I really loathe hayfever. OK, that’s stating the obvious, who doesn’t? But I never suffered with it until my mid 20s, so it totally took me by surprise that year when suddenly I was in abject misery from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep for a 4 week period. Constant CONSTANT sneezing, itchy eyes and throat, tingling gums – ugh, I shudder at the memory. And don’t get me started on what happened the summer I was heavily pregnant and couldn’t stop sneezing. Never mind stress incontinence – let’s just call it incontinence and be done with it.
Thankfully those summers where I’m trapped inside for the whole of June seem to be a thing of the past. What’s my secret I hear you ask? Well I wish I could bottle it! Can you imagine?! Alas there is no magic pill for hayfever (even antihistamines!). There are however a number of steps you can take to nourish your body and prepare it to better manage the onslaught of harmless pollen without choosing to see it as a deathly invasion. And the sooner you start the better!
1. Eat to help balance your immune system. In simple terms, there are two sides to your immune system, and when things get out of balance allergies and autoimmune diseases can start to become a problem. This is when those harmless particles of pollen are identified as a danger, and the immune system goes into overdrive to neutralise them (cue sneezing, itching and swelling!). Increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids by eating flaxseed daily, or oily fish 3 times a week (no more than twice if pregnant), or taking a supplement of EPA/DHA (or echium oil if vegetarian). Top up your vitamin D levels, ideally by exposing your skin to sunlight for 20 minutes a day, but if that’s not possible (for example if going outside makes you sneeze uncontrollably and wet yourself!) then small amounts of vitamin D can be found in oily fish, butter and egg yolks (or a supplement!). And never underestimate vitamin C and zinc, which are your immune system’s best friends. Lots of different fruit and vegetables for vitamin C, and seeds and shellfish for zinc, will help with those.
2. Optimize gut health and digestion. In order for all these immune-supporting nutrients to get where they are needed you have to be able to break food down for proper absorption. Practice mindful eating – chew slowly, concentrate on what you’re doing, drink a small glass of water with your meal (but no more). If you suffer with digestive problems then consider a digestive enzyme (contact me for more info if you want to go down this route). Friendly bacteria are important for both the immune system and digestive health, so eat fermented foods (things like plain bio yoghurt, kefir, sour pickles, miso) or consider taking a supplement (particularly if you’ve had antibiotics recently).
3. Cut down on immune-suppressing foods and drink. Yep, this is the bit you were probably dreading. Sugar suppresses the immune system. Sorry, but you need to know that. And while that may seem like a good thing, when yours is in overdrive and causing you to wish you could scratch your own eyes out, it’s not. It’s contributing to the whole unbalanced state referred to in point 1, and an unbalanced immune system is an over-reactive immune system. Unfortunately caffeine, alcohol and processed meats also fall into this category. No-one’s saying you can’t have these things ever again, but if you’re miserably suffering and want to reduce that feeling, then you need to know these things might be making matters worse!
4. Reduce exposure to environmental toxins. Your liver is a fantastic organ. Among its many purposes is breaking down toxins so they can safely be eliminated by the body. And it’s very good at doing that. Unfortunately modern living exposes us to a great many toxins though, and sometimes the liver can become overburdened. If there’s a backlog hanging around, that gives your immune system something else to get its knickers in a twist about, so it makes sense to reduce exposure where you can. Cleaning products, cosmetics, skincare and personal hygiene items – many of them contain chemicals which we can quite frankly do without. Try the ‘green’ cleaning products, or natural skincare etc (paraben and SLS-free are a start, although there are many more to be aware of – contact me if you want to know more).
5. Try herbal/natural remedies. The chemicals which cause the hateful symptoms of hayfever are composed of more than histamine. Why not try quercetin, pycnogenol, or spices like ginger and turmeric? Local honey, taken for months in advance is thought to be helpful. Homeopathy may have some answers for you too, although I’d advise you to see a qualified homeopath if you decide you want to try it out.
I wish you luck, and hope to see you outside this summer, without vaseline round your little red nose and sunglasses permanently attached to your face to hide your puffy eyes 🙂