Category Archives: hay fever

Effective, Natural Hay Fever Relief for the Worst Allergy Season in Decades

The long winter and the late start to spring have resulted in the highest pollen counts in decades. These extraordinarily high levels of pollen are now wreaking havoc on hay fever sufferers throughout the UK, with urban area residents suffering the most.[1]

Antihistamines are the conventional treatment for managing hay fever symptoms, such as sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose. Seasonal allergy symptoms are the result of immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) detecting the pollen ‘antigens’ and activating mast cells and T helper cells (specifically type 2 or Th2 cells) [2] which is known as a histamine response. Antihistamine drugs focus on reducing the immune response to harmless pollen particles and eliminating the aggravating symptoms of hay fever.

There are natural alternatives to antihistamine drugs, which are often full of chemicals and may only offer a short-term solution for allergies. Various nutrients, which have antihistamine actions in the body, include Vitamin C [3] and Quercetin [4]. Cherries and dark berries, such as elderberries, have high concentrates of both vitamin C and quercetin. Other types of phytonutrients provide anti-histamine benefits as well. For example, oleic acid and cyclo octasulfur compounds are potent natural anti-histamines and are both found in reishi mushrooms. [5]

Lifestyle practices are helpful in reducing hay fever symptoms.  A few strategies include:

Bee Prepared Daily Defence can help guard against the symptoms of Hay Fever
  • Closing windows at night and in early mornings when the pollen counts are high.
  • Using barrier methods such as balms to block pollen from around the nose.
  • Boosting immunity via diet or supplementation.
  • Using a nettie pot to clear nasal passages.

Finally, for long term management and to help prevent severity of seasonal allergies, it is best to start addressing immune imbalances months before the onset of allergy symptoms, if not year round. A great ingredient which helps support immune function and modulation is bee propolis.

Bee propolis, a resin which bees collect from buds of plants & trees, contains a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients and is high in phenolic compounds, potent antioxidant substances which have anti-inflammatory properties [6]. Propolis has been found to effectively modulate the immune system without over stimulating it [7] and is a great natural remedy for hay fever.

Quality supplementation is key to help relieve allergy symptoms naturally. An effective combination for immune modulation and antihistamine supplementation would be Bee Prepared Immune Support Max Strength. Bee Prepared Max Strength contains therapeutic doses of bee propolis extract, elderberry extract and reishi mushroom extract and is a high quality source of natural antihistamine and immune supporting agents to help aid in the prevention and treatment of hay fever, naturally. The Bee Prepared Daily Defence is also helpful for helping manage seasonal allergies.

Why not try to manage your allergies the natural way this season? The combination of the above actions may be helpful in supporting long-term treatment for hay fever. Seasonal allergies can be managed naturally with quality foods, supplements as well as lifestyle changes.


1.  Dillner, L., 2013. Hay fever remedies: how to prepare for the worst season in decades. The Guardian, [online](Last updated 14:45 on 28th April 2013) Available at: [Accessed on 30 May 2013]

2.  Nauta, AJ., et al. 2008. Mechanism of allergy and asthma. European Journal of Pharmacology. May, 13:585(2-3), pp.354-60.

3.  Johnston, CS., Martin LJ, Cai, X., 1992. Anti Histamine effect of supplemental ascorbic acid and neutrophil chemotaxis. Journal of American Nutrition, Apr 11(2), pp. 172 – 6.

4.  Schwartz, A., Sutton, S.L., Middleton E., 1982. Quercetin inhibition of the induction and function of cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Immunopharmacology. April 4(2), pp.125-38.

5.  Trigos, A., Medellin, JS., 2011. Biologically active metabolites of genus Ganoderma: Three decades of myco-chemistry research. Revista Mexicana De Micologica, 34, pp. 63-83.

6.  Sulaiman, GM, et al., 2011. Chemical characterization of Iraqi propolis samples and assessing their antioxidant potentials. Food and Chemical Toxicology, an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association. September,49(9), pp.2415-21.

7. Bachiega, TF, et al., 2012. The effects of propolis and its isolated compounds on cytokine production by murine macrophages. Phytotherapy Research. September, 26(9), pp. 1308-13.


