Hay fever season is once again upon us and our poor old eyes, noses and throats are sadly taking a battering. Hay fever symptoms now affect an estimated 49% of the British population, with Australia, New Zealand and USA not far behind in the ratings. In Britain alone, we now pay a staggering £166 million each year for our essential over the counter eye lotions, nasal sprays, gargles and anti-histamines. Hay fever is big business and the products associated with providing allergy relief have emerged as serious contenders in the marketplace. With the rising temperatures related to climate change predicted to extend the pollen season for a further 40 days each year, this trend, and sadly the associated human suffering, is on a rising trajectory. However, let’s see if we can help
Delicious and Dairy-Free
Studies show that inflammation and imbalances in gut flora result in increased allergic reactions like hay fever and so it makes good sense to evaluate your diet as a starting point. A balanced and healthy diet can play an important role in managing hay fever symptoms and it may be helpful to eliminate dairy products for a while in order to monitor whether there is a marked improvement in the severity of your symptoms. Most find this to be the case, myself included. Additionally, many find that reducing their intake of heavily processed and potentially inflammatory foods beneficial. Consider incorporating more fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats into your diet. Preparing nutrient-dense meals does not have to be time-consuming or complicated and there are many simple and delicious options available.
On a personal note, I grew up on a dairy farm with nature-loving and environmentally conscious parents from families who had been caring for the land for generations. My mother was, and remains, a traditional storybook farmer’s wife, cooking and baking with the very best of ingredients the land has to offer. However, despite her best efforts, I developed hay fever as a very young child and I have no recollection of a summer without symptoms.
Around five years ago, my wife began cooking and baking with almond milks, nut flours and plant creams as she sought to improve her digestive health and so we went dairy-free. The results were immediate for both of us and, as I write this, I do not have hay fever symptoms. I’m not saying throw away your anti-histamines, your eye-drops or your tissues. I’m just saying that removing dairy products from my diet has reduced my symptoms so dramatically that I can now enjoy the great outdoors without swollen eyes and a constantly dripping nose. It is estimated that over 400 million of us worldwide struggle to combat the symptoms of hay fever annually with the number growing substantially each year. It makes sense to look at improving your diet in any way you can.
"A great probiotic is, in my view, one of the cornerstones of good health alongside a good multivitamin and an essential fatty acid supplement."
Moving on. What about the addition of a daily probiotic? A number of studies suggest that a daily probiotic is not only helpful in the treatment of hay fever but also aids improved quality of life during the hay fever season. Choosing a good broad-spectrum probiotic combining a number of strains with known proven efficacy (Bifidobacteria bifidum, Bifidobacteria Longum and Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lacticaseibacillus casei) is therefore key. Having said that, a great probiotic is not simply beneficial during the hay fever season. It is, in my view, one of the cornerstones of good health alongside a good multivitamin and an essential fatty acid supplement.
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
Another personal favourite, and a great alternative to taking over the counter anti-histamines, is Quercetin. Quercetin (a bioflavonoid) is found naturally in onions and also in apples, and it is thought that the age-old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ may well relate to the humble apple’s apparent ability to relieve the symptoms of hay fever, coughs and colds.
A good Quercetin formula should include Vitamin C to support the immune system and to help reduce fatigue, and Vitamin B5 to aid the normal synthesis of steroid hormones. We naturally produce steroids in order to address and reduce inflammation. Our eyes, noses and throats are all inflamed during the hay fever season and therefore B5 is key. Additionally, MSM, a naturally occurring sulphur-based compound, provides a blockade-like action that prevents histamine from creating inflammation, swelling and fluid build-up and studies have shown it to be essential in combating seasonal allergies. Similarly, Pine Bark, a rich natural source of bioflavonoids and procyanidins, also provides anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine action. Liquorice too has been used for centuries as a traditional remedy for allergies and inflammation. It has an ability to soothe and is also another natural anti-histamine. If your Quercetin formula contains all of the above then you are on to a winner.
Honey, I shrunk my hay fever ...
Another popular and delicious way to soothe your symptoms may be to invest in a pot or two of local honey to spread on your toast. I’m not talking any old honey blend here. It has to be local because the idea is that the bees in your area will be visiting the flowers native to, and prevalent in, your particular environment. Therefore, the pollen collected by the honey bees near you will also be an integral component of the honey-making process. The theory is that having a little local honey, a teaspoon each day, may desensitise you to the pollen you encounter on a daily basis and thus help to alleviate your hay fever symptoms. Although there are no science-based studies yet to support this, many find honey helpful.
Have you tried HayMax (HayMax Ltd)? It’s a blend of beeswax and seed oils and has won numerous awards including Best British Allergy Award 2022. It is a barrier balm aimed at preventing pollen, dust and potential allergens from entering the body. So many people have recommended it to me and it’s suitable for children and during pregnancy. There’s also good old Vogel (A.Vogel (UK & Ireland) Ltd). They have three remedies that you may wish to try: Pollinosan Hayfever Tablets, Pollinosan Nasal Spray and Pollinosan Eye Drops. Again, there have been so many great reports regarding the efficacy of these that I have no hesitation in recommending them to you.
Well, as Julie Andrews would have it: ‘These are a few of my favourite things’. I sincerely hope that I’ve helped to inform, and that the hills, for you, will once again be alive with the sound of music (and not sneezing) before too long.
About the Author:
Tim Gaunt is a biochemist and nutritionist and an advocate for the promotion of better health and wellbeing. His expert opinion has been sought on a wide and diverse range of subjects over a period spanning four decades. Please read and share in his expertise as he freely debates health issues via his LinkedIn page.