WHAT CAUSES HAY FEVER AND ARE THERE ANY LIFESTYLE FACTORS THAT CAN CONTRIBUTE TO IT?
In people who do not suffer from hay fever, when a pollen enters their bodies their immune system recognises that there is no reason to start immune reaction because pollen is not a pathogen and can’t cause any major problem in the body. However, since the nature of the immune system of those who suffer from seasonal allergies is somewhat changed, and oversensitive, as soon as pollen grains enter their organisms, their immune system strangely treats them as something that may threaten the body. As a result white blood cells initiate immune reaction, and inflammation by producing antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE) to attack the threat (pollen), at the same time stimulating release of histamine which is responsible for the hay fever symptoms.
It is not clear why immune system behaves in such a strange and abnormal way yet there are many reasons to believe that it is associated with various genetic, lifestyle, nutritional, and environmental factors.
WHAT IS THE REASON HAY FEVER CASES SEEM TO BE ON THE RISE?
Spring allergy such as hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is a very common problem and have increased substantially over recent decades. There are more than 12.5 million people over 20 in Britain suffering from hay fever and the number is expected to rise to 13 million by the end of 2020. Scientists are not sure how to explain the rise, but climate change, new types of infections, and the introduction of new species of exotic plants into the country, are believed to contribute to the fact. Some experts believe that increasing hygiene standards and spending too much time in more sterile internal environments make immune systems less able to tolerate possible irritants such as pollen. Other factors include the faster pace of the urban lifestyle and growing number of people deficient in essential nutrients such as vitamin D, zinc or magnesium, that lead tohigher levels of stress and increases oversensitivity of the immune system, making people more susceptible to allergies.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO TO PREPARE FOR THE HAY FEVER SEASON?
The following lifestyle and dietary factors have been found to be very effective in reducing oversensitivity of the immune system and helping maintain its normal function thus eliminating or alleviating hay fever symptoms:
- Spend more time outside in nature walking or cycling and practicing deep breathing.
- There are reasons to believe that taking locally collected bee pollen for at least three months (beginning in January or earlier) before hay fever season starts may help alleviate symptoms. Ingesting local bee pollen long before allergy season starts may trick the immune system making it used to pollen and less sensitive thus preventing or reducing reactions to pollen from local plants. Unfortunately, there have been cases of severe allergic reactions to bee pollen too. For this reason if you decide to try this natural remedy start from few grains and if there is no allergic reaction increase slowly until you take 1 full teaspoon 3 times a day before meals. All adults who are allergic to bee products as well as children below 2 should not take it. It is very important to use only good quality pure bee pollen which was locally collected as bee pollen sourced from another environment may not be effective.
- Before season starts try going on healthier diet and lifestyle to eliminate any inflammations as they increase oversensitivity of the immune system and risk of hay fever. At the same time try avoid or at least significantly reduce consumption of products containing refined sugar, chocolate, gluten, high-fructose/glucose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners (you can use xylitol, erythritol, and stevia leaf), dairy products (especially cheese and pizza), margarines and refined oils (high in pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids), and stimulants (including caffeine).
HOW CAN I MINIMISE SYMPTOMS DURING THE SEASON?
You can minimise the symptoms by implementing principles from the previous sections and add the following for better results:
- Every day consume foods containing quercetin polyphenols such as red onion as quercetin helps lower levels of histamine, thus reducing symptoms.
- According to one study, breathing exercises have a therapeutic role in the treatment of hay fever.
- Before and during the season try to think positive, control stress, and calm down the nervous system as it is very closely connected to the immune system and negative emotions exacerbate hay fever symptoms. You can do it by using meditation, regular exercise, healthy diet, and herbal and nutritional supplements such as 5-HTP, Chamomile, L-Theanine, Magnesium, B complex, Zinc, etc.
- Eat more unprocessed, uncooked, unrefined, and anti-inflammatory foods such as high in omega 3 flaxseed, chia seed, or walnuts, fresh raw pineapple (source of enzyme Bromelain which has an anti-inflammatory effect), and raw vegetable juices and salads. According to Michael Greger, M.D, fresh fruits and vegetables can even treat hay fever!
- A high intake of soy (only organic and non-GMO) and soy isoflavones (supplements) may be associated with a reduced prevalence of allergic rhinitis.
- High dietary intake of seaweed, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus may be associated with a decreased prevalence of allergic rhinitis.
WHAT LIFESTYLE FACTORS MAKE SYMPTOMS WORSE?
