By Bianca Maricchiolo, B.H.Sc (Naturopathy), MNHAA, BYCA Life Coach
Any one that suffers from hayfever will tell you how frustrating it can be. At present, 1 in 5 Australians suffer from allergic rhinitis.1 Spring and summer time spells bad news for seasonal hayfever sufferers, as the pollen count from trees, grasses and weeds are higher. This reaction triggers the immune system to stimulate the inflammatory response, releasing histamine, which causes swelling of the nasal passages, mucous production, sneezing, itchy eyes, nose and throat, and watery eyes. It can be as debilitating as it is frustrating, leading to a lower quality of life, sleep problems, eye strain, allergic conjunctivitis, sinus infections and asthma. Many people however, may have an increased sensitivity to dust mites, pet hair or mould, in which perennial allergic rhinitis affects them all year round. 2,3
Identify and avoid your triggers
It may sound self-explanatory, but I know how hard it can be to do this, especially when you want to enjoy the outdoors. Watching the pollen count is important for those suffering from seasonal hayfever, and limiting your exposure by staying indoors can help. Pollens tend to be higher during September-March, and worse on windy days.4 For those sensitive to pet hair, it is best to keep your pets outdoors as much as possible, especially whilst you sleep. Regular vacuuming and dusting are also essential to get rid of excess pet hair and dust mites on floors and furniture.5 Dehumidifiers are great to prevent mould build up, and air purifiers are also valuable as they reduce exposure to allergens in the home.
How complementary medicines can help
As holistic healthcare practitioners, we are here to help. We assess the best treatment solution by assessing your primary immune response, looking at your allergic picture, and if there are any recurring cycles of infection. Reducing the histamine response, and reducing swelling of the mucous membranes through natural medicines help reduce the frustrating itchiness, irritation and congestion. There are wonderful and effective complementary medicines shown to do this, such as Pirella,6 Nigella seed, Albizia, Golden seal and Baical skullcap. These are traditionally used as anti-inflammatories and anti-allergics to treat allergic rhinitis, dermatitis and asthma, by blocking the common pathway for the release of histamine and leukotriene B4.7
Other common treatments include supplementation with Vitamin C and bioflavonoids such as quercetin, to reduce histamine release.8 Learning to manage symptoms before they take hold is also key, which is why many people see relief in using supplementation before hayfever season begins. Now is the best time to start to review the best treatment option for you.
How your diet can help
Foods to avoid
It is important to limit your intake of mucous forming foods such as dairy products and refined sugar. Dairy consumption increases the production of mucous in the respiratory tract and can exacerbate nasal congestion for hayfever sufferers. Now is the time to try alternatives to dairy such as almond, rice, coconut and oat milks. Sugar is a systemic inflammatory agent and further suppresses healthy immune function. Try to limit your intake as much as possible.
POWER UP YOUR PLATE!
Foods high in Vitamin C
Vit C is a natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory. It also supports healthy immune function, is essential for repair, and helps support and maintain connective tissue. Whilst abundant in fruits and vegetables, the highest food sources include strawberries, kiwifruit, berries, broccoli, apples, citrus fruits, asparagus, dark green leafy vegetables and red capsicum.
Foods high in Antioxidants
Bioflavonoids are antioxidants that maximise the benefits of Vit C by inhibiting its breakdown in the body, and are also potent anti-histamines and anti-inflammatories.
Whilst found in most fruits and vegetables, is it beneficial that the highest food sources are also the highest sources of Vit C. Herbs and spices such as oregano, parsley and thyme, and teas such as green and red (rooibos) are also great choices to help top up your flavonoid intake. Quercetin – a flavonoid, is a natural anti-histamine helping to reduce hayfever symptoms. Highest sources include onions, pineapple, apples, citrus fruits, garlic, kale, red grapes, berries, cherries and parsley.
Bioflavonoids are often concentrated in the skins of fruits and vegetables so make sure you don’t reach for the peeler!
Carotenoids are the plant pigments responsible for the red, yellow and orange colour of fruits and vegetables. It indicates high levels of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for healthy mucous membranes throughout the respiratory tract. It also has an important role in healthy immune function, and reduces inflammation. Great sources include carrots, pumpkin, apricots, mango, papaya and sweet potato. Green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach are also great sources of Vit A (the high chlorophyll content of green leafy veggies masks the orange colour so it doesn’t come through).
Garlic and Horseradish
Both are powerful nasal decongestants, helping to treat the symptoms of hayfever. Horseradish is best fresh, so grate some of the root onto vegetables and meats, or use the paste. Garlic will also help prevent secondary infections due to its natural antibiotic effect, and it is high in quercetin.
Licorice and Nettle teas – these will help relieve respiratory tract inflammation, helping to ease congestion and itchiness.
Ginger and honey – helping to also ease congestion and acts as a natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory, whilst soothing an itchy throat. Ginger is also great fresh in juices and used in cooking.
Remember a good medicinal tea is strong in taste and colour – Ensure you steep your tea for approximately 8 minutes. This will ensure the active constituents will be in higher concentration in the tea, giving you better relief from symptoms.
If you struggle with hayfever and allergy symptoms, why not make an appointment with a Naturopath for more information on supplementation and the best treatment strategy for you.
- Is it allergic rhinitis (hay fever)? Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy, 2015. Viewed 16 August 2017, http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergic-rhinitis-hay-fever-and-sinusitis/allergic-rhinitis-or-hay-fever
- Types of allergies: allergic rhinitis. American college of allergy, asthma and immunology, 2014. Viewed 16 August, http://acaai.org/allergies/types/hay-fever-rhinitis
- Management of allergic rhinitis. Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy, 2004 . Viewed 16 August, http://www.allergy.org.au/images/stories/aer/infobulletins/pdf/Management_of_Allergic_Rhinitis.pdf
- Pollen Allergy. Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy, 2015 Viewed 16 August, http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergic-rhinitis-hay-fever-and-sinusitis/pollen-allergy
- Manage your asthma: triggers. Asthma Australia, 2016. Viewed 16 August, http://www.asthmaaustralia.org.au/sa/about-asthma/manage-your-asthma/triggers/adelaide-pollen-count
- Oh HA, Park CS, Ahn HJ, et al. Effect of Perilla frutescens var. acuta Kudo and rosmarinic acid on allergic inflammatory reactions. EBM 2011;236(1):99-106
- Bone, K. Herbs for the treatment of Allergies. A Phytotherapists perspective. No.62 Dec 2005.
- Otsuka H, Inaba M, Fujikura T, et al. Histochemical and functional characteristics of metachromatic cells in the nasal epithelium in allergic rhinitis: studies of nasal scrapings and their dispersed cells. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1995;96:528-536.