Natural Hay Fever Remedies
Rates of hay fever are rocketing, but could you ease your symptoms using natural hay fever remedies?
Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is estimated to affect 1 in 4 people in the UK alone. In fact, the UK has one of the highest incidence rates of hay fever in the world, and this rate is expected to continue to increase rapidly1.
The symptoms of hay fever can range from mild sneezing and itchy eyes, to severe symptoms that interfere with the normal life of the sufferer. In some cases, hay fever can lead to life threatening breathing difficulties, especially in asthma patients. There are a wide range of pharmaceutical options for hay fever sufferers, including cetirizine, acrivastine, loratadine and chlorphenamine. These medicines vary in effectiveness from person to person, but many sufferers find that they provide only temporary or partial relief from symptoms and they can cause significant drowsiness.
Natural hay fever remedies
Hay fever symptoms are the result of an allergic response in the body. Although it is unclear why it happens, the immune system of hay fever sufferers perceive pollen particles to be a threat and initiate a response. White cells produce an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE), a compound that is normally produced when the body is mounting an attack against pathogens such as viruses. IgE triggers the release of a range of chemicals, including histamine, from mast cells in the eyes, throat and nose. The release of histamine causes those cells to become inflamed and irritated, and this is what causes the traditional hay fever symptoms.
There are four ways that we can use diet as a natural hay fever remedy:
1. Eat anti-histamine foods
Quercetin is a natural anti-histamine that is being researched for its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic effects2. Quercetin is found naturally in various vegetables, in particular in onions, broccoli, asparagus and green peppers. Quercetin can also be found in apples, berries, wine and green tea.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) has been demonstrated to have an anti-histamine3 and anti-inflammatory effect, making it a valuable compound in natural hay fever remedies. Natural sources rich in vitamin C include kiwis, berries, mangoes, cabbage, potatoes, peppers, leafy greens and broccoli. Although tomatoes and citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C, these should be avoided due to their ability to increase histamine levels in the body.
2. Eat anti-inflammatory foods
Chronic inflammation is increasingly thought to be at the root of many illnesses. In hay fever sufferers, acute inflammation is caused by the release of histamine into the cells, but underlying chronic inflammation could be contributing to the severity of the reaction. As part of a long-term, natural hay fever approach, it is important to take steps to reduce this underlying chronic inflammation.
Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory4 that has also been shown to have anti-allergenic effects. It is thought that the gingerol compounds present in ginger inhibit mast cell activation and therefore play a role in preventing some of the symptoms of hay fever5.
The active compound in turmeric, curcumin, is a well-known anti-inflammatory6 and has been shown to have an anti-allergenic effect by inhibiting mast cell activation7,8.
3. Avoid mucous producing foods
Avoiding mucous producing foods can help to lessen the severity of mucous related symptoms. Although dairy is commonly thought to increase mucous production, scientific studies have not confirmed this9. Refined sugar, excessive amounts of sat and preservatives may all increase mucous production so eating fewer processed foods will help as part of an anti-hay fever diet.
4. Avoid natural histamine sources
Yeast, dried fruit, processed meat, matured cheeses, nuts, alcohol and processed snacks and sweets containing chemical additives are all natural sources of histamine10. Citrus fruits, bananas, shellfish, eggs, strawberries and chocolate are not high in histamine generally, however they can trigger the body to release stored histamine and should therefore also be avoided.
Eat: apples, berries, onions, broccoli, asparagus, green peppers, green tea, leafy greens, potatoes, cabbage, mangoes and kiwis.
Avoid: refined sugar, excess salt (e.g. in ready meals), citrus fruits, tomatoes, yeast, dried fruit, processed/smoked meat, mature cheese, alcohol and highly processed foods.
Using food compounds as natural hay fever remedies will not be as fast acting or effective as over-the-counter medication, in the short term. However, there is evidence to suggest that increasing the amounts of natural anti-histamines and anti-inflammatories in the diet; and avoiding sources of histamine and mucous producing foods, can help to lessen the severity of hay fever in the long term.
A dietary change now could start to reduce your hay fever symptoms this year, but could also noticeably reduce your allergic rhinitis in the years to come. An additional advantage of natural hay fever remedies is that they do not have the side-effects of over-the-counter medications.