The following lifestyle factors may exacerbate the hay fever symptoms: Indoor life and lack of sufficient contact with nature, being overexposed to pollution, smoking or being exposed to cigarette smoke, toxic overload, sedentary lifestyle, shallow breathing leading to hypoxia (low levels of oxygen in the body), psychological stress, pessimism, fear, nervousness, low mood, and irritability, dehydration.
ARE THERE ANY NUTRITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS THAT HELP CONTROL HAY FEVER SYMPTOMS?
Any products that may impose negative influence on nervous and immune system or trigger allergic reaction should be completely eliminated from diet or at least avoided during and before hay fever season starts. That includes gluten, dairy products, foods containing refined sugar, stimulants (any alcohol, caffeine, etc.), chocolate, cheese, pizza, processed foods, spirit vinegar, or spicy foods.
- Avoid trans-fats (margarines, etc.) and pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids (most plant oils). Use only raw organic coconut oil (can be used also for cooking) and cold-pressed flax oil (for salad dressing, not for cooking).
WHAT HERBAL & NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS CAN BE USED BEFORE & DURING THE SEASON TO HELP ME COPE WITH HAY FEVER?
- Supplements containing quercetin help lower levels of histamine, thus reducing symptoms. Every day you may also eat red onion as it contains some quercetin polyphenols, but it may not be enough to significantly lower histamine levels. Quercetin may interfere with certain medications, including antibiotics, cyclosporine, etc.
- Quercetin and its derivatives have phosphodiesterase inhibitory activity equal to or superior to the drug AWD12-281 currently undergoing clinical trials for treating asthma and COPD >
- Quercetin will be a good candidate for the supplement on the management and treatment of allergic diseases >
- According to a 2014 study, “Aged Black Garlic suppresses the allergic response”. And since the mechanism behind allergy and hay fever is virtually the same, Black Garlic should also help those who suffer from hay fever, which as a matter of fact, is a form of allergy.
- Bromelain (an enzyme extracted from pineapple) has an anti-inflammatory effect that lasts a few hours. People suffering from hay fever found that putting a powder from one 500mg capsule under the tongue (to more quickly absorb the enzyme into the bloodstream) would alleviate symptoms and make them breathe easier within 30 minutes.
- MSM relieves symptoms in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis
- Star Flower Oil or Evening Primrose Oil (both high in Gamma-linolenic acid) has been known for its anti-inflammatory effect and it is used as a traditional treatment for hay fever in some cultures. To experience a beneficial effect you need at least 1000mg a day.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin) and vitamin B12 have been found to be low in hay fever patients. Both vitamins are important as they help lower histamine levels and reduce wheezing.
- Propolis may be effective in the relief of symptoms of allergic rhinitis through inhibition of histamine release
- Spirulina consumption significantly improves the symptoms of allergic rhinitis >. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, spirulina stops the release of histamine that causes symptoms.
- Research has shown that L-arginine may have a beneficial effect on airway hyper-responsiveness and airway inflammation in hay fever.
- Vitamin B-6 significantly improves symptoms of bronchial hay fever and reduces the need for bronchodilators and cortisone.
- Pycnogenol administration is effective for better control of signs and symptoms of allergic hay fever and reduced the need for medication. Pycnogenol improves allergic rhinitis symptoms when supplementation is started at least 5 weeks before the onset of the allergy season
- Magnesium supplementation significantly improved severe acute hay fever in children.
- Beta-glucan improves symptoms and the Th1/Th2 balance in patients with allergic rhinitis >.
- Bifidobacterium longum relieves clinical symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) >.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus can alleviate the symptoms of perennial allergic rhinitis >.
- Vitamin D deficiency is higher among children with asthma, allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, acute urticaria, and food allergy >.
- Curcumin (from Turmeric) has an anti-allergic effect through modulating mast cell-mediated allergic responses in allergic rhinitis >.
- Ginger and constituent 6-gingerol could be used the prevention or alleviation of allergic rhinitis symptoms >.
- Pycnogenol has multiple suppressive effects on allergic response >.
- Stinging Nettle may be beneficial due to its antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Inhaling vapour of defused essential oils, including eucalyptus, lavender and peppermint oil helps open up the nasal passages and lungs.
- Other herbal and nutritional supplements that are known to be beneficial in reducing hay fever symptoms include: Chlorella, Astragalus, Zinc, Aloe Vera Juice, Vitamin C, Omega 3, and Bioflavonoids.
Written by Slawomir Gromadzki, MPH
SOURCES & REFERENCES
Any information or product suggested on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition. Never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Consult your primary healthcare physician before using any supplements or making any changes to your regime.