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Diet and Hay Fever Symptoms

Hay fever is also called 'seasonal 'rhinitis' which is the term given to the inflammation of the nasal lining caused by an allergic trigger causing symptoms such as watering eyes, blocked nose and coughing. Allergic rhinitis results from the body making allergic antibodies (IgE) after exposure to the allergens. In sensitive individuals this may lead to the release of chemical medications, including histamines.

The rise in hay fever

Hay fever is seasonal and generally occurs in the UK between March and September. Tree pollen usually rises around mid-March and subsides mid-May, grass pollen rises around mid-May and will stick around until mid-July whilst weed pollen covers between June and September, this is significant period of the year spent in discomfort for those that suffer with hay fever.

Around 400 million people worldwide have hay fever and Allergy UK have suggested that the number of people with hay fever in the UK has tripled over the last 30 years. This rapid increase in hay fever and more noticeable symptoms has been associated to climate change, air pollution and intense pollen seasons, none of which we can unfortunately manage. We can however consider how our diet impacts how experience hay fever symptoms.

Regarding diet, there are foods that may be beneficial to include during hay fever season and foods that could be beneficial to avoid.

Foods to include

Some foods can be regarded as anti-histamines due to their action on either the amount or activity of histamines. Targeting the culprit chemical is a logical way t minimise suffering.

  • GARLIC - Garlic contains quercetin, a flavonoid, as well as vitamin C and potassium. All of these nutrients may help to minimise inflammation resulting from hay fever and therefore reduce symptoms.

  • GINGER - Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that help to minimise the symptoms of hay fever.

  • ONIONS - In the same way as garlic, onions contain the flavonoid quercetin which may reduce the inflammation caused from allergies. Onions, also contain vitamin C and biotin which are essential nutrients for immunity and supporting health.

  • HONEY - Now this may seem like an unusual one since honey can contain pollen, however studies have suggested that regular consumption of honey can actually be beneficial to those with hay fever. Due to the small amount of pollen actually found in honey, regular consumption of this throughout the year can help boost the body's immunity to it, in turn reducing the sensitivity.

  • SALMON or Oily Fish - Salmon and other oily fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which as suggested in a significant amount of literature, can reduce inflammation, including allergen inducted inflammation.

  • PROBIOTICS - P probiotics are all over the place at the moment, being renowned for their benefits in gut health and digestion, but this may not be their only benefit. Probiotics, and specifically those containing histamine degrading strains, Bifidobacterium infantis and lactobacillus plantarum, may also help with hay fever symptoms due to increasing the body's T-cells and therefore overall community. Probiotics are available in a range of supplements but can also be found in natural food sources including kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and miso.

  • HERBAL TEAS - As has already been highlighted in some of the above foods, flavonoids can and have been suggested to reduce inflammation and these are abundant in a number of herbal teas including green tea, ginger tea, and even peppermint tea. Herbal teas have been associated with a multitude of other benefits including aiding with digestion, and good-skin health so including more of these in your diet may have more benefits than just helping to manage your hay fever symptoms.

  • WATER - I'm sure we all are aware that we should be drinking around 6-8 glasses of water daily according to The Eatwell Guide but how many of us are actually doing this? Well, if you are not currently doing this, and experiencing hay fever symptoms, now may be the time. Drinking enough water has been associated with minimising hay fever symptoms as it helps to clear residual pollen and maintain overall hydration and health.

What foods should I consider reducing?

  • CHOCOLATE - Many foods will contain a certain amount of natural histamine. Chocolate unfortunately is one of these and may cause a heightened experience of symptoms. Some studies suggest that white chocolate contain slightly less histamine than its milk and dark alternatives, but all chocolate is likely to contain some histamine.

  • DAIRY - Dairy from foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese can not only contain high levels of histamine but also contributes to the production of mucus worsening the experience of symptoms.

  • FEMENTED FOODS - Fermented foods have become increasingly popular over the last decade due to their popularity in gut health and digestion. Fermented foods include things such as pickles and kimchi and although these have been associated with gut health, they also can unfortunately contain relatively high levels of histamines.

  • WHEAT - Due to the origin of wheat crops and its processing consuming wheat-based products including some breads and pastas may worsen hay fever symptoms, specifically amongst those with a grass pollen allergy.

  • REFINED SUGARS - Refined sugars cause a spike in blood sugar which stimulates the production of adrenaline. The creation o adrenaline can further initiate the production of histamine worsening hay fever symptoms.

SUMMARY

Everybody is different and will experience different symptoms when struggling with hay fever which also means that everybody will also likely experience different levels of relief from changes in diet. Trial and error is probably the phrase of choice here, if hay fever symptoms are affecting you everyday in life and antihistamines just don't seem to be cutting it then try some of the above dietary changes which may help ease and alleviate symptoms

In the meantime, if you are experiencing some severe symptoms you might want to consider some quick changes. Changing your clothes and showering when you come in may help as you can continue experiencing symptoms from residual pollen held om your skin and clothing, this goes for your pets too, so it might be worth wiping your pets with a damp cloth after being outside. Although your rooms may be stuffy after a night's sleep, especially in summer it might be worth reconsidering opening your windows. Circulating pollen is generally higher in the mornings so if you can hang on until later in the day to open any windows, this may help you manage symptoms.


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