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.


  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

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


Treating and Managing Hay Fever With Natural Products

Seasonal allergies affect millions of people in the UK each year with aggravating symptoms such as sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, running nose and itchy skin. These hay fever symptoms are the result of the immune system’s reaction to harmless pollen particles in the same way it would respond to harmful antigens. In this immune response, immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) detect the pollen ‘antigens’ and activate mast cells and T helper cells (specifically type 2 or Th2 cells). The increase of Th2 cells and the mast cell histamine release in the mucosa and peripheral blood result in inflammation, hay fever symptoms and atopic conditions.

UnBEElievable Bee Products
UnBEElievable Bee Products including MAX Strength and DAILY Defence contain many of the ingredients that helps to support you in the Hay Fever season

Conventionally, hay fever is managed by using anti­-histamine drugs to reduce symptoms. However, a more holistic and curative approach to treating hay fever is to modulate the immune system, reduce the histamine response and to focus on reducing inflammation. Certain nutrients and natural remedies can be helpful in achieving these therapeutic goals and in creating a long term, effective treatment for hay fever and other atopic conditions.

Elderberry has been used medicinally for centuries in the UK and in Europe. Elderberry is widely known for its effective use in treating viral infections. Elderberry is also rich in Vitamin C and the bioflavonoid quercetin, both of which are powerful antioxidant and anti-histamine nutrients. These actions can help to reduce mast cell histamine response and reduce mucosa inflammation. Recent clinical studies have found elderberry effective at treating allergic sinusitis and rhinitis.

Reishi mushroom has been used historically as an immune tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Scientific researchers in the western world are now beginning to understand the active constituents that are responsible for the mushroom’s immune supporting actions. Reishi contains the bioflavonoid triterpene which inhibits histamine release. It also contains oleic acid and cyclooctasulphur compound which have antihistamine actions. In addition to these anti-­-allergic actions, reishi contains antioxidant and anti-­inflammatory phytonutrients which may be helpful in reducing hay fever symptoms.

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid found naturally in algae. Studies have shown that astaxanthin is effective in modulating the immune system, specifically siting its role in balancing the Th1 and Th2 cells. By rebalancing these T helper cells, astaxanthin aids in reducing the hypersensitivity to pollen allergens. Astaxanthin is also a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient. These actions may help to reduce the symptoms related to the inflammation of the mucosa.

Bee propolis contains a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. It also has significant immunomodulating and anti-­inflammatory actions. Propolis is one of nature’s most potent anti-­oxidant substances, exceeding Vitamin E in anti-­oxidant actions. Propolis also has been found to effectively modulate the immune system without over stimulating it. The combination of these actions may be helpful in creating a long term treatment for hay fever.

Written by Erin McCann NT mBANT from UnBEElieveable Health and Being-Balanced


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


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.


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


Hay fever update – a newly published study

Researchers at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, have just published a study(1) indicating that probiotics (‘good’ bacteria) may help to keep hay fever symptoms at bay.

The researchers of this small study wanted to investigate whether the ‘good bacteria’ Lactobacillus casei Shirota (found in many probiotic supplements, yoghurts and drinks) played a role in modulating the symptoms of hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis).  Hay fever sufferers were given a milky drink, with or without the good bacteria, each day for five months.  The scientists kept track of, and compared the changes in, the immune system of the participants by collecting blood samples before, during and after grass pollen season.  

It was found that the probiotic being tested changed the way the body’s immune cells responded to grass pollen.  The hay fever sufferers that had been drinking the probiotic containing drink had lower levels of the chemicals (interleukin 5 and 6 and interferon-gamma) partly responsible for the production of hay fever symptoms in the body.  They also had higher levels of specific antibodies (immunoglobulin G and E) which are associated with playing a protective role in allergy reactions.

The authors of the study conclude that “These data show that probiotic supplementation modulates immune responses in allergic rhinitis and may have the potential to alleviate the severity of symptoms.”

