This month, our Sussex health expert takes a look at something that affects many of us, namely hayfever.
Are you one of the 16 million Britons who suffer from it?
Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is a seasonal allergic reaction to a trigger that is typically only present for part of the year, most commonly the spring. The allergic reaction is most commonly to pollen, trees, weeds, and grasses. Hay fever is the most common of all the allergic diseases – about 15% of the population in industrialised countries suffer from it. The UK has one of the highest rates of hay fever in the world with one in four people in the UK suffering from it, which equates to about 16 million people.
Different microscopic substances get into the nose and cause the body to produce antibodies and release histamine. The histamine then irritates the upper respiratory passages, making them swell and producing the typical hay fever symptoms. Symptoms include:
- runny nose
- nasal congestion
- itching of the nose and eyes
- dark circles under the eyes
- loss of smell and/or taste
- post-nasal drip
Spring hay fever is caused by pollen from trees, which can start pollinating any time from January to April, depending on the climate and location. Trees that are known to cause severe allergies include oak, olive, elm, birch, ash, hickory, poplar, sycamore, maple, cypress and walnut, and of course, we have a number of those in Sussex.
Grass pollen is typically the main cause of late spring and early summer hay fever. Levels of pollen tend to be highest from early morning to mid-morning, from 5am to 10am.
People who suffer with hay fever will invariably have a genetic predisposition to excessive release of histamine. Therefore, minimizing the intake of foods that are naturally high in histamine will automatically reduce the symptoms of hay fever. A list of high histamine-containing foods can easily be found on the internet, some examples are:
- alcohol and other fermented beverages.
- fermented foods and dairy products, such as yogurt and sauerkraut.
- dried fruits.
- processed or smoked meats.
People with lactose intolerance may notice that they feel more congested after consuming dairy products.
Studies also suggest that some people with allergies to grass pollens may also react to tomatoes, peanuts, wheat, apple, carrot, celery, peach, melon, eggs and pork; whilst people with ragweed allergies may also react to foods in the Cucurbitaceae family, such as cucumber and melon.
An elimination-and-challenge diet can be conducted to identify any food sensitivities – this process should be undertaken under the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
Nutritional supplement treatment options
Quercetin – an antioxidant that belongs to a class of water-soluble plant substances called flavonoids. Quercetin is thought to prevent the release of histamine from immune cells called mast cells. Quercetin is found naturally in certain foods, such as apples (with the skin on), berries, red grapes, red onions, capers, and black tea.
Hesperidin – also a bioflavonoid that, like Quercitin, inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells.
Pine Bark extract (Pycnogenols) – a rich source of flavonoids called proanthocyanidins. It has been shown to directly block histamine release, lowering the “trigger” for inflammation in response to exposure to allergens.
Beta-carotene – a member of the plant pigments called carotenoids. A lack of carotenoids in the diet is thought to promote inflammation in the upper respiratory tract. Good sources of carotenoids include apricots, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, kale, butternut squash, and collard greens.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body.
Black Seed Oil – known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties. It has been shown to reduce nasal congestion, runny and itchy nose and sneezing caused by hay fever.
Probiotics – supplementation with a specific probiotic strain (Bifidobacterium longum strain BB536 – found in Proflora 5) during the pollen season has been shown to significantly decrease symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and nasal blockage associated with hay fever.
Botanical treatment options
Nettle leaf – has been shown to lead to a slight reduction in symptoms of hay fever—including sneezing and itchy eyes.
Article contributed by Dr Tracy S Gates, DO, DIBAK, L.C.P.H., Consultant, Pure Bio Ltd. Copyright © Pure Bio Ltd 2021. All rights reserved.
Pure Bio Ltd are a leading UK supplier of the highest quality PURE nutritional supplements, based in Horsham, West Sussex. Visit www.purebio.co.uk for all your nutritional supplement needs.