Tag Archives: Allergy

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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Are you allergic to winter?

The cold winter months can actually increase allergic symptoms in some people, spelling months of misery. Summer allergies are often spotted and tackled early by sufferers. Winter allergies however are less well-known, and are often mistaken for colds or flu, meaning that they are not dealt with effectively.

For those who suffer during the colder months, it is important to know the difference between an allergy and a cold, to understand the most common triggers and to take action to eliminate the troublesome symptoms.

Spot the difference! Is it an allergy or a cold?

Sneezing
Is it just a common cold or is it an allergy?

Many people believe that they are suffering with a common cold when in fact they are experiencing allergy symptoms. After all, coughing, sneezing and a runny nose can be symptoms of either ailment. However, a cold should not last more than 10 days. If your symptoms persist over weeks or months, then it is far more likely that you are suffering with an allergy. Other allergy symptoms include itchy eyes or nose, watery eyes and dark circles under the eyes.

Winter allergy triggers

Spending more time indoors, with the heating on full blast, can mean weeks of misery for allergy sufferers. Common allergy triggers during this time can be:

  • Mould. Moist conditions caused by indoor heating can lead to the growth of mould. Bathrooms and kitchens are particularly susceptible to this problem. Steamy showers in small bathrooms can also be a culprit. If you notice condensation on your windows during the cold weather, then look out for mould.
  • Dust mites. Ducted heating indoors encourages dust to circulate throughout the house. Extra bedding and long-stored winter clothing can also be a breeding ground for troublesome dust mites.
  • Animals. During the winter time, it is more likely that both you and your pet will spend more time indoors. Contrary to popular belief, allergies to pet fur are uncommon. It is more likely that you are allergic to certain proteins present in pet dander and saliva.

Winter Allergy Action Plan

There are a number of natural measures that may help to fight off persistent allergy symptoms at this time of year.

  • Vacuum and dust more often during the winter months.
  • Wash pillows and sheets in hot water every week.
  • Use allergy-proof covers on mattresses, pillows and duvets.
  • Natural nasal sprays such as those containing salt can lessen inflammation and help keep the nasal passages clear.
  • Watch out for mould, especially in moist areas such as the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Clean the filters in your air-conditioning and heater units.
  • Try an air filter to reduce allergens in your home.
  • Don’t assume sniffles are the result of cold viruses, especially if your symptoms last more than a couple of weeks. Check with your GP if you are unsure.
  • Anti-inflammatory nutrients and natural anti-histamines such as Vitamin C and omega-3 fish oils may be helpful. For allergic symptoms, I often recommend a combination of potent anti-inflammatory nutrients quercetin and bromelain. You should always check with your GP before taking any new supplements, especially if you are already taking prescribed medications.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

Image courtesy of “evah” (Sebastian Smit).

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