Hay fever - The seeds of sniffy noses
Hay fever is a common allergic condition, which can occur seasonally, typically between March and September. These are all symptoms often associated with hay fever:
Runny and/or itchy nose
Red, watery eyes
Blocked nose with difficulty breathing
Loss of sense of smell and/or taste
Wheeziness or shortness of breath
Low energy and fatigue
Dry, tickly cough
Pressure and/or pain over cheeks or forehead
As the cold months are swiftly moving into bright and sunny days, the breath of fresh air, for some this is coupled with some unpleasant symptoms. According to Allergy UK; research reported to affect between 10 and 30% of adults, and around 40% of children in the UK.(1)
These symptoms are triggered by a common allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen fine powder which is released from plants as part of their reproductive cycle. Some can have an allergy to tree, grass, or weed pollen, which all have different times of release throughout the year, with grass pollen allergy being the most common. On inhalation, the immune system responds to pollen as if it were a threat to the body, such as a virus or pathogenic bacteria, and the body mounts a rapid response resulting in symptoms. As the immune system gears, a chemical called histamine is released in the body, causing inflammation and all the unpleasant symptoms. The symptoms of hay fever can last for months due to ongoing pollen exposure.
There is evidence from research which conclude there are a few risk factors which can predispose us to hay fever allergies. Having a pre-existing allergic condition, such as asthma or eczema, can often be associated with an increased risk of hay fever. In children, this can be known as ‘allergic’ or ‘atopic march’, which refers to the progression of allergic conditions in infants, where the presence of one allergic condition as a child can increase the risk of developing another allergic condition.(2)
What is histamine?
Histamine is a molecule released by immune cells in the circulation and in tissues (e.g. beneath the skin) as part of an immune response. During the immune response, histamine release and vasodilation brings blood and immune cells to the affected area, resulting in redness, heat, swelling, and the upregulation of mucus production. Histamine plays a key role in inflammation, especially in allergic reactions. There is a variety of nutritional supports which can help break the histamine down and reduce the hay fever symptoms.
What are the key nutrients to support hay fever?
Quercetin, is an antioxidant found in many fruit and vegetables, namely apples. It possesses anti-inflammatory properties and is a natural anti-histamine.(3)
Nettle extract works on several immune pathways that are upregulated in allergic conditions. It has the ability to block histamine activity, and other pro-inflammatory molecules involved in hay fever.(4)
Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme derived from pineapples, mostly the stem/core. It has anti-inflammatory and immune balancing properties, directly acting on immune cells.(5)
Vitamin C supports histamine detoxification, aiding with clearing it from the body.6
B vitamins, such as B6, B2, B12 and folate, are also important for supporting histamine clearance, and can act as cofactors for detoxification pathways of some enzymes.
Essential fats omega-3 and -6, can also help to reduce inflammation and are involved in the production of anti-inflammatory immune molecules.11,12These can be found in foods such as oily fish, freshly ground flaxseeds, avocados, and walnuts.
Probiotics can further help to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system, specifically the strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus, which has been proven effective in preventing early atopic disease in children at high risk.13 There is also a strong link between gut health and the presence of allergies, so probiotic supplementation could be further beneficial, especially if you suffer with multiple allergic conditions.
Alongside nutritional support, there are also lifestyle changes which can help to improve hay fever symptoms:
Consider purchasing an air purifier, as this can help to filter out some of those airborne allergens. This can be placed in the bedroom and main rooms of the house.
Close your windows when the pollen count is high.
Avoid histamine rich food, such as alcohol, cured meats, and aged cheeses.
Avoid drying washing outside on high pollen days.
Monitor the pollen count by checking your local weather conditions. On wetter days, the pollen count tends to be lower.
Consuming local honey every day has been shown to reduce hay fever symptoms.(7) This can be purchased from local farm shops or health shops
Chinese Medicine has been proven to be a good tool in your toolbox for treating and managing Hayfever. Charlie Changli Xue,* Robert English,* Jerry Jiansheng Zhang,* Cliff Da Costa+ and Chun Guang Li (2001) did a randomised controlled clinical trial proving acupuncture is an effective and safe alternative treatment for the management of hay fever. Although acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has a much broader application.
The modern scientific explanation is that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the body that influence the body’s own internal regulating system. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities. It can help to strengthen the body’s resistance and can regulate the body’s antigen-antibody’s reactions.
How does it work?
Chinese medicine works to balance the body, helping it stay strong and resilient. By inserting needles just below the surface of the skin, a reaction is triggered to promote homeostasis. In addition to promoting a calmer nervous system, acupuncture points are chosen to address symptoms as they present, so, in peak allergy season we work on un-stuffing noses and clearing out lungs.
Acupuncture can provide immediate relief from runny noses, itchy eyes, sinus congestion and headaches. Better yet, prior to allergy season we try to create a stronger healthier respiratory function so when the pollen count gets high, the body can handle it better.
In Chinese Medicine we look towards a variety of patterns, everyone is different, but the most common patterns are a combination of weak immune defensive energy and unbalanced energy of the disorders of the lungs, spleen and stomach. As hay fever is fundamentally the result of a weakness in the immune system it is important that the patient continues to see an acupuncturist outside of acute pollen season to build up their system for the following pollen season. Regular exercise, immune boosting foods and herbs may also form important aspects of the patient’s treatment.
If you have been suffereing with the hayfever and would like some natural alternatives to relieve symptoms. Please do not hesitate to contact the Heiwa Clinic on 07941 660036.
2. Bantz SK, et al. The Atopic March: Progression from Atopic Dermatitis to Allergic Rhinitis and Asthma. J Clin Cell Immunol. 2014;5(2):202.
3. Otsuka et al. Histochemical and functional characteristics of metachromic cells in the nasal epithelium in allergic rhinitis: studies of nasal scrapings and their dispersed cells. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1995; 96: 528-36.
4. Roschek B Jr et al. Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis. Phytother Res. 2009;23(7):920-6.
5. Müller S et al. Placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial on the immunomodulating activities of low- and high-dose bromelain after oral administration - new evidence on the anti-inflammatory mode of action of bromelain. Phytother Res. 2013;27(2):199-204.
6. Tecklenburg SL et al. Ascorbic acid supplementation attenuates exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in patients with asthma. Respir Med. 2007;101(8):1770-8.
7. Asha'ari ZA, et al. Ingestion of honey improves the symptoms of allergic rhinitis: evidence from a randomized placebo-controlled trial in the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Ann Saudi Med. 2013 Sep-Oct;33(5):469-75.