This was only a small study and the authors plan to do further work to further elucidate the role that probiotic ‘good’ bacteria may play in changing the immune status of hay fever sufferers.  As I mentioned in my post dated 19th May the good/friendly bacteria in our digestive system have been linked to positively enhancing the action of our immune system through their production of a variety of substances.  This study adds to the growing body of evidence which suggests that the bacteria in our digestive systems may be very important in affecting our overall health.

(1) Ivory K et al.  2008.  Oral delivery of Lactobacillus casei Shirota modifies allergen-induced immune responses in allergic rhinitis. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008 May 28. [Epub ahead of print]

Written by Ani Kowal


Natural ideas for hay fever sufferers – Part II

The symptoms of hay fever may well be irritating and even distressing at times.  As I said in Part I I do not suffer from the condition so this may well sound easy for me to say, but trying not to get too upset and stressed about your hay fever could be a great help.  This is important to mention because stress(1) has been linked to the production of inflammatory agents in the body and could hence further aggravate your symptoms thus starting up a vicious cycle.

As discussed previously hay fever is an inflammatory condition.  A natural agent that would be highly useful in mediating the inflammatory reactions in the body is the long chain omega 3 fatty acid, Eicosapentaenoic Acid or EPA.  As well as having a general anti-inflammatory role EPA may actually help to prevent hay fever.  A study in 2003(2) demonstrated that individuals with a high intake of dietary EPA had a 55% reduction in their incidence of hay fever compared with persons who consume low amounts of dietary EPA.

EPA is naturally found in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout and sardines.  As well as aiding the production of potent anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body it is also beneficial to the health of the heart, brain, eyes, nerves, bones, digestive system and skin (and I am sure I will be mentioning omega 3 fatty acids in future blog postings!).  Many of us do not eat these types of fish regularly (two portions per week is usually recommended) and hence a daily fish oil supplement (providing around 300mg of EPA and 200mg DHA) may be very useful for the prevention of hay fever and even to promote optimal health and wellbeing.  For vegetarians and vegans flaxseed oil (1000mg daily) can provide omega 3 fatty acids in the form of alpha linolenic acid which the body then bio-converts to EPA (the long chain form). 

One other natural remedy which can be helpful in the treatment of hay fever is the herb Butterbur (Petasites hybridus). This herb seems to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity and anti-allergic properties.   The British Medical Journal published a study(3) which compared Butterbur supplementation with the conventional antihistamine drug cetirizine (prescribed in the UK under the name Zirtek).  Both treatments were equally effective in reducing hay fever symptoms.  However, the drug cetirizine tended to cause side effects such as fatigue and drowsiness.  The authors of the study concluded that:  “The effects of butterbur are similar to those of cetirizine in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis…..Butterbur should be considered for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis when the sedative effects of antihistamines need to be avoided”.

As an interesting point antibiotics used in children in their first 2 years of life have been associated with a 2-3 fold increased risk of hay fever(4).  As well as destroying the bacteria that cause illness in the body antibiotics also kill the healthy bacteria that live in the digestive system.  As mentioned in a previous posting these friendly bacteria have been shown to positively affect 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 (see post dated 19/05/08 for more detail about pre- and probiotics for immune health).

And finally, a study last year (5) found that almost 50% of hay fever suffers seem to be highly sensitive not only to typical allergy triggers like grass, tree pollens, dust and animal hair but also to things like cold air, perfumes, cigarette smoke and household cleaning products.  So, if you find that you often suffer from symptoms like itchy eyes and stuffy or runny nose you may find it useful to take a product containing vitamin C and bioflavonoids (as discussed in Part I) all year around as a preventative, anti-allergic measure.

