Category Archives: bromelain

Natural Approaches to Hay Fever

While most of us look forward to the longer, brighter days of summer, this season can spell misery for Britain’s twelve million hay fever sufferers. This year is a particular worry, as pollen counts are predicted to be at an all time high. According to Professor Roy Kennedy of the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit, as a result of a cold spring, the pollen burst will now happen in a condensed burst, producing the highest pollen levels for decades.

Hay fever symptoms, such as a runny nose and red, itchy eyes, are a result of an allergic reaction to pollen causing histamine release. This is why antihistamines are the most common medication for the condition. For those who would like to try a natural approach, dietary changes and nutritional supplements can also alter levels of histamine in the body, helping to reduce symptoms and reduce the need for over the counter drugs.

One example of a natural antihistamine is Vitamin C (1), which has been used both nasally and orally to treat nasal congestion. Studies showing the vitamin’s antihistamine properties have used doses up to 7g daily, although I recommend staying within the safe upper limit by taking up to 1500mg supplemental Vitamin C daily, together with Vitamin C rich foods such as oranges, kiwis, broccoli, tomato juice and peppers.

Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme derived from pineapple stem. It has anti-inflammatory benefits and also has mucolytic properties (2), meaning that it helps to thin mucous. Bromelain blocks the action of fibrin and kinins, which cause nasal swelling and irritation.

Another natural agent which has been shown to benefit to hay fever sufferers is quercetin (3-5). Quercetin is a flavonoid naturally present in foods such as onions, apples and kale. It works by reducing the release of histamine from immune system cells known as mast cells.

For hayfever sufferers, it may be particularly beneficial to use both quercetin and bromelain together. I normally prefer to supplement them in a combined formula, together with Vitamin C. Formulas such as Biocare’s Quercetin Plus can be helpful in this regard. As both quercetin and bromelain thin the blood, they not be used by those on anti-coagulants such as warfarin.

The link between food intolerance and hay fever is unproven. As a nutritional therapist I do however sometimes advise clients to avoid the most common dietary irritants, such as dairy, wheat and alcohol for a period, as many people find that their symptoms abate after eliminating these foods. Any food that irritates the digestive tract can result in increased mucous formation. It may also be that food intolerance causes local inflammatory reactions, making the tissues around the eyes and nose more sensitive to pollen.

Other nutritional strategies include boosting your body’s levels of calcium, magnesium, methionine and flavonoids in order to discourage the production of histamine. Foods such as nuts, sunflower seeds, onions, cabbage, blackberries and apples are recommended in this respect. Anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fish, flaxseed oil, milled flaxseed or a regular fish oil supplement, may also be of benefit.

For anyone wanting to avoid troublesome hay fever symptoms, the most important fact to remember is that anti-histamine measures need to be applied regularly and consistently in order to be effective. For this reason, following a well-planned anti-inflammatory diet alongside regular natural anti-histamines such as Vitamin C, quercetin and bromelain may prove the best strategy for beating hay fever naturally.

References

  1. Hagel AF (2013) Intravenous infusion of ascorbic acid decreases serum histamine concentrations in patients with allergic and non-allergic diseases. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol May 11. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Suzuki K, Niho T, Yamada H, et al. Experimental study of the effects of bromelain. Nippon Yakurigaku Zasshi 1983;81:211-216.
  3. Hirano T et al. (2009). “Preventative effect of a flavonoid, enzymatically modified isoquercitrin on ocular symptoms of Japanese cedar pollinosis”. Allergology international : official journal of the Japanese Society of Allergology 58 (3): 373–82.
  4. Kawai M et al. (2009). “Effect of enzymatically modified isoquercitrin, a flavonoid, on symptoms of Japanese cedar pollinosis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial”. International archives of allergy and immunology 149 (4): 359–68.
  5. Mainardi, T et al (2009). “Complementary and alternative medicine: herbs, phytochemicals and vitamins and their immunologic effects”. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology 123 (2): 283–94
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10 Tips for Hay Fever Sufferers

10 Tips for Hay Fever Sufferers

If you missed last week’s bodykind newsletter about Hay Fever and some effective and natural ways to manage the symptoms, you may be interested in the “10 Top Tips” that bodykind’s Nutritional Therapist Nadia Mason came up with below:

