Fend off those spring sniffles’ with some great advice from our resident nutritionist, The Healthy Hedonist, Becky Graham…
As winter turns into spring here in the UK, we can finally welcome lighter, longer days and warmer months. However, less welcome for many is the extra pollen in the air, so if you suffer with seasonal allergies it’s time to get ahead of the game and arm yourself against symptom flare ups with some nutritional know how.
Why do some of us suffer more than others?
Allergies occur for a variety of reasons, they can be inherited or linked to the way we were born, for example infants delivered by C-section are not exposed to the same antibodies from their mothers as those delivered naturally, and as a result the immune system can take longer to mature and defend itself appropriately.
We can also develop allergies in later life, this occurs when the immune system becomes hypersensitive to substances that are normally harmless like certain proteins in foods, pollen or dust mites. The onset of symptoms may be caused by compromised digestion, poor diet, climate or exposure to pollution. Unfortunately, if you are susceptible to one‘atopic’ condition like asthma, atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis or hay fever,you are often sensitive to others.
Hay fever is one of the most common allergies, the NHS estimates around 10 million sufferers in the UK, and that figure is on the up – within the next 20 years it’s expected torise to 30 million. Symptoms are generally brought on by inhaling pollen, which encourages the white blood cells of our immune system to respond by producing antibodies. This triggers the release of a hormone called histamine causing inflammation and manifesting in the classic runny nose, itchy watery eyes, and sneezing.
There are a few ways you can help to reduce the impact of annoying allergies. Follow these 10 practical tips and tricks to support your health during allergy season:
- Keep your digestive system happy and healthy. 70-80% of the immune system is located in our gut, so feed friendly bacteria with pre and probiotic-rich foods like onions and garlic, leeks, artichoke, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, miso and kombucha.
- Eat foods high in quercetin. This antioxidant that has an anti-histamine effect. Apples, peppers, berries, cruciferous veg like broccoli and cabbage, leafy greens and lemons are all good sources.
- Juice a pineapple. The tough core contains an enzyme called bromelain which can be effective for respiratory irritation and inflammation associated with allergies.
- Limit foods that are high in histamine. Some foods are naturally high in histamine, so it may help to limit them to lower the load on your immune system. These include alcohol (particularly wine and beer), cured meats, vinegars, aged cheese and smoked fish.
- Increase vitamin C fruit and vegetables. Pack your plate with an abundance of brightly coloured foods like spinach, kale, broccoli and red peppers, as well as citrus fruits and kiwi. If you struggle to get your 5 (or 10!) per day you may like to consider supplementing or stock up on GetMore Vitamin C for an extra boost.
- Eat a rainbow to help manage flare ups, colourful foods contain protective antioxidants. The compound anthocyanin found in berries can help to manage inflammation in the skin and support natural defences. Beta-carotene, the orange pigment in carrots, squash and sweet potato is converted into Vitamin A, another essential skin nutrient.
- Up your omega 3 for it’s natural anti-inflammatory properties. Include oily fish like mackerel or salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds several times a week.
- Spend less time in damp environments. If you generally feel better in hotter, dryer climates, damp may be the problem. Check your home doesn’t have any mouldissues – it has been linked to the worsening of respiratory conditions like asthma.
- Limit exposure to pollen. Simple tips like staying inside on windy days, keeping windows closed, taking a shower after being outside and removing shoes when you enter the house can be helpful at reducing contact with these problematic pollens
- Top up with immune essential Vitamin D. Low levels are linked to the onset of allergies, and by February we are very much depleted in the UK. However, if spending time outdoors worsens your symptoms, you may want to think about adding a supplement, or get sipping our refreshing mango and passionfruit.
Finally, if you’re still struggling allergy testing can be helpful to determine foods or environmental allergens that may be causing an immune reaction, making your symptoms worse. Speak to your GP or a Nutritionist about blood tests that can measure IgE allergic reactions, which once identified and removed can reduce the burden on your immune system both during allergy season and beyond.