It seems like the end of Winter just sneaked right on passed us there, and with that brings the advent of wonderful Spring 😀 Unfortunately for some of us that also means the onset of allergy season.
“It’s the trees!” “It’s the grass!” “It’s the….oh gosh everything just makes my eyes water, nose itch and throat tickle uncontrollably”
We tend to group allergies into a couple of distinct forms; there are those which people may refer to as more serious allergies i.e. those that can cause a potentially life threatening anaphylaxis reaction, and then those which are more of an irksome irritation such as hay fever. The mechanism which causes symptoms however is fundamentally the same.
An allergen is anything that has the potential to trigger our immune systems to mount a response to get rid of it. These are usually common things that our bodies have mistakenly identified as invaders. This then leads to a hypersensitivity reaction.
So what’s actually happening when the blossoms come out and you are rendered irritatingly sniffly?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
Concentrating on hay fever for the time being (also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis); when we breathe in or come into contact with pollen grains our bodies are triggered to produce allergic ‘IgE’ antibodies in response to their presence. These antibodies then initiate the release of further chemical mediators such as histamine which cause inflammation in the surrounding tissues. It’s this that ultimately produces the allergic symptoms including stuffy noses, sneezing and itching or watery eyes.
So how do we avoid looking like we’ve been watching terribly sad films all morning or fallen foul of a particularly unpleasant ‘summer cold’?
Again, I’m glad you asked.
Although a hypersensitivity reaction is not something you can necessarily ‘turn off’ you can definitely down play the response that causes your symptoms, helping to make them less severe.
One of the ways to do this is to look at your histamine load (my what now?!). Histamine is not just involved in allergic reactions, it is a vital component of our immune systems generally, it’s just when the levels get out of hand that we experience problems. Histamine is recycled by the Liver so making sure your biggest detoxification organ is super happy and fully stocked with all the vital micronutrients it needs (think dark leafy veggies, bitter foods including artichokes and dark skinned/flesh fruits and vegetables such as aubergines, beetroot and avocado).
The second consideration is that certain foods contain histamine and others promote its release further, so keeping your intake of these as low as possible may help. Examples of these include:
- Processed, smoked or fermented meat and other products
- Citrus and dried fruits
- Tea (black and green), alcohol
- Pickled products
- Colourings and preservatives
This is merely a guideline though, certain people will find they tolerate items on this list perfectly well whereas others might find one to be a particularly potent trigger for their symptoms. The benefit of addressing your histamine load in advance of allergy season however might be that you find your symptoms don’t materialise this year as you have worked on the root cause of your nasal nastiness!
Sadly even with the best intentions some of us will always end up snuffling away in the sunshine. Obviously we wouldn’t dream of leaving you to suffer alone though! Sign up to our newsletter below and keep watch next week as we round up our favourite products that feature on our Holistic Hayfever Hotlist! 😀
Written by Phoebe, Nutritional Therapist BSc DipNT mBANT mNNA mCNHC