Blueberries, Blackberries and Elderberries are good for Hay Fever symptoms
Fruits such as Blueberries, Blackberries and Elderberries are good for managing Hay Fever symptoms
  1. Reduce histamine levels by eating plenty of magnesium and methionine-rich foods. Good sources are sunflower seeds, nuts, oats and leafy greens.
  2. Try to eat cabbage, onions and apples regularly. These foods are good sources of quercetin, a natural antihistamine.
  3. Eat plenty of purple berries,  such as blueberries, blackberries and elderberries,  for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Try making a refreshing fruit smoothie with frozen blueberries, or add a spoonful of elderberry jam onto your morning cereal.
  4. Drink peppermint tea. Peppermint contains a substance called rosmarinic acid, a powerful antioxidant that blocks production of allergy-producing leukotrienes.
  5.  Ensure you’re getting plenty of immune-boosting nutrients. Vitamin B6 and zinc play an important role in balancing histamine levels and supporting the immune system.
  6. Increased sunlight in the summer results in higher levels of pollution in urban areas, causing the immune system to react. A good all-round antioxidant supplement can increase your resistance. Try one that includes vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc.
  7. For stubborn symptoms, the amino acid methionine, in combination with calcium, can act as an effective anti-histamine. Try taking 500mg l-methionine and 400g calcium twice daily.
  8. Food intolerances can sometimes make symptoms worse. Try limiting common culprits such as wheat and dairy products for a couple of weeks to see if symptoms begin to improve.
  9. Omega-3 oils are one of nature’s best anti-inflammatory nutrients. Include oily fish in your diet at least twice weekly, and supplement with a good quality fish oil or flaxseed oil.
  10. Anti-inflammatory bromelain, a nutrient found in pineapple, is thought to be helpful for hayfever sufferers.  Try fresh pineapple, but be sure to eat the core too, as this part is highest in bromelain. Bromelain is available in supplement form. For best results, I often recommend taking bromelain alongside quercetin.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

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Rising Pollen Counts – Bad News for Hay Fever Sufferers

Pollen counts are continuing to rise across Europe, predicting months of misery for unprepared hay fever sufferers. A new study has found that pollen counts are rising by around 3% each year in urban areas, and that this rise may be caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (1).

Lead researcher Annette Menzel, from the Technical University of Munich, calls this the “carbon dioxide effect”. Plants use carbon dioxide to thrive, just as we use oxygen. She explains, “we know from experiments in the real world and in climate chambers that CO2 does promote the amount of pollen that trees produce.”

Hay Fever sufferers may find supplementation useful
Hay Fever Sufferers may find probiotics and quercetin & bromelain supplements useful in managing symptoms

In hayfever sufferers, pollen triggers the release of histamine, an inflammatory chemical that causes sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, and an increase in mucous production. The condition is often treated with anti-histamine drugs and decongestants such as nasal sprays.

For those looking for a more natural way to relieve symptoms, there are a number of nutrients that act as anti-histamines. For example, Vitamin C enhances the action of the enzyme histaminase, which breaks down histamine. Quercetin, a natural bioflavonoid, reduces the activity of mast cells – the cells that release histamine and other inflammatory messengers. It is present in onions, shallots and garlic and is available in supplement form. Quercetin is often taken alongside bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples that may help reduce the swelling and inflammation associated with hay fever.

A more holistic way of approaching the condition might be to support the immune system, altering the way that your body’s immune cells respond to pollen. This would help to prevent histamine from being released in the first place. Preliminary research suggests that probiotics may be an effective way of doing this.

For example, a recent double-blind study found that probiotics decreased levels of IgE (an antibody that stimulates histamine) in hay fever sufferers. Researcher Dr Kamal Ivory claims that the probiotic appeared to change the body’s response to grass pollen, “restoring a more balanced immune response” (2).

The pollen study suggests that allergic conditions such as hay fever will continue to rise. Indeed hay fever seems to be increasingly common across Europe. In the UK alone, there has been a 33% increase in allergic rhinitis in recent years (3). Taking steps now to alleviate the condition and to support your immune system could help you to avoid unpleasant symptoms and enjoy the summer months ahead.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. Ziello et al (2012) Changes to Airborne Pollen Counts across Europe. PLoS ONE, 7 (4): e34076

2. Ivory et al. (2008) Oral delivery of Lactobacillus casei Shirota modifies allergen-induced immune responses in allergic rhinitis. Clinical & Experimental Allergy 38(8):1282-9

3. Hippisley-Cox et al (2007) Primary care epidemiology of allergic disorders: analysis using QRESEARCH database 2001-2006 QResearch June 2007.

