For some odd reason hay fever used to be fashionable amongst 19th century Americans, they called themselves ‘heyfeverites’. Heyfeverites fizzled out (shock!) and it was discovered that pollen was at the root of the allergy rather than hay. Once unfoundedly fashionable, now (or still) a nuisance…
There are few places better than Britain when summer comes. The days get longer, the sun shines brighter and people awake with glee. As we know, floppy hats, factor 50, flip-flops, cucumber sandwiches, and ice lollies are all tote bag staples. Though, there is one other accessory that’s much needed but seems to be unavailable. That one size fits all solution to hay fever.
Hay fever can be a daunting feature of summer for lots of people, one that comes with ‘the sniffles’, itches, sneezes, and a runny nose. Over 30% of the UK adult population suffers from these symptoms, including me, so it's safe to say hay fever is a b***h. So, here are some easy tips on diet and lifestyle to relieve symptoms of hay fever…
How can diet help?
When symptoms appear, it is simply the body’s response to the pollen. The immune system releases chemicals like histamine to fight the invader, which in turn causes the symptoms. So, it’s super important to stay away from food high in histamine and eat lots of foods packed with anti-histamines.
Histamine rich foods include tomatoes, avocados, fermented foods, chocolate, and alcohol (sorry about that).
Ingredients such as garlic, onions, and ginger are good sources of antihistamines. There are immune-boosting foods, with high anti-histamine levels to add your diet too such as turmeric and vitamin C rich vegetables like broccoli, leafy greens, and mango. Sounds like a good curry to me…
Getting lots of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is really important as they are the building blocks of your body’s inflammation management system. They are present in oily fish, plant oils, nuts, and seeds and help to reduce inflammation in localised areas such as skin and nasal passages. Hopefully, resulting in a lot less sneezing and itching.
This is where the advice to eat a rainbow starts to make sense… lots of fruit and vegetables are full of antioxidants, which reduce damage to cells and are what give them their vibrant colours. For example, most orange and yellow veg, contain beta-carotene, a fat-soluble antioxidant that can move into the lower layers of skin to help reduce inflammation in specific areas of irritation. So, in short, eat lots of colourful fruit and veg to make sure you are getting your daily dose of antioxidants!
I know it is so tempting to indulge but stay away from sugar and processed foods (white rice, sweets, chocolate, ready meals) and swap in wholegrain and natural foods (brown bread and rice, quinoa, dark chocolate, dates). Eating sugary foods causes blood sugar levels to spike resulting in an adrenaline surge which can activate more histamine, worsening symptoms.
What should you be drinking?
Plenty of water! Staying hydrated is important for all aspects of health, but in terms of hay fever, it helps to thin mucus membranes in nasal passages stopping that ‘blocked up’ feeling.
I am a great believer in the idea that tea can solve most things, from a broken heart to, you guessed it, hay fever… Green tea is full of antioxidants and contains EGCG, a compound known to block key receptors involved in triggering allergic reactions.
Ginger tea can lower IgE levels, which are antibodies that help defend against hay fever. If we have too many IgE’s, our immune response can be less effective. Nettle tea can also help relieve inflammation of nasal passages, reducing sniffs and sneezes.
Sadly, caffeine can stress the adrenal glands, which are already working hard to counter against histamine. When the glands get tired, the symptoms of hay fever worsen. Give decaf or herbal tea a go.
Or if you fancy something cold and refreshing, check out Luhv Drinks ranges as they supply you with loads of vitamins and minerals to boost your immune response to allergens and the immune system in general. They have a great selection and I would recommend checking them out.
Don’t let this allergy stop you from enjoying the sun, maybe take a leaf out of one of Victoria Beckham's “riveting” books and get those big shades on. The greater protection your eyes has, the less irritation. I’m kind of into these ‘crazy frog’ purpose-built goggles you can buy online.
Stay indoors, it’s a sad but simple remedy and is recommended by the NHS when symptoms just get too much. So, use it as an excuse to kick your feet up and switch on that show you have been meaning to watch for years.
Get spring cleaning! Make sure that all pollen and dust are removed from your home by using damp cloths and frequently hoovering. Also, leave all pollen and dust at your front door by removing shoes and changing your clothes.
Be happy that summer is nye! Hopefully, with these tips, you can keep the burden of hay fever to a minimum and boost your summer to a maximum. Whilst these tips aim to help you relieve symptoms of hay fever it is important to note that eating a balanced diet, taking part in daily exercise alongside these tips is key to general good health.
PS here is the link to those goggles you have been wanting to see. Oh, and if you really must have a drink, gin is seen to be the best as it is low in histamines.
Written by Libby Savill 24/04/2020
Libby has always had a passion for food, which led her towards achieving a Nutrition & Food Marketing Bachelor of Science. This allowed her to develop an in-depth understanding of the fundamental building blocks of human nutrition, including health & disease, scientific bases for setting nutrient recommendations, digestion of foods and the metabolism of macro & micronutrients. Libby built her knowledge in food science and technologies working within the food industry, with a particular focus on food processing, fermenting and packaging. She carried out practical nutrition in labs observing topics such as dietary intake, effects of foods with varying glycemic index and more. This all lead to researching and writing her dissertation paper on the effects of dietary intake in children in the UK pre and post implementation of government funding. The marketing side of her degree ingrained an understanding of effective communication as a means to drive positive consumer behaviour change. As a private chef, Libby caters for large parties and also dabbles in creating cocktails for the guests! Her passion and luhv for cooking drove her to develop recipes and maximising health through delicious food and lifestyle. You’ll commonly see her with a cup of tea in hand planning new recipes with her trusty Labradoodle called Roger next to her.