Written by Emily Zambon – Nutritionist
It’s around this time of year, as we start to defrost and welcome the warmer weather, that we remember the perils of Spring – snakes waking up, magpies swooping and seasonal allergies, made even worse by the bushfire season that has already begun. The current conditions of dry air, smoke and dust, combined with pollens and other allergens, leave many suffering with seasonal allergies, or hayfever.
Hayfever is one of a group of conditions called ‘atopic’ diseases. It is closely related to asthma and eczema (both also in this group), and atopy runs in families – many people who suffer from hayfever will have other close family members who do as well, or who have asthma or eczema, or a combination of these.
A particular immune response drives these conditions, with high histamine levels ultimately being responsible for the symptoms of sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes that we associate with hayfever. Anti-histamines are one way of reducing these symptoms, but there are some great natural alternatives available, which help to treat underlying causes, rather than just suppressing symptoms.
Here are 5 tips for keeping hayfever, or seasonal allergies, at bay.
- Avoid the triggers: where possible, learn what triggers your hayfever and avoid these things when you can, or cover your face and eyes by wearing sunglasses and using a cloth over your nose and mouth, when you know you will be exposed to these triggers (for example, grass or particular pollens).
- Support the immune system: hayfever and allergies in general are an overreaction of the immune system against a particular allergen. Therefore, ensuring healthy immune function will help to mediate this response. Important nutrients include zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D, as well as adequate protein intake.
- Support the gut: our gut bacteria are responsible for keeping us healthy in many different ways, including being an indispensible part of our immune function. Certain probiotics such as Ethical Nutrients Eczema Shield help with eczema and dermatitis, and there are other types, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, that support gut and immune health more generally. Also, eating a wide variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables, pigmented grains and legumes (such as black beans and red quinoa), drinking green tea and eating a piece or two of dark chocolate daily, will all help to keep those little critters in your gut happy.
- Take a natural anti-histamine: Quercetin, vitamin C and spirulina are all considered natural anti-histamines, reducing its production and release and resulting in less symptoms, without the possible side-effects of medication.
- Drink some nettle tea: Nettles have long been considered a nourishing spring tonic, containing many essential vitamins and minerals, including those needed for a healthy gut and immune system. It has also traditionally been used for treating seasonal allergies, or hayfever.