An introduction to hayfever and diet
There is a noticeable correlation between what you eat and the severity of your hayfever symptoms. For example, if you are eating food products that contain high levels of histamine, then the chances are that this additional chemical influx will be intensifying your symptoms, making them more prominent and painful than ever before.
This is why it is important to identify the food groups that are irritating your immune system and to counteract their effect with alternatives that can reduce the level of histamine in your system or work with your body to ease hayfever symptoms.
Anti-histamine foods are food products that contain anti-histamine chemicals capable of disrupting or blocking the histamine receptors in your immune system.
If these receptors are blocked, it can help to reduce allergy symptoms such as blocked nose, eye irritations, sore throats and congestion. Foods that are rich in flavonoids such as quercetin, vitamin C or beta-carotene, can help to block histamine and reduce inflammation.
You can feed these nutrients in a variety of foods but the most common and beneficial are:
- Garlic: Garlic is a great source of quercitin and has been used throughout history to alleviate the symptoms of common viral infections such as the cold. It can also help to boost the immune system and is a good source of vitamin C and potassium
- Ginger: Ginger is known to slow down histamine production by reducing our IgE levels and can be either added to meals or drank as a liquid in the form of tea
- Onions: Onions are another source of quercetin which can stabilise the production of histamine. Onions also contain high amounts of vitamin C and biotin, making them good for skin complaints and reducing blood pressure
- Honey: Local honey can contain traces of the pollens causing your allergies, however, by regularly ingesting honey it can help your immune system to cope with your allergies and become more familiar with the pollen entering your system
- Blueberries: The newest super-food on the block, blueberries contain high quantities of vitamin C and quercetin, making them an excellent anti-inflammatory agent, as well as being good for improving memory and motor functions
- Carrots: Carrots are high in vitamin A, C and K and can be considered a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Carrots are also good for giving our immune system a boost, and can help to regulate our blood pressure
- Salmon: Salmon is a rich source of omega 3 which is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Salmon has also been shown to aid metabolism and improve cardiovascular health.
What should you be avoiding?
Chocolate: When you are feeling a bit worn down, most of you will probably indulge in a bar of chocolate as a midweek treat, but this can be the worst thing to do when you are suffering from hayfever. Unfortunately, as well as just being generally not good for you, chocolate contains high amounts of the chemical histamine and can aggravate your hayfever symptoms
Dairy products: Dairy products such as milk and cheese can stimulate the production of mucous, making symptoms such as blocked nose or blocked ears much worse. Some matured cheeses also contain high levels of histamine, which can put your adrenal glands under a lot of pressure, making you feel fatigued and leaving your immune system vulnerable
Fermented foods: Histamine is not always present in certain food products, but it can be present in the bacteria that grows around them. Food products that are aged or preserved, such as vinegar, sauerkraut, yoghurt or canned fish, can often end up being a big source of histamine
Wheat: Wheat can stimulate an allergic reaction in those who suffer from grass pollen allergies
Refined sugars: Refined sugars can trigger a rush of adrenalin into your system, causing your body to produce more histamine thereby irritating your hayfever symptoms even further.
What should you be drinking?
Smoothies: Smoothies are a great source of fruit and vegetables, which your body will sorely need to support its immune system during this stressing time. There are a variety of smoothie recipes out there, but why not try our Hayfever Blasting Smoothie? It’s packed with everything you need to take on your hayfever symptoms and support your adrenals.
Herbals teas: It would be impossible to list all of the numerous benefits that drinking herbal teas can bring. They are an excellent source of anti-oxidants and can help your immune system in a variety of ways. When it comes to hayfever though, herbal tea could be considered a very useful weapon to have in your allergy-fighting arsenal.
