By; Kay Bellingham
Naturopath, B.HSc. Nat, Dip. RM, Dip. Aroma, Dip.
Spring is notorious for an increase in respiratory airborne allergens such as pollens, dust, mould spores, grass and animal dander, leading to allergies and hayfever (allergic rhinitis) in a number of susceptible people. These seasonal allergens can subsequently lead to increased immune responses, inflammation, discomfort and make it difficult to participate and enjoy normal day to day activities. Around 25% of the western population suffer from hayfever, but there are a range of natural treatments and remedies that can make life in the hayfever season much better.
Allergic reactions and the immune system
When you are allergic to something, your immune system mistakenly believes that this substance is harmful to your body and thus establishes a defence
mechanism to protect you. The immune system generates large quantities of a defence molecule called an immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody which binds to the allergen. Each IgE antibody is specific to a particular allergen.
After the initial exposure to an allergen, the IgE antibodies produced, attach themselves to immune system cells called mast cells. IgE antibodies signal the release of large amounts of histamine and other chemicals that cause inflammation and irritation, creating allergy symptoms. Airborne allergens typically affect the nose, eyes and lungs, creating symptoms in those areas.
Causes of hayfever:
There are two different types of hayfever: one that occurs seasonally (usually spring) and one that occurs perennially (all year round).
Seasonal hayfever – usually occurs in spring from respiratory allergens: grass, pollen, weeds, mould, dust mites, animal dander, feathers, powders and insecticides.
Perennial hayfever – usually occurs as a result of contact with a reactive substance: often dust mites, pollen, family pet, mould, cosmetics, personal care items, food additives and cleaning materials.
Allergies and hayfever are often hereditary. Cold air, stress, cigarette smoke and environmental pollutants can all make symptoms of hayfever worse. Hypersensitivity from known dietary allergens has also been implicated in the cause of hayfever.
Herbal and Nutritional treatments for hayfever
Echinacea helps to enhance, balance and stimulate the immune system and can even strengthen the immune system in healthy people. Echinacea also contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Perilla has traditionally been used to support a healthy respiratory tract and for the relief of hayfever and nasal congestion. Perilla helps to suppress IgE production and histamine release from the mast cells.
Garlic has traditionally been used to support a healthy immune system and relieves mucous congestion of the upper respiratory tract and nasal passages.
Vitamin C helps boost the immune system and has potent natural anti-histamine properties that help reduce an allergic response. Vitamin C modulates the inflammatory response and helps to protect the body from allergen exposure.
Vitamin D3, is required for a healthy immune system and general wellbeing. A significant number of Australians are considered deficient in vitamin D due to inadequate sun exposure and dietary intake.
Quercetin is a natural bioflavonoid that contains natural anti-histamine properties, inhibiting the release of histamine and other inflammatory mediators to reduce an allergic response for the relief of allergic symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. Quercetin helps reduce inflammation and as a bioflavonoid, increases the absorption and utilisation of vitamin C.
Pycnogenol may alleviate allergy symptoms by inhibiting histamine release from mast cells and other inflammatory mediators, so they are less reactive to antigens and relieves swelling.
Small lifestyle changes make a difference
- Identify allergens and minimise exposure.
- Consume bioflavonoid rich foods: citrus fruits, apricots, cherries, grapes, blackberries, papaya, plums, capsicum, broccoli and tomatoes.
- Eat plenty of onions, leeks and garlic: helps to reduce mucous secretions.
- Consume essential fatty acids from fish oil or flaxseed oil: provides powerful anti-inflammatory support.
- Keep rooms free of dust as much as possible.
- Stay indoors on windy days if possible.
- Avoid smoking and second-hand cigarette smoke.
- Reduce mould growth and eliminate dampness around the house.
- Reduce stress levels and get plenty of rest.