Spring is here, the daffodils are out and many of us are hoping for sunnier days. But, for lots of people, this can also mean itchy, watery eyes and constant sneezing… hello hay fever! As many as one in four people in the UK suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis (the medical term for hay fever), with the most common trigger being an allergic reaction to pollen from grass, trees and weeds.
You might experience any of the following symptoms from March to September: itchy eyes/throat/mouth/nose/ears; red or watery eyes; runny or blocked nose; sneezing and coughing; blocked sinuses; headaches and tiredness. If this is you, I sympathise!
Conventional treatment recommends the avoidance of triggers (ie staying indoors when the pollen count is high) and the use of antihistamine tablets. While antihistamines provide a most welcome relief from symptoms, they do not address the root cause of hay fever.
Additionally, antihistamines are not for everyone and are generally not recommended for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney or liver disease, glaucoma, thyroid problems, or pregnant/ breastfeeding women.
There are many reasons why hay fever develops, such as poor/weakened immune system, inflammation, gut issues, emotional and physical stress, sleep deprivation or nutrient deficiencies. But did you know that changing what you eat can have a big impact on how severe your symptoms are?
Foods to reduce
These include chocolate, aged cheese, spinach, avocado, tomato, aubergine and many fermented foods like beer, vinegar, sauerkraut, yoghurt, miso, soy sauce and canned fish, as they are high in histamine. Strawberries, pineapple, bananas, citrus fruits and egg whites are also best avoided as they trigger your cells to release histamine. Foods containing wheat (e.g. bread, pasta, cakes, pastries) and dairy products (milk and cheese) can also be problematic for some people.
Foods to add in or increase
Those rich in quercetin (eg onions, garlic, asparagus, apples, kale, okra, peppers, plums and red grapes), beta-carotene (sweet potato, carrots, butternut squash, red and yellow peppers, apricots, peas, broccoli, dark leafy greens like kale, and romaine lettuce), vitamin C (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, peppers, kale, broccoli, mango, courgette, cauliflower) and omega-3 (salmon, trout, halibut, cod, mackerel, sardines, herring, walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds).
Christelle Page is a registered nutritionist and nutritional therapist, specialising in healthy weight loss to prevent the risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and other metabolic conditions. Christelle is also certified Health Coach working on mindset and eating habits. Visit Keep Calm Nutrition for more info on all her services.