It’s coming up to that time of year again for allergy sufferers. Spring is here, blossoms are on the trees, the weather is starting to warm up, summer is on its way…
But you’re dreading it, because this all spells hay fever and other allergic irritations, making it difficult to enjoy the outdoor barbecue and beach weather like everyone else.
As you’ll know if you suffer from seasonal allergies, hay fever usually manifests as sneezing, itchy or running nose, itchy eyes and throat, and sometimes coughing and shortness of breath. If you’re prone to asthma or eczema, these are often exacerbated too. Allergies are an auto-immune response, and the symptoms are the result of your body’s efforts to expel what it perceives as a threatening substance. The immune system produces a natural histamine, which is useful when we are exposed to harmful toxic substances, but when the body interprets relatively harmless substances in the environment as threatening, it produces this disproportionate immune reaction.
Typical hay fever triggers are pollen, household dust, pet hair, feathers and mould. If you’re a veteran hay fever sufferer, you’ve probably tried taking antihistamine tablets, which suppress the production of histamine and seem to work to varying degrees for different people.
To support the healthy, normal response of your immune system you may also want try some of these home remedies. They won’t all work for everyone, so try one at a time or a combination, to see what works best for you.
• Honey – make sure it is unpasteurised (raw) and locally produced, because that means it is made using the same pollens that are giving you grief. Start with small amounts daily before the hay fever season sets in, as local honey can act like an antidote, building up your resistance to those pollens in your environment.
During the height of the season, if you find it helps, you can increase the amount you consume. You could also try bee pollen, starting off with small amounts to monitor the effects.
• Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine and an immune system booster. It’s an effective antioxidant, so it supports your immune system’s normal responses. You can take it as a supplement or include it in your diet by eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, e.g. citrus, kiwifruit, guava, capsicum, broccoli, tomatoes and black currents (most fruit and vegetables contain vitamin C, and fresh is best).
• Nettle tea helps relieve inflammation in the respiratory tract and ease nasal congestion and itchiness.
• Green tea is an antioxidant, offering support to the immune system, and also blocks the production of histamine.
• Omega 3 fats – found in fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, trout and herring, or in fish oil supplements – are naturally anti-inflammatory, and can help reduce the severity of allergy symptoms if consumed regularly.
• Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, which can be used in cooking, smoothies, or you can make a tea with turmeric, fresh ginger root and honey, and a pinch of black pepper (this helps its absorption). It gives food a bright yellowish colour.
• Flavonoids (contained in vitamin C rich fruits, many brightly or darkly coloured fruits and vegetables, as well as green tea). Flavonoids suppress histamine production and also increase the absorption of vitamin C.
• Garlic is a natural anti-inflammatory, gives a boost to the immune system and acts as a decongestant. It is also antimicrobial.
• Spicy foods contain compounds such as capsaicin, quercetin and sulphur, which reduce inflammation and help open up the breathing passages.
• Apple cider vinegar can be drunk several times a day to help reduce allergic reactions. Dilute a couple of tablespoons in a small glass of water, or you can mix it with lemon and honey to get the benefits of all three.
• Support the immune system with a probiotic supplement and/or fermented foods, such as kimchi/sauerkraut, yoghurt, kefir, kombucha. The ‘friendly’ bacteria these contain play an important role in healthy immune function. They help to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, which is increasingly considered to be one of the cornerstones of a healthy immune system.
• Some allergy sufferers also report that avoiding dairy can help to stop hay fever symptoms getting out of control.