Going through hay fever hell? Experts give their advice on how to beat it naturally
One in four people suffer from allergies and this number is steadily increasing in the UK and globally. Allergies can be defined as a damaging immune response by the body to a substance such as food, pollen or dust, to which some people become hypersensitive. If the substance causing the allergy is not removed, then the immune system remains activated in what is called a ‘type 2 immune response’ (Th2). This is an important immune response that helps you to produce antibodies. However, sometimes your immune system has an unwarranted Th2 response to something in your environment, and you end up with the unpleasant symptoms of allergies such as a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes - and just a general all-round feeling of discomfort. Here are our expert’s top tips on how to beat it naturally…
Avoid dairy. Nutritionist Sally Wisbey says: “If you are suffering from seasonal allergies, it’s important to reduce inflammation in the body and to modulate the immune system. It’s best to avoid dairy (which can be mucus forming and aggravate the respiratory tract and sinuses, encouraging a blocked nose and headaches) and sugar (which can compromise immunity) and to increase intake of foods such as fruit, fish, nuts & seeds.
Get fruity. “Vitamin C acts as a natural anti-histamine by reducing the amount of histamine your body produces in response to an allergen. Berries and citrus fruits are bursting with antioxidants and immune boosting vitamin C.” says Naomi. “Pineapple contains bromelain, a natural enzyme that has been shown to reduce hay fever symptoms. Apples and cherries are also great sources of quercetin, a bioflavonoid that acts as a natural antihistamine. If you struggle to eat enough fruit throughout the week, then I recommend FOGA Plantshakes which have antioxidant high blends - all you need to do is add water - their FOGA Berry Plantshake range would be particularly good if you are eating to beat allergies.”
Use natural ingredients such as bee propolis. “If you’d rather not take anti-histamines everyday, try using a natural remedy such as bee propolis and olive leaf which are both full of immune supporting nutrients and have been shown to help reduce allergy symptoms and inflammation” says Sally. “Unbeelievable Health’s Bee Prepared Daily Defence Immune Formula combines propolis, olive leaf as well as elderberry, which contains high amounts of quercetin which can also help to prevent allergies, plus it is best to take elderberry in a supplement form which does not contain sugar like some elderberry syrups can.”
Take medicinal mushrooms. Mushrooms have anti-allergy actions and are immunomodulatory, meaning that certain types can be used to bring the immune system back into balance,” says Dr Naomi. “This can help to reduce inflammation and address allergies at their root cause. Medicinal mushrooms contain potent compounds that offer anti-inflammatory properties, mainly beta-glucans and triterpenes.” Here are the best mushrooms for allergies..
Royal Sun mushroom (available from Hifas da Terra as Mico Sol) has the highest content of beta-glucans among well-known medicinal mushrooms plus it also acts as an anti-histamine remedy and has anti-inflammatory effects.
Reishi (Hifas da Terra’s Mico Rei) has antioxidant, anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory effects and works to modulate inflammation by reducing histamine production. Reishi is one of the most potent anti-inflammatories and has a special affinity for connective tissue making it particularly useful in allergies of the throat and nose mucosa. “Its effects have been compared to those of hydrocortisone but without the side-effects and its triterpenes also have anti-histamine properties.” stated Dr Esteban Sinde Stompel, Mycologist and Co-Founder of Hifas da Terra.
Lion’s Mane (Hifas da Terra Mico-Leo) is most used for gut healing. “It is very important in the management of a leaky gut, which can be at the core of many allergies” says Dr Esteban. An overload of toxins and large proteins passing through a too permeable intestine into the bloodstream can overwhelm the immune system causing an allergic response in the body. Lion’s mane is an effective anti-inflammatory with a high content of polysaccharides, B vitamins and minerals, it contains compounds that have been shown to repair and regenerate the lining of the intestinal tract and stimulate optimum functioning of gut flora microbes. Optimised gut flora function improves nutrient absorption, leading to better tolerance against antigens and prevention of future immune issues.
Make a herbal solution. Lara Hughes of Wholistic Health is a clinical nutritionist and naturopathic practitioner. She says “The use of medicinal herbs dates back over 60,000 years, and herbal medicine has since been widely used in combating a variety of health concerns, including seasonal allergies like hay fever. A great herbal remedy draws on the medicinal properties of Elderflower, Eyebright and Nettle leaf. Most have seen Elderflower / Elderberry syrups in stores, but the majority of us don’t appreciate the restorative nature of the plant. Elderflower has various properties, including anti-catarrhal (prevents build-up of mucus) and anti-inflammatory, so is a great friend during hayfever season. The flowers have a drying effect on mucous membranes in both the lungs and nose, so are great for preventing a runny nose, whilst the berries contain a host of antioxidants (including more Vitamin C than citrus fruits) so can soothe sore lungs and inflamed nasal passages, and promote breathing. Eyebright is also a great herb of choice in hayfever. Like Elderflower, it has astringent properties, containing over 50% tannins which reduce mucous secretions. It also contains the flavonoid quercetin which has potent anti-histamine properties (reduces the degranulation of mast cells, a major trigger for the swollen, itchy and inflamed symptoms present in hayfever). It has affinity for the eye, so acts to specifically reduce the characteristic watery and itchy eyes accompanying hay fever. Like Eyebright, Nettle contains various flavanols, including quercetin, which have potent anti-histamine properties. Nettle also has the added benefit of actively blocking histamine receptors, so is a great all-rounder for reducing itchiness and swelling. Nettle also contains a host of antioxidants which dampen inflamed membranes, including those in nasal passages, so can be helpful in aiding breathing. These 3 herbs are a fantastic supportive measure in hayfever. Ideally, start this routine in March, a few months before hayfever season, for preventative properties. A good recipe for Hayfever & Rhinitis is 1 part Elderberry, 1 part Elderflower (Sambucus nigra), 1 part Eyebright Leaf (Euphrasia officinalis), 1 part Nettle Leaf (Urtica dioica) (2 tsps each per cup). Drink 3 cups daily as an infusion by leaving herbs to steep in boiling water for 10-minutes. For higher potency, bring to boil and simmer for 5-minutes for full infusion.”
Take an igA supplement to boost your immunity. “Immunoglobulin IgA is our body’s first line of defence against infections and external pathogens, and is made throughout the body’s mucosal membranes, including in the digestive tract, respiratory tract, in saliva and in tears,” says Lara. “It’s also found in breast milk, to help inoculate babies against foreign pathogens. Levels of IgA can be impacted by various things, including poor nutrition, chronic stress, poor sleep, certain genetic conditions, and being formula fed as an infant, all of which are associated with atopic conditions such as Hayfever. Research has also found that low IgA is linked with increased allergies and airway hyperresponsiveness, including hay fever symptoms.That being said, a good preventative and supporting measure during Hayfever season is taking an IgA supplement. I like to utilise Allergy Research Group’s Laktoferrin with Colostrum, which contains various immunoglobulins including IgA. Being mindful of the impact of poor sleep and chronic stress on IgA, and subsequent worsening Hayfever symptoms, might also improve your symptoms. In the run-up to hayfever season, ensure you get your 8-hours sleep, and manage stress effectively.”