Spring has sprung! A time of warmer weather, baby animals and hay fever.
For people who suffer from hay fever, spring is a time of dread. You can’t leave the house without wearing goggles and a mask! Fortunately, hay fever isn’t a prison sentence and there are many tools that can help to keep you in the great outdoors!
But first of all, what is hayfever?
It’s technical name is allergic rhinitis which means inflammation of the nose caused by an allergen. These allergens are commonly pollen from trees, grass, hay but may also be mould, dust or animal dander (it can be a different cause from person to person).
When we breathe in the allergen – whichever it may be – it comes in contact with immune cells in our nostrils and reacts with an immunoglobulin E (IgE) molecule on the surface of these cells. For most of us a minimal reaction occurs – i.e. nothing happens and our immune cells stay on the couch.
For people who suffer from hay fever, their immune cells yell “OMG IT’S YOU” and start to party. This overreaction causes histamine to be released which sets off an inflammatory cascade leading to the following symptoms which can range from mild to severe.
- Swelling, congestion
- Watery eyes
- Stuffed ears
- Nasal drip
- Difficulty breathing
How do we stop the hay fever hoedown?
The first thing to do is try to identify what is causing the ruckus.
As mentioned above, common culprits are pollen from trees, flowers and grasses, dust, mould and animal dander. Once this is known, it can be avoided and symptoms can be limited.
However, in this day and age we can’t always stay inside under the covers (as much as we’d like to). Luckily, there are many tools in our arsenal that can be helpful to reduce and limit the symptoms of hayfever.
A release of histamine is a major cause for the symptoms of hay fever, hence the use of pharmaceutical antihistamines, however there are natural antihistamine options that may also be effective.
Foods high in vitamin C include dark leafy greens, kiwifruit, broccoli, citrus fruits, berries and papayas.
Maritime pine bark
Known for its antioxidant activity, quercetin has potent anti-allergic properties which includes inhibition of histamine release and a reduction of pro-inflammatory chemicals that cause hay fever symptoms.
Quercetin is found in high amounts in apples, berries, Brassica vegetables, onions, shallots and black tea.
The ingestion of a variety of different probiotic strains have been shown to reduce symptoms in both children and adults with allergic rhinitis by reducing the allergic responses to a variety of different allergens. In addition to this a strain used on its own, Lactobaccilus casei, reduced the number of hay fever episodes in preschool children.
This information suggests that supporting the microbiome with a variety of probiotics may be helpful in managing hay fever symptoms, hence foods such as yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi are all worth considering before hay fever season!