Are you one of the 13 million people in the UK who suffer from hay fever?
Hay fever can leave you feeling rough – itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, headaches, cough, sinus congestion and itching skin all causing daytime misery and problems sleeping.
In this article you’ll find out why hay fever occurs as well as some tips to manage the condition naturally.
Properly called allergic rhinitis, hay fever is usually caused by a reaction to pollen. Tree pollen generally affects people in early spring, grass pollen slightly later in the year. Symptoms are often worse on hot, dry days when the pollen is carried on the wind. Or you may be one of the unlucky people who suffer from allergies all year round because your immune system is sensitive to house dust. Others suffer from allergies to pets.
What possesses your immune system to react to innocuous particles such as pollen?
The answer lies in the ability of your immune system to distinguish between harmless substances and those which are a threat to your body.
Many people talk about allergies being related to an overactive immune system, but in reality it’s all about a loss of selectivity. Your immune system mounts an inappropriate full-blown response to harmless substances. Its rather like when you’re stressed and react angrily to every little annoyance.
Your immune system responds to any perceived threat by producing antibodies. These signal to immune cells to release inflammatory chemicals, like histamine, into your blood. This causes hay fever symptoms as the immune system tries expel the unwelcome invader.
Certain types of cells regulate the action of the immune system. It’s thought some people don’t have enough of these cells, or they don’t work properly, so they fail to keep the immune system from reacting inappropriately.
The problem is, your immune system has a memory, so every time the substance is encountered in the future, it provokes a similar type of reaction. A tendency to develop allergies does run in families.
Conventionally, allergies are treated by antihistamine drugs, blocking the action of histamine, or steroid nasal sprays which suppress your immune response and reduce inflammation.
However, these medications don’t address the reasons why your immune system is overreacting in the first place.
Let’s now look at some natural measures to manage hay fever.
To discover the root cause of allergies we must look at the gut. This is because over three–quarters of your immune system lives there, and it’s believed immune system cells are educated about what’s harmful and what isn’t by the resident population of bacteria in your gut – your microbiome.
A healthy microbiome and intestinal lining are both crucial to balanced immune system function because if your gut lining has become permeable, this will lead to increased inflammation in your body.
Feed your microbiome by eating plenty of plant–based foods rich in natural fibre. Supplements to support your gut health like probiotics and l-glutamine may be recommended by your practitioner.
The food you eat has a direct effect on the functioning of your immune system because food can influence levels of inflammation.
An inflammatory diet is high in sugar, alcohol, processed foods and meat products, and means your immune system will be more likely to overreact to other triggers. On the other hand, fresh, colourful fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds called phytonutrients.
You may find your hay fever symptoms worsen when you eat certain foods – dairy can be one culprit. Try keeping a food diary to see if you can discover any connection.
This is an antioxidant which research has found can reduce histamine release. Quercetin is naturally found in onions, apples, broccoli, citrus fruits, berries and grapes.
This vibrant yellow spice doesn’t simply look good, it’s packed with anti-inflammatory compounds, especially one called curcumin. It’s been studied concerning allergies and its ability to suppress the release of histamine.
Stress can trigger allergy flare-ups. One study found a correlation between allergies and emotional stress and low mood. Having hay fever can be stressful in itself, so actively resolve to control your response to the stress in your life.
Keep windows closed whenever possible, especially at night; wear sunglasses to cover your eyes when you’re outdoors. Wash your clothes and sheets more frequently and consider using a neti pot to naturally flush out allergens from your nasal passages.
Functional Medicine is interested in discovering the causes of ill-health. If you’re plagued with seasonal allergies, you may benefit from a Functional Medicine consultation to take a deep look at your immune system function and discover what’s causing it to flare up inappropriately. Contact me to find out more and enjoy the summer again.
Initially it was believed tight junctions are either open or closed, but research shows they open and close in response to many factors such as our food choices and levels of inflammation in the body. Obesity has been found to increase zonulin secretion, as has the consumption of gluten grains.
This demonstrates the importance of lifestyle and nutrition choices on the proper functioning of our intestinal lining.
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