essential fat found in foods such as oily fish, flaxseeds and avocados is an important anti inflammatory agent. A German study involving 568 people found that a high content of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cells or in the diet was associated with a decreased risk of hay fever. Ginger, rosemary and turmeric have also been shown to be anti inflammatory.
Vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system, and it seems that having good vitamin D levels can help to reduce inflammation in the body, and contribute to the easing of symptoms of hay fever. Here in the UK many of us are vitamin D deficient, especially given our recent weather. Spending at least 10 -20 minutes in the midday sun, until your skin goes pink, but does not burn, may help to improve vitamin D levels. Otherwise a good vitamin D supplement is advisable. Your Nutritional Therapist can arrange for vitamin D levels to be tested if you are at all uncertain.
Good gut flora has many important roles in our body. There is evidence that probiotics may also be useful in the treatment and control of hay fever. It has been shown that children who use anti biotics in their first 2 years of life have a much higher incidence of developing hay fever.
In order to get the best advice on which probiotic supplements to use and help in dealing with hay fever you may wish to get in touch with a registered nutritionist or nutritional therapist.
Marianne Andrews, Nutritional Therapist, DipNT, mBANT