(1) Maes M et al.  2000.  In humans, serum polyunsaturated fatty acid levels predict the response of proinflammatory cytokines to psychologic stress.  Biol Psychiatry.  47(10):910-920.
(2) Nagel G et al.  2003.  The influence of the dietary intake of fatty acids and antioxidants on hay fever in adults.  Allergy.  58(12):1277-1284.
(3) Schapowal A.  2002.  Randomised controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis.  BMJ.  324:144-146
(4) Wickens K et al.  1999.  Antibiotic use in early childhood and the development of asthma, hay fever and eczema. Clin Exp Allergy.  29:766-771
(5)Shusterman D and Murphy MA.  2007.  Nasal hyperreactivity in allergic and non-allergic rhinitis: a potential risk factor for non-specific building-related illness.Indoor Air.  17:328-333

Written by Ani Kowal


Does the thought of summer make you sneeze? Natural ideas for hay fever sufferers – Part I

No excuse is needed for me to get outside and enjoy the warm weather!  I relish spending as much time as possible walking in the countryside amongst the grasses and flowers.  However, it is estimated that up to 25% of the UK population suffer from hay fever, and for affected individuals spring and summer signify the seasons of sneezing, sniffles and stress.

Symptoms of hay fever, which is also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, can include sneezing, watering and itchy eyes, a runny nose, headaches and skin rashes.  This can seriously affect outdoor enjoyment at a time when everyone else seems to be bathing themselves in the blissful warmth.

These irritating and upsetting 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. However, an increasing number of people are not content with taking such medications on a long term bases.  Fortunately, there are a number of natural strategies that can offer very real relief from the symptoms of hay fever.

Vitamin C and the bioflavonoid (plant compound) quercetin (naturally rich sources include apples, onions and green tea) both seem to act as natural anti-histamines in the body and supplementation may be useful in helping to control hay fever symptoms(1-6).  500mg of vitamin C taken 3 times a day throughout the hay fever season should prove helpful together with around 300-400mg of quercetin 2-3 times daily.  It is a good idea to take the two supplements together as bioflavonoids appear to protect and enhance the action and absorption of vitamin C (naturally vitamin C is found as a complex molecule bound up with various flavonoids).

Bromelain, an enzyme found naturally in pineapples, also seems to be useful in dampening down the bodily immune response associated with hay fever symptoms(7-9).  Supplements which contains both Quercetin and Bromelain in a capsule form are available and may be useful to try in addition to a vitamin C.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a natural herbal remedy which has been traditionally used to treat allergic conditions such as hay fever.  It seems to exhibit anti-allergy properties.  In a double-blind scientific study(10), freeze-dried extract of stinging nettle leaf led to a slight reduction in symptoms of hay fever, including sneezing and itchy eyes. In practice individuals seem to find that nettle in combination with vitamin C and bioflavonoids works well at controlling the worst of their hay fever symptoms and supplements combining all of the aforementioned agents in one product are available.  Taking such a supplement throughout the spring and summer months may well bring some welcome relief.

Remember to check back soon for more advice in Part II

(1)Balabolkin II et al.  1992.  Use of vitamins in allergic illnesses in children.  Vopr Med Khim.  38:36-40.
(2)Bucca C et al.  1990.  Effect of vitamin C on histamine bronchial responsiveness of patients with allergic rhinitis.  Ann Allergy.  65:311-314.
(3)Cathcart RE.  1981.  Vitamin C, titrating to bowel tolerance, anascorbemia, and acute induced scurvy.  Medical Hypotheses.  7:1359-1376
(4)Holmes HM et al.  1942.  Hay fever and vitamin C. Science.  96:497
(5)Ruskin SL.  1945.  High dose vitamin C in allergy. Am J Dig Dis.  12:281
(6)Thornhill SM et al.  2000.  Natural treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis.  Alternative Medicine Review.  5(5):448-454.
(7)Gaspani L  et al.  2002.  In vivo and in vitro effects of bromelain on PGE(2) and SP concentrations in the inflammatory exudate in rats.  Pharmacology.  65(2):83-86.
(8)Hale, L. P. et al.  2002.  Bromelain treatment alters leukocyte expression of cell surface molecules involved in cellular adhesion and activation.  Clin Immunol.  104(2):183-190.
(9)Ito C et al.  1979.  Anti-inflammatory actions of proteases, bromelain, trypsin and their mixed preparations.  Folia Pharmacol Japan.  75:227-237.
(10)Mittman P.  1990.  Randomised double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis.  Planta Med. 56:44-47

Written by Ani Kowal