- Ginger tea: There was a study done recently at the Tikrit University College of Medicine in Iraq, and it was shown that ginger can be used to reduce your IgE levels. IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is the antibody responsible for triggering an allergic reaction within your immune system. When levels of this antibody are lowered, you are less likely to encounter hayfever symptoms1
- Green tea: People have been drinking green tea for centuries to improve their immune systems, but research in Japan has identified that green tea contains a compound, EGCG, that is capable of blocking a key receptor involved with triggering an allergic reaction2
- Peppermint tea: Peppermint tea contains trace amounts of vitamin B and calcium but it is also associated with menthol, a natural decongestant which can provide relief from any sinus problems you experience in hayfever
- Nettle tea: If you’ve ever had the misfortune of being stung by this plant, you will probably be holding a grudge and wondering why anyone would want it remotely close to their mouths. However, nettle tea is rich in iron and vitamin C and has anti-inflammatory properties.3
Water: This is an obvious one that you have probably heard time and time again but there really is no question about it – you need to drink lots of water, on average between 8-10 glasses a day. Not only will this help to keep you hydrated but increasing your intake of water might help to ease some of your hayfever symptoms, particularly if you are suffering from a blocked nose or sore throat. Water relieves any irritation in your throat and can thin the mucous membranes in your nasal passages, unblocking your nose.
Coconut milk: If you find yourself unable to drink soya milk or normal milk, then coconut milk can be a pleasant alternative. Coconut milk is a natural anti-inflammatory as it is rich in MCT’s. It is also not classified as a dairy product and it contains high levels of magnesium and iron.
Honey and lemon: If you’ve ever suffered from a cold, the chances are someone has already tried to enthuse you about the benefits of drinking honey and lemon. It’s a natural decongestant and it is also great at giving your immune system a boost, and because it contains high levels of vitamin C, honey and lemon juice can also be considered as having anti-inflammatory qualities.
What should you not be drinking?
Coffee: Most of you probably use coffee as a crutch to get out of bed in the mornings. Throughout the day you can crave caffeine, especially if hayfever is already making you feel a bit like a zombie, however it can be the worst thing to reach for.
Caffeine can stress the adrenal glands, which are already working overtime to produce enough cortisol to counter the inflammatory effects of histamine. When your adrenals become fatigued, the symptoms of hayfever can become much worse, making you even more miserable. Coffee can also be considered a diuretic if it is consumed in excess, which can then dehydrate you having even more negative implications for your immune system.
An alternative to conventional coffee might be to consider dandelion coffee, which tastes and looks like coffee but without the caffeine content. Or you could try our Bambu coffee substitute which provides a natural energy boost and contains high levels of potassium.
Alcohol: If you’re feeling bunged up and your head is already pounding then the odds are the last thing you’re going to reach for is that bottle of prosecco that your Aunt got you for your last birthday, which is just as well really. Alcohol is rich in histamine which can inflame hayfever symptoms and make them worse.
Drinking alcohol can also dehydrate you, again placing your immune system under an enormous amount of strain. It might be worth passing over a bottle of wine and having a glass of water instead.
However, if you really must have a drink then gin is thought to be best if you have hayfever, since it is low in histmamine and sulphites.
Milk: Normally milk would be advocated as a great source of calcium, but overdoing it on dairy can be disastrous while you have hayfever. Dairy products can lead to an increase in mucous production and it can also be responsible for releasing histamine into your systems. Even dairy alternatives such as soya milk should be considered with caution as soya milk contains a number of proteins that can cross-react with tree pollen, thereby stimulating an allergic reaction.
It is important to recognise the role that diet can play in alleviating or accelerating your hayfever symptoms. However, it is still important to try and treat your symptoms using herbal or conventional medicines, and to seek reassurance from your doctor if your symptoms become more prolonged or intense.
If you are struggling to cope with your hayfever symptoms, it might be worth trying our Pollinosan Hayfever Relief Tablets. Pollinosan is composed of seven different types of herbs, specifically engineered to target the most common symptoms of hayfever. It is suitable for children over the age of 12 and can be taken alongside our Pollinosan Luffa Nasal Spray.