Hoorah! Spring and summer are on their way - well hopefully they are as it's a bit grey today! It feels like it's been a long old winter.
However, it’s not fun and games for those of us who experience hay fever. At least 1 in 4 people in the UK have hay fever and for those allergic to tree pollen the hay fever season may have already started
So what actually is hay fever?
Hay fever (or seasonal allergic rhinitis as it’s formally known) is caused when the body makes allergic antibodies in response to exposure to an allergen – ie grass or tree pollen.
Our mast cells are activated as a reaction to the exposure and a chemical mediator called histamine is released into the blood stream, this causes the symptoms we may experience such as red itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, irritation in throat and ears.
Hay fever isn’t fun and cannot only ruin people’s enjoyment of the summer but it can also impact on quality of life causing fatigue and sleep disruptions. It’s reported that sufferers are also more likely to have other medical conditions such as asthma, eczema, food allergies and migraines.
So how can you naturally support yourself during hay fever season?
1. Control mast cell release of histamine with anti-inflammatory foods.
Increase fruits and vegetables, salmon, sardines, nuts, flax seeds, berries, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon and eggs as these all have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
Reduce sugars, trans fats (such as vegetable oils and margarine's) and processed foods as these have been shown to have a pro inflammatory effect.
2. Eliminate foods high in histamine as these may have an effect on histamine levels within the body.
4. Eat pineapple (including the core) as this contains bromelain an enzyme that has been cited as a natural therapy in the treatment of hay fever symptoms.
5. Take a good probiotic as studies suggest they may support the immune system in modifying the response to an allergen.
6. Reduce pesticides on fruit and vegetables as they may promote histamine release. A study on farmers in Crete suggests a higher prevalence to allergic rhinitis in those that used pesticides to those that didn’t. Eat organic where possible or take a look at the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists for fruits and vegetables the most and least (respectively) contaminated by pesticides.
7. Reduce stress where possible. During times of stress our bodies release hormones and chemicals – including histamine.
8. Review your local pollen count daily so that you know what to expect and can plan accordingly. The Met Office gives up to date advice on their website from March onwards http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/health/public/pollen-forecast.