Thank goodness Spring is here! Flowers are blooming, birds are singing and the evenings are getting longer. Spring is a symbolic time of renewal, rejuvenation and hope. Consequently, it’s the time of year where most people sigh a big breath of relief thinking that the majority of their annual health battles are now behind them. However, you may be part of the unfortunate few who are dreading this time of year due to the seasonal allergies that you suffer from. Please do not fret, as there are many things you can do to naturally support your body’s immune defences and overall resilience to enable you to fully get the most out of what should be a gorgeous time of year.
What are Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal Allergies are the body’s response to a release in pollen from grasses, flowers and trees. Pollen can cause a release of the inflammatory mediator called histamine. Histamine is a vital chemical your immune system releases from a range of mast cells; catalysed by a release of an allergen like pollen. You need a certain level of histamine to function, but too much can overload your bloodstream leading to overactive, inflammatory reactions. This causes the histamine cells to flood your bloodstream leading to a heightened inflammatory reaction that means your blood vessels increase in permeability; enabling the white blood cells to enter the site of inflammation. This in turn activates the nerves that cause constriction of your inflammatory passages; your nose to stream, and your eyes to tear. Moreover, as the cells that react to histamine also make up your heart and vascular system, digestive system, brain and nervous system, skin and lungs; the response can occur throughout the body, and be multi systemic causing a whole range of aggravating symptoms.
What do Seasonal Allergies look like?
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Dark circles
- Skin flushing
- Wine/alcohol intolerance
How to Heal Seasonal Allergies
Heal your Gut
The question you may now be asking is if pollen is the problem, then why does not everyone suffer the same allergic reactions? The answer could most likely lie in your gastrointestinal health. Did you know that 70% of your body’s immune system resides in your gut? Leaky Gut (increased intestinal permeability) can therefore wreck complete havoc on your body’s natural defences. Common signs of Leaky Gut include excess wind, cramping and acid reflux. Usually in your gut there are tight junctions between intestinal cell membranes. When the tight junctions of your gut open wide, toxic pathogens are allowed to enter the bloodstream which can overwhelm your liver and lead to allergic reactions. Furthermore, DAO (Diamine Oxidase) is produced in the gut; an enzyme whose main responsibility is to break down histamine. Consequently, if there is any intestinal breakdown, there is a high chance of reduced DAO production, and an overabundance of histamine. If you are someone who has developed seasonal allergies later in life, there is a strong probability that this coincides with a deterioration of your gut health.
Steps to heal the gut
- Add in Probiotics (reduces inflammation in the gut)
- Consume an anti-inflammatory diet – cut down on conventional dairy, sugar, processed foods
- Avoid consuming too many high histamine foods over the allergy season (alcohol, vinegar, aged cheese, leftovers, tinned fish, shelled fish, smoked meats, chocolate)
- Contact my team to organise a diagnostic test to assess whether you have any underlying allergies/intolerances/compromised gut health that may need addressing
Balance your blood sugar
Having a consistently high blood sugar disrupts healthy white blood cell activity and causes your adrenaline levels to fluctuate, creating more and more stress in your body that can lead to mast cells being more disposed to release histamine. Diabetics are known for having a compromised immune system. It is therefore vital to get your blood sugar under balance, however you may need to work with both your Doctor and a Nutritionist to get this fully under hand.
Steps for balancing blood sugar:
- Eating meals that have a balanced in healthy Carbohydrates/Fats/Proteins
- Make sure you have a good sized breakfast which includes protein
- Choose slow burning carbohydrates like sweet potatoes
- Eat regularly at set times throughout the day
Cut down on stress
Cortisol helps control the body’s inflammatory responses, but when you are in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ your cortisol can be on a bit of a roller coaster ride, and can either remain too high, or plummet to an all-time low, which stops your immune system functioning at optimal health. High cortisol levels can cause mast cells to release histamine which promotes an over reactive immune system and low cortisol levels (this commonly presents itself as severe fatigue) will leave you more vulnerable to infection.
Steps to cut back on stress
- Get adequate, rejuvenating sleep
- Try something new it’s Spring! Sometimes boredom can be a form of stress.
- Practice daily pranayama (a form of mindful, deep breathing)
- Cut back on things and people that are draining
- Arrange relaxation time such as evening baths in your week
- Lighten up your weekly exercise routine by swapping some heavy cardio for yoga
Besides from your average, over the counter prescriptions that you can usually take this at this time of year; herbs can also be extremely helpful for providing allergy relief. Herbs are naturally full of antihistamines, but need to be taken consistently over this season to reap their full benefits. All of the herbs recommended below can be taken in supplemental forms, however you need to work with a qualified nutritionist or naturopath to work out the right dosage for you.
Ginger is a native Asian plant. In India, it is called the ‘universal spice’ because of its many benefits. Gingerol is an active constituent of ginger and is a potent antioxidant that helps cleanse your bodies from unwanted toxins. It has traditionally been used to treat nausea, stomach upset (histamine overload is linked to nausea and motion sickness) and is also helpful for any respiratory congestion issues.
Ways to include Ginger in your everyday:
Chop a couple of peeled inches of ginger root and steep in some hot water for a few minutes. You can sip on this as a tea throughout the day. Alternatively, grate some raw into your smoothies to give it an anti-inflammatory boost and add some sprinkled into your cooking to warm up a meal.
Turmeric belongs to the Curcuma Longa family that is related to Ginger root. It is the spice that gives Indian curries its rich, yellow colour. Turmeric contains Curcumin which is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. This powerful herb supports the health of the mucosa of the gut, thins the mucous and support bile flow. Bile breaks down the fat in our bodies and is your body’s main immune response in your gut to emulsify toxic pathogens and other fat soluble toxins we may have ingested.
Ways to include Turmeric in your everyday:
To aid against seasonal allergies it is best to buy Tumeric its pure organic form; either powdered or fresh. You can experiment by adding this to your typical cooking to provide an exquisite, rich flavour such as curried scrambled eggs; or you could use this spice to make a beverage such as a ‘Turmeric Latte’ by creating your own paste alongside coconut milk, and some cinnamon with raw honey for sweetness.
Stinging Nettle, Utrica dioica is one of the most popular herbs for allergy relief. Nettles contain potent antihistamines that counteract the release of histamine. They are also mineral rich so are great for strengthening your blood cells.
Ways to include nettles in your everyday:
A great way to include more nettles into your life is to either buy or create your own herbal tea infusion. You can also make a great soup base combined with lots of garlic and other tasty seasonal vegetables.