Runny nose, congestion, itchy eyes, sneezing? These are typical symptoms of seasonal allergies/hay fever (otherwise known as allergic rhinitis). From a naturopathic perspective, there is SO much we can do to assist you with you seasonal allergies; you don't have to suffer through spring.
What causes hay fever?
Let's take a quick look at what's happening within the body. Seasonal allergies occur when your body has a hypersensitive reaction to allergens such as pollen. Your body recognises this allergen as harmful, causing your immune system to produce antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE).
Antibodies are essentially proteins that help the body detect and bind to things that shouldn't typically be there (including different types of viruses & bacteria), triggering the immune system to fight the invading pathogen. In hay fever this response is exaggerated, and these antibodies signal immune cells to release chemicals such as histamine, contributing those irritating symptoms you see in hay fever.
Bioflavonoids such as quercetin are some of the most effective nutrients for hay fever relief. They work by inhibiting the release of histamine from mast cells. Quercetin also has antioxidant, immune modulating and anti-inflammatory properties, all very important to reduce an allergic response.
Quercetin is found in capers (one of the highest sources), onions, berries, grapes, apples, kale and broccoli to name a few. If you're going to supplement with Quercetin, you may want to look for something that also contains other bioflavonoids and vitamin C (which also has anti-allergic effects). Increasing quercetin rich containing foods as well as vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits, berries, capsicum and broccoli is also going to be super helpful in reducing symptoms. Look for local & organic where possible to ensure nutrient value is high.
Herbs can also be incredibly supportive. Herbs such as Albizia, Baikal skullcap, Horseradish, Ginger & Chamomile may all be useful in reducing allergies. There are plenty of good herbal teas, tablets and capsules available, but you may want to have a chat with a naturopath or herbalist to decide which one may be best for you. Alternatively you can find many of these herbs in their dried form in a health food store.
What's going on with the gut:
This is really where we start looking at the bigger picture. DAO is an enzyme which helps break down histamine, decreasing its effects in the body. DAO requires various nutrients, including vitamin C, B6 and copper to be produced. In order for the production of DAO however, you need a healthy gut lining, as this is where the enzyme is produced. If you have issues with allergies (this may also include things like eczema & asthma), or any digestive symptoms, you may want to look at your gut health. A health practitioner such as a naturopath can help you get to the bottom of these issues.
Don't forget vitamin D:
This one may seem odd to you, but vitamin D is a potent immune modulator in the body, so it helps manage exaggerated immune responses such as hay fever. Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common, especially in states such as Victoria & Tasmania. Levels also drop consistently through winter as your body uses up your stored vitamin D, so you're at greater risk of deficiency coming out of winter. A GP can refer you for a vitamin D blood test to check your stores. Supplementation is very important if deficiency is present so I recommend chatting to a practitioner in order to get a suitable dosage plan. Vitamin D plays a role in not just immune health, but also bone, skin, gut and brain health - a deficiency can leave you feeling awful!
If you're struggling to get through spring without your antihistamines, book in for an acute 15 minute consultation with me (or an initial consult if you have more complex issues). I'd love to help get you back on track!
Lauren Hart Naturopath