If you are sensitive to pollen and grass seeds, and typically sneeze your way through spring, you might want to start preparing for this season. It has been reported by the Bureau of Meteorology that July 2016 has been the wettest in seven years. According to the experts wet winters result in increased grass growth and pollen in the air. What this means for those who suffer from allergies is that they can expect an increase in irritating hay fever symptoms over the next few months, peaking through October and November.
While there is little we can do about the high pollen count, we can take action now to reduce the severity of and possibly prevent symptoms. Allergic sensitivities cause inflammatory damage to the sensitive mucous membrane linings of the respiratory tract, leaving you vulnerable not only to the annoying symptoms of hay fever and asthma, but also to viral and bacterial infections. The function of healthy mucous membranes is to protect against invasion by pathogens which cause colds and flu, and the development of sinusitis and bronchitis. It is therefore important to support the health of both the respiratory and immune system during this time. Your hay fever prevention plan should include the following:
FOODS TO BOOST IMMUNITY, REDUCE MUCOUS AND FIGHT INFLAMMATION
- Maintain a nutrient dense diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, oily fish, nuts and seeds and reduce, or avoid, intake of mucous producing and inflammatory foods such as dairy products, grains and sugar.
- Stay well hydrated to help reduce inflammation and thin mucous. Drink lots of liquids: water, herbal teas, broths, vegetable juices and soups.
- Probiotic and fermented foods help to cultivate a healthy microbiome which helps to reduce reactivity to allergens.
SPECIFIC NUTRIENTS TO PROTECT YOUR MUCOUS MEMBRANES AND REDUCE HISTAMINE LEVELS
- Nutrients such as vitamin A, C, E and zinc help to maintain the health and integrity of the mucous membrane linings of the respiratory system, and help to repair and heal when allergies cause irritation and inflammation to sensitive tissues. Ensure that you are getting enough by eating five to seven servings of fresh, brightly coloured fruits and vegetables a day, and consider supporting with a good quality nutritional supplement.
- Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, is both anti-inflammatory and mucolytic, breaking down tough mucous and helping it to be expelled.
- Vitamin C, bioflavonoids and quercetin, a powerful antioxidant found in onions, apples and other fruits and vegetables, help to decrease histamine levels and reduce allergy symptoms.
- Vitamin D supports immune function and deficiency in this nutrient has been associated with chronic rhinosinusitis.
HERBS TO REDUCE ALLERGIC SENSITIVITY AND RELIEVE SYMPTOMS
- Anti-allergenic herbs such as Albizia, Perilla seed, Baical Skullcap and Rosemary help to reduce reactivity.
- Horseradish and garlic are powerful decongestants.
- Herbal and homoeopathic formulations containing Eyebright or Allium cepa (onion) help to relieve symptoms of burning, or itchy, and watery eyes.
- Nasal sprays containing Grapefruit seed extract or homoeopathic Euphorbium deliver relief directly to the nasal passages, soothing and lubricating mucous membranes and relieving stuffiness.
- Herbs such as Elderflower, Golden seal, Goldenrod and Marshmallow help to unblock the sinuses, reduce a runny nose and soothe inflamed mucous membranes.
- Anti-allergic and anticatarrhal herbs may be combined with other pleasant tasting herbs and consumed in warm and soothing teas.
Regular saline nasal washes using a neti pot are recommended by Ayurvedic practitioners to gently irrigate the nasal passages and flush out allergens such as pollen and dust to reduce the reactive triggers. Inhalation of essential oils such as Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Lavender, Peppermint and Wintergreen can help to unblock and soothe nasal passages, as well as protect against infection.
Finally, it is advisable to reduce time spend outside during the worst part of the season. Many weather websites report on pollen counts and outdoor activities might be planned around this. If you must be outside, wash hair, change clothes, and irrigate sinuses to remove as many pollens and seeds as possible, and reduce allergic triggers.
Adv Dip Naturopathy & Certified Food & Spirit Practitioner at Taste Organic Turramurra
- Cook, T 2003, ‘Effective Herbal Treatment of Allergies’, in Modern Phytotherapist Vol 7, No.2
- Hechtman, L 2012, ‘Sinusitis and Allergic Rhinitis’, in Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Churchill Livingston Elsevier, Chatswood, NSW
- Osiecki, H 2010, The Nutrient Bible, 8th ed, AG Publishing, Queensland, Australia