Summer is certainly coming! Great news for most of us, as we welcome the lengthening of the days, unfortunately for others this means the start of the dreaded hay fever season. Personally I have never suffered from this condition, but I have some family members who do and I know it can be really miserable. Hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen causing the release of histamine, which causes inflammation around the nose and eyes. Characteristic symptoms include red, itchy eyes, and a runny or congested nose, and can include a cough and an inflamed throat.
The conventional medical approach to hay fever generally consists of three types of medication: antihistamines, which block the release of histamine, which is responsible for swelling and congestion; steroid-based nasal sprays; and decongestants such as ephedrine. However, dietary changes and natural supplements may significantly reduce or even eliminate the need for conventional medication, which can have undesirable side effect or simply not work for some sufferers. There is also a warning on many conventional nasal sprays since they can damage the mucus lining of the nose – but the good news is there are very effective chemical-free alternatives!
We get a lot of enquiries about alternatives remedies to hay fever at this time of the year in Organico. There are no silver bullets and finding a suitable remedy takes time and effort but we often find that individuals with hay fever also suffer from food sensitivities as well. When these foods are successfully identified and eliminated, the hay fever very often gets much better. It is thought that the reactions to food ‘sensitise’ the tissues in the eye and/or nose, making it more likely that pollen will trigger an allergic reaction there.
Any food may give a problem, but many people find that dairy products are the main culprits. You might like to try eliminating milk, cheese, ice cream and yoghurt (butter is usually a well-tolerated food) from your diet to see what this effect this has. Our experience is that this often helps clear a hay fever problem. If you are looking for an alternative milk for your coffee or tea, a good one that we have discovered this year is the Barista Oat milk from Oatly – it makes a wonderful flat white! You will need to make sure, however, that you are getting enough calcium; lots of leafy green veg will help with this as well as eating whole grains rather than white (in terms of flour, pasta, rice and so on).
Allergic reactions can also be a result of weakened immune system due to stress, so one approach is to stabilise the immune system to reduce or prevent the development of unnecessary antibodies. Taking the herb echinacea for a few months can help to reset the immune system, which might be a good idea if you suffer from hayfever symptoms every year.
One of the first supplements to try if you are expecting your hay fever symptoms to kick in soon is vitamin C. Vitamin C has natural antihistamine activity in the body and there is some evidence that it can help control hay fever symptoms. One to two grams of powder taken as a drink through the day is the best way of taking it – the best thing is to get yourself a stainless steel bottle and make a vitamin C ‘drink’ every morning to take to work or school. There are a couple of good brands of vitamin C powder available but Biocare is a very high quality and trustworthy one.
Several customers have reported benefits from taking a supplement called Quercetin. This ‘bio-flavonoid’ compound appears to reduce the release of histamine from immune system cells known as ‘mast cells’. In practice, quercetin does seem to help a proportion of hay fever sufferers.
A.Vogel have an excellent hay fever remedy called Pollinosan, which contains various homeopathics to treat a range of hay fever type symptoms, such as sneezing, itchy nose, scratchy throat and burning eyes. As homeopathics work immediately you can take Pollinosan as soon as symptoms appear; it can be taken safely alongside other medication and the Pollinosan nasal spray is very good for symptoms that are all centered on the nose. If you don’t want to take a tablet, or you have a person under 12 with hayfever, try the Luffa Complex drops, as it’s the same remedy but can be given at a dose of one drop per year of age over two-years-old.
And if your eyes get sore and red a good natural eye drop is A.Vogel’s eye drops with Hyaluronic Acid and Eyebright. These can be used at any time of the day or night and for both weepy and dry eyes.
Another helpful habit to take up is nasal washing – call in and have a look at our different options of Neti Pots that can help reduce nasal symptoms and help a cough if caused by a nasal drip.
Local honey is another traditional ‘remedy’ many people find helpful; by eating it regularly the idea is that you will build up a tolerance to the pollen that is common to your area (as the bees will have gathered this pollen, as they make the honey). I’m not sure that this is supported by research but anecdotally a lot of people have found it beneficial. And if you manage to find a raw, unheated honey produced locally then there really isn’t any risk – other than to your waistline if you eat too much! And Nettle tea has been used for years as a traditional herbal remedy for, among other things, hay fever symptoms. The best thing to do is pick fresh nettles and steep them in hot water and drink it – they will all be coming up soon!
Organico Shop Cafe and Bakery is open Monday to Saturday from 9am – 6.15pm (the Cafe from 9 – 6pm). Please call us on 027 51391 or visit us online at www.organico.ie for more information (or to buy online – we have an extensive online shop and free shipping over €45). None of this information is intended to replace medical advice, so if you are on medication or are concerned at all about your health please consult a medical practitioner before taking any foods in medicinal quantities.