Most of us welcome with open arms the warmer weather that comes as spring turns to summer. However, the climatic change at this time of year is not necessarily so relished by those afflicted by the condition hay fever. For some, a rise in the pollen count can signal the start of a miserable constellation of symptoms including sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. Conventional treatment for hay fever is based on antihistamine pills and steroid nasal sprays. However, my experience in practice tells suggests to me that increasing numbers of people are not content with taking such medicaments. Fortunately, for adventurous types keen to take an alternative path, there are a number of natural strategies that can offer very real relief from hay fever symptoms.
When working with a hay fever in practice, I tend to look at the diet first. This may seem a little nonsensical: after all, the link between what we put in our mouths and an overzealous reaction to pollen is not an obvious one. However, my experience is that the elimination or reduction of certain foods in the diet can be very effective in bringing hay fever symptoms under control. It seems that some foods have the capacity to ‘sensitise’ the delicate tissues around the nose and eyes, essentially making them more likely to react to normally innocuous airborne agents such as pollen. While any food may have this effect, I have to say I find dairy products to be most troublesome in this respect.
In natural medicine, dairy products are renowned for their ability to stimulate congestion and mucus production in and around the nose. Symptoms suspicious for dairy sensitivity include a tendency towards a blocked nose, snoring, catarrh, or a history of sinus problems (Melvyn Bragg take note). Problems with dairy products can start in childhood and may manifest as ear infection, glue ear, or recurrent sore throats or tonsillitis. Anyone whose childhood was troubled with one or more of these problems, who tends to suffer from hay fever and/or congestion, might do well to give more than a passing thought the idea of dairy sensitivity. For those keen to take this a step further, I recommend a trial of dairy-free diet. Butter is usually well tolerated, but all other cow’s milk-based products including milk, cheese and ice cream should go. In my opinion, rice milk makes the best alternative for sloshing onto one’s cereal in the morning. In my experience, eschewing dairy products can clear the airways within a couple of weeks, and often eases hay fever symptoms considerably.
The symptoms of hay fever are largely attributable to a substance called histamine, which is why anti-histamines are a mainstay treatment for this condition. However, release of histamine in the body can be dampened through natural means too. Vitamin C, bromelain (an extract of pineapple) and the plant compound quercetin all have natural anti-histamine action in the body and may help control hay fever symptoms. Another natural substance traditionally used to treat allergic conditions such as hay fever is nettle. One supplement that I like to use in practice is Allergy Support. A blend of nettle, combined with vitamin C, bromelain and quercetin, this often seems to quell hay fever symptoms quite naturally. To order, phone Panacea on 020 8795 3730.
One other natural remedy which can work for hay fever is the herb Butterbur (Petasites hybridus). In the laboratory, this herb has been found to have anti-inflammatory activity and anti-allergic potential. Earlier this year, the British Medical Journal published a study which pitted Butterbur head to head with the conventional antihistamine drug cetirizine (prescribed in the UK under the name Zirtek). The two treatments were found to be equally effective in reducing hay fever symptoms, though cetirizine tended to cause more problems in the way of fatigue and drowsiness.