Are you one of the 10-30% of UK adults who suffers with hay fever?
Whilst some of us can get away with the odd sneeze, the rest are popping antihistamines daily. Year on year we make progress in tackling symptoms, but generally prevention is better than cure and small changes made in preparation of the season can significantly help. But, as we always forget how bad it is until it arrives, let’s see if there is anything we can do now.
What is hay fever?
Symptoms are an allergic reaction to pollen, they include:
- Runny nose,
- Itchy nose,
- Watery eyes,
- Dry, tickly cough,
- Sinus pressure/pain,
- Wheeziness, or shortness of breath,
- Blocked nose,
- Difficulty breathing,
- Loss of sense of smell,
An allergic reaction is an immune response. The immune system is like a radar that is always scanning to check that everything is in order. When it finds a threat, it deploys its army to deal with it. Our immune system keeps us alive; it is the thing that decides whether a pregnancy survives after all,but sometimes it can mount a response to what would normally be innocuous.
There are a number of reasons for this, and oftentimes existing allergic conditions can mean that we are more likely to suffer more. For example, hay fever is often associated with conditions like asthma or eczema.
During an immune response, inflammation occurs; that redness, heat or swelling and of course an increase in mucous production (runny nose). Inflammation is a necessary response, but it starts to cause problems when it is chronic; in cases of hay fever, we can have these symptoms for months! So, in managing symptoms,including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet is a great place to start!
Essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and 6 can help to reduce inflammation and are involved in the production of anti-inflammatory immune molecules. The immune response is like the command centre; it sends the army out with pro-inflammatory work orders to get the job done, but then it must send anti-inflammatory orders to stop it again. Fatty acids can help in these messages. Great sources include flax seeds, avocados, and walnuts.
B vitamins are important compounds in breaking down the molecules that promote inflammatory responses – histamine is one of these molecules. If you are slower at breaking down these molecules, they can hang around and prolong the response. We want the response to be efficient, with no loitering! B12 is found in meat, eggs and fish; folate is found in broccoli and leafy greens such as kale, spinach and peas!
Probiotics have also been seen to modulate inflammatory responses, especially in allergic disease like asthma, eczema and hay fever. Be mindful, fermented foods do act as probiotics, but they can also be high in histamine, so if you are suffering with an acute episode, it is likely not the best time to add in some sauerkraut.
You can also make some lifestyle changes to help:
- Invest in an air purifier,
- Close windows when pollen count is high,
- Avoid histamine rich foods like cured meats and aged cheeses (and alcohol – many wines contain sulphites which also can result in hay-fever like symptoms).
Fivaday also contains certain phytochemicals which possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and natural antihistamine properties. Head on over to our ingredients page to learn more.