Many of us welcomed the arrival of spring last week with open arms whilst others are in hiding because spring also means hay fever season. Spring is the season of renewal where flowers are in bloom and plants begin to grow. Pollen and plant particles are flying around in the air causing havoc in the immune systems of hay fever sufferers as hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is an allergic reaction to those pollens and plant particles.
In a nutshell, a hay fever allergic response goes along these lines... The immune system of hay fever sufferers, wrongly recognise pollen or plant particles as baddies that want to invade the body. When the body discovers that a baddie (pollen or plant particles) has infiltrated the respiratory system (such as the nose via breathing in), the body performs a cascade of reactions... Mast cells, found in the lining of our respiratory system, release histamine. Histamine causes blood vessels to dilate (redness and swelling) and white blood cells to migrate to that area (mucous) to fight off and eliminate that baddie. Those who suffer severe bouts of hay fever may also experience fatigue which is a side effect of the body working over-time in this war against the baddies.
We can't exactly explain to the body that it's reading the situation wrong and that pollen isn't actually trying to take over... So, how can we minimise this allergic reaction?
There may be an underlying cause why your body reacts in such a way. For example those with allergies have been shown to have a less diverse microbiome community in their gut compared to those without allergies (1). A naturopath will be able to help you get to the bottom of the cause behind your allergies. There are also a number of simple nutritional modifications that can be made to support our immune system and minimise symptoms during hay fever season.
Histamine Containing Foods.
As histamine is a major contributor to hay fever, eliminating foods which contain histamine during hay fever season can help to minimise the amount of histamine circulating in the body and therefore avoid intensifying symptoms. These foods include:
Processed and packaged foods which contain additives and preservatives
Fermented foods such as aged cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tofu, tempeh, yoghurt, kombucha and kefir
Cured foods such as ham and salami
Vinegars and foods which contain vinegar such as pickled foods
Histamine Triggering Foods.
Some foods, which don't contain histamine, can trigger the release of histamine in the body so these are also best avoided. These foods include:
Tomatoes (including tomato sauce)
Dairy can encourage mucous production and viscosity making it more difficult to eliminate (1). Eliminating dairy from your diet during hay fever season may help to reduce mucous to help clear your nose. This is a controversial subject as many physicians prefer not to eliminate dairy from the diet due to its role in providing calcium, protein and some B vitamins to the diet. However, in a balanced and varied diet, dairy is not the only source of calcium, protein and B vitamins.
Introducing certain strains of probiotics may be beneficial in minimising hay fever symptoms by stabilising mast cells and reducing histamine release. When choosing a probiotic product, look for those which contain the following strains:
Lactobacillus paracasei (2)
Lactobacillus reuteri (3)
Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota (4)
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (5)
Lactobacillus paracasei (6)
Apples and onions.
Apples and onions contain the plant molecule quercetin which inhibits the release of histamine and stimulates the immune system, having an anti-inflammatory effect (7). Therefore, including apples and onions into your daily diet can minimise hay fever symptoms via these affects. NB: Most of the quercetin in apples is found in the skin so don't peel them!
Vitamin D play a vital role in the immune system including regulating the immune system to minimise hyper-reactions such as an allergic response, having an anti-inflammatory affect, (9) and stabilising mast cells to reduce the incidence of histamine release (10). Given that 1 in 4 Australians are Vitamin D deficient (8) ensuring you have adequate levels of Vitamin D can minimise hay fever.
Yes, as in stinging nettle! Nettle is a common herb in naturopathy, often used for its anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic actions. Nettle has shown promising results in studies for those with hay fever to reduce symptoms (11). A simple way you can include nettle to your daily routine is with nettle tea. Most health food stores will stock it.
Stress affects the body in a major way. When you feel prolonged stress the body is put into an extended fight or flight state which can suppress other systems in the body such as the immune system. Meditation, yoga, gentle physical exercise and allowing yourself to take time out to relax are all excellent ways to minimise the affects of stress on your body and allow your immune system to function
The food we eat influences our health in many ways. Highly processed foods have beneficial nutrients stripped from them resulting in a food which is high in energy (calories) but low in nutrition (vitamins and minerals). Foods that are high in sugar and saturated fats cause an inflammatory response from the immune system as the immune system's role is to protect the body from these harmful ingredients. Choose foods that are as close to their natural form as possible and eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables each day to ensure your body as the nutrition it requires to perform at its best.
If you would like further help regarding hay fever or other allergies, please email me at email@example.com to join a waitlist for a naturopathy appointment.
Hua X, Goedert JJ, Pu A, Yu G, Shi J. Allergy associations with the adult fecal microbiota: Analysis of the American Gut Project. EBioMedicine. 2015;3:172-179. Frosh A, Cruz C, Wellsted D, Stephens J. Effect of a dairy diet on nasopharyngeal mucus secretion. Laryngoscope. 2019;129(1):13-17.
Costa DJ, Marteau P, Amouyal M, et al. Efficacy and safety of the probiotic Lactobacillus paracasei LP-33 in allergic rhinitis: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial (GA2LEN Study).European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014;68(5):602-607.
Hemarajata P, Gao C, Pflughoeft KJ, et al. Lactobacillus reuteri-specific immunoregulatory gene rsiR modulates histamine production and immunomodulation by Lactobacillus reuteri. Journal of Bacteriology. 2013;195(24):5567-5576.
Shida K, Takahashi R, Iwadate E, et al. Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota suppresses serum immunoglobulin E and immunoglobulin G1 responses and systemic anaphylaxis in a food allergy model. Clinical & Experimental Allergy. 2002;32(4):563-570.
Oksaharju A, Kankainen M, Kekkonen RA, et al. Probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus downregulates FCER1 and HRH4 expression in human mast cells.World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2011;17(6):750-759.
Cassard L, Lalanne AI, Garault P, et al. Individual strains of Lactobacillus paracasei differentially inhibit human basophil and mouse mast cell activation.Immun Inflamm Dis. 2016;4(3):289-299. Published 2016 Jul 7.
Mlcek J, Jurikova T, Skrovankova S, Sochor J. Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response. Molecules. 2016;21(5):623. Published 2016 May 12.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Nutrients, 2011-12. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Aranow C. Vitamin D and the immune system.J Investig Med. 2011;59(6):881-886. doi:10.2310/JIM.0b013e31821b8755
Liu ZQ, Li XX, Qiu SQ, et al. Vitamin D contributes to mast cell stabilization. Allergy. 2017;72(8):1184-1192.
Bakhshaee M, Mohammad Pour AH, Esmaeili M, et al. Efficacy of Supportive Therapy of Allergic Rhinitis by Stinging Nettle(Urtica dioica)root extract: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo- Controlled, Clinical Trial.Iran J Pharm Res. 2017;16(Suppl):112-118.