Springtime is here and with it brings the pollen season, which means bad news for hay fever sufferers. Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is one of the most common chronic respiratory conditions in Australia. Seasonal hay fever is an allergic reaction usually to pollens from trees, grasses, and weeds. The immune system thinks these pollens are harmful invaders and triggers the production of the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE). This stimulates the release of histamine causing inflammation and swelling of the nasal passages, along with excessive mucus production and other common hay fever symptoms.
If you are one of the 3 million Australians who suffer from hay fever, you will be all too familiar with its symptoms. Sneezing, itching nose and throat, watery eyes and a clear runny nose, can make day-to-day life extremely uncomfortable for sufferers. Before you reach for anti-histamine medications this Spring, however, there are a number of foods, nutrients and herbs that are extremely beneficial for alleviating hay fever symptoms.
Including kiwi fruit in your daily diet can help keep hay fever symptoms at bay. Kiwi fruit are exceptionally rich in vitamin C, especially the yellow variety. Kiwi’s contain even more vitamin C, gram for gram, than oranges. This important vitamin acts as an effective natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory, as well as supporting healthy immune function and offering protection from secondary respiratory conditions.
Bioflavanoids are also powerful antioxidants that are found in kiwi fruit (and in many other fruits and vegetables that are good sources of vitamin C). They complement vitamin C’s effect in the body. Bioflavanoids are beneficial for providing relief from allergies and are commonly used to treat hay fever. Bioflavanoids have been found to have potent anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties.
Other good sources of vitamin C and bioflavanoids include strawberries, citrus fruits, red capsicums, broccoli, papaya, guava and mango.
Taking a vitamin C supplement with bioflavanoids is also recommended, at a dosage of around 2g of vitamin C and 1000 mg of bioflavanoids, a day.
Turmeric, commonly used in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine, has many wonderful health benefits that make it an ideal spice to add into the diets of hay fever sufferers. Turmeric contains curcumin, a phytochemical that has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, comparable to steroidal and nonsteroidal drugs. Curcumin has been found to have anti-allergy properties, which inhibits the release of histamine in the body. Turmeric is the main ingredient in curries and is commonly used as a dried spice, however you should give fresh turmeric a go. It looks similar to a small ginger root. Just peel a section and grate. Make sure you wear gloves while preparing though as turmeric stains easily. Add around 2 tsp to rice dishes, stir-fries or soups. Turmeric teas are another delicious way to enjoy turmeric’s health benefits. Try Bodhi Organic ZesTEA.
Having an onion a day can help keep your hay fever at bay. Onions are packed with the flavanoid quercetin, which is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and natural anti-histamine. Eat red onions raw tossed through salads, or on sandwiches or added to cooked dishes. Quercetin is also found in other foods such as apples, kale red grapes, berries, cherries and parsley.
Licorice and Nettle herbal teas
Drinking nettle tea is an effective way to help manage allergic rhinitis. Studies have shown that it can help relieve inflammation of the upper respiratory tract and ease nasal congestion, sneezing and itching. Drinking licorice tea can also be beneficial for alleviating hay fever symptoms. Licorice root has been traditionally used to treat allergies, as it has a soothing effect, helping to reduce irritation and inflammation of the respiratory system. Try Bodhi Organic TranquiliTEA.
Orange and green fruits and vegies
The vibrant orange colour of fruits and vegies such as carrots, pumpkin, apricots, mango and papaya, indicates high levels of beta-carotene, an important vitamin that is converted to vitamin A in the body. Green leafy vegetables are also an excellent source beta-carotene, although their orange colour is masked by their green chlorophyll content. Making sure you are getting a good supply of vitamin A and beta-carotene is essential for good health and particularly important for anyone with hay fever. Vitamin A is needed for healthy mucous membranes throughout the respiratory tract. It also helps promote healthy immune function and prevention of secondary respiratory infections, as well as helping to reduce inflammation.
Eating pineapple is a delicious way to help alleviate your suffering this Spring. Pineapple is a rich source of bromelain, an enzyme with strong systemic anti-inflammatory effects, which helps decrease mucosal inflammation and nasal congestion associated with allergic rhinitis.
Horseradish and garlic
Horseradish is related to mustard, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables. This pungent root vegetable acts as a decongestant, helping to clear the nasal passages. Grated fresh horseradish root adds a delightful kick to roast meats and vegetables.
Adding garlic to your daily diet is an excellent way to help alleviate hay fever symptoms. Garlic helps clear nasal congestion and it’s potent antibiotic properties help prevent secondary respiratory infections in chronic suffers. Garlic is also a good source of quercetin, a natural anti-histamine.
Taking a daily dose of probiotics can help hay fever sufferers restore a more balanced immune response to pollens. Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria that help promote the growth of good bacteria in our intestinal tract. Without a healthy balance of good bacteria in our gut, our immunity will be compromised and leave you more susceptible to developing allergies. Taking a probiotic supplement daily is recommended along with consuming fermented foods such as saukraut, pickled sprouts and vegetables, and miso.
Make yourself a fresh vegie juice with a good slice of fresh ginger. Ginger is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory, which helps reduce nasal swelling and associated hay fever symptoms. A good juice combo is carrot, celery, beetroot, apple and ginger. You can also add in some green ‘leafies’ such as parsley, mint, kale or baby spinach for good measure. Grated fresh ginger can also be added to salads, curries and stir-fries, or delicious made as a hot or iced tea served with fresh lemon. Try Bodhi Organic ZesTEA.
Avoid mucus-forming foods
Hay fever sufferers are best to limit or avoid cow’s milk and other dairy products. These foods are considered mucus-forming foods, meaning they can increase the production of mucus in the respiratory tract, which can exacerbate hay fever nasal congestion. There are a wide variety of dairy-free options available including rice, almond, hazelnut, quinoa and coconut milks you can try.
By Lisa Guy, naturopath and founder of Bodhi Organic Tea.