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Tips for hay fever season

Hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis, is thought to affect around 25% of the UK population.  Symptoms of hay can include sneezing, watering and itchy eyes, a runny nose, headaches and skin rashes.  These symptoms occur when membranes lining the nose and eyes become aggravated and inflamed by airborne pollen. The pollen triggers a type of immune cell, called a mast cell, to release the chemical histamine in those membranes. The histamine then stimulates an inflammatory reaction in the body which produces the characteristic symptoms.  Conventional treatment for hay fever is based on antihistamine pills, anti-inflammatory medication such as steroid nasal sprays, and decongestants such as ephedrine.  There are also a number of natural strategies that can offer very real relief from the symptoms of hay fever.  I have previously written a lot about these strategies here

In a two part (part I & part II) blog on hay fever I mention how Nettle, Bromelain, Butterbur, Vitamin C and the long chain omega 3 fatty acids may be useful to hay fever sufferers.  I have also written about how probiotics (good bacteria) may also be useful during hay fever season.

Vitamin D may help with Hay Fever
Vitamin D has been heavily researched over the last 3 years and it is thought that many people in the UK do not get enough of this vital nutrient

Recently (1,2) it has been suggested that vitamin D may play a role in the prevention of hay fever/allergic rhinitis and/or the easing of symptoms.  As readers of the blog will know vitamin D has been heavily researched over the last 3 years and it is thought that many people here in the UK (and all over the world) do not get enough of this vital nutrient.  Vitamin D plays a role in the immune system and it seems as though having good vitamin D status can help to reduce inflammation in the body which would be helpful to hay fever sufferers where inflammation is implicated.  There is laboratory evidence which supports links between vitamin D deficiency and allergic diseases.  Evidence is emerging that vitamin D may potentially be used to help augment the immune response that occurs in certain conditions such as hay fever.  However, more evidence is needed before any conclusions can be drawn or advice given on vitamin D supplementation specifically for hay fever.  It is possible to have a blood test from your doctor to evaluate your vitamin D status.  It is always advisable to check with a medical doctor prior to undertaking any new supplement regimen, especially if you intend to use a vitamin D supplement containing more that 2000iu daily dose.

As mentioned at the start of this post there is evidence to suggest that probiotics may be useful in the treatment and management of hay fever.  Recently (3,4,5,6) further research has been published which shows that specific probiotics may become valuable tools in the prevention and management of a whole host allergic diseases including hay fever.  It is also interesting to note that antibiotic use in children in their first 2 years of life has been associated with anincreased risk of hay fever. As well as destroying the bacteria that cause illness in the body antibiotics also kill the healthy bacteria that live in the digestive system.  Friendly probiotic bacteria have been shown to positively impact the immune system, which is responsible for allergic and inflammatory responses in the body, so a prebiotic and probiotic supplement may be useful to anyone who has been recently exposed to antibiotics or as an immune boosting aid.  The problem is that there are so many probiotics on the market and they vary in their quality, further research is needed to clarify which strains of bacteria are of most use.

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.  You can search for registered professionals in your area via the following links:

Registered Nutritionists

Registered Nutritional Therapists

(1)Akbar NA & Zacharek MA.  2011.  Vitamin D: immunomodulation of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and chronic rhinosinusitis. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg.  2011 Apr 15. [Epub ahead of print]

(2) Searing DA & Leung DY.  2010.  Vitamin D in atopic dermatitis, asthma and allergic diseases. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am.  30(3):397-409.

(3)Kalliomäki M et al.  2010.  Guidance for substantiating the evidence for beneficial effects of probiotics: prevention and management of allergic diseases by probiotics.  J Nutr.  140(3):713S-21S

(4)Nagata Y et al.  2010.  Improvements in seasonal allergic disease with Lactobacillus plantarum No. 14. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem.  74(9):1869-77.

(5)Koyama T et al.  2010.  Development and pilot evaluation of a novel probiotic mixture for the management of seasonal allergic rhinitis. Can J Microbiol. 56(9):730-8.

(6)Wassenberg J et al 2011.  Effect of Lactobacillus paracasei ST11 on a nasal provocation test with grass pollen in allergic rhinitis. Clin Exp Allergy. 41(4):565-73.

Written by Ani Richardson

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