What dietary change appears to have cured this man’s hay fever overnight?

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I was away for the weekend on a walking trip with a couple of good friends. The proprietor of one of the guesthouses where we stayed knew that two of us were doctors, and at breakfast asked for some friendly medical advice. It was about the medication he was taking for his quite-severe hay fever. Once that was done, my doctor friend asked what might be done for hay fever from a nutritional perspective.

I explained that one strategy I find quite useful here is to eliminate dairy products from the diet. Some people are sensitive to dairy products in a way that can cause mucus and congestion around the nose and throat. There is a thought that even if this is not obvious, for some people dairy products can ‘sensitise’ the tissues around the nose and eyes and make them more susceptible to, say, pollen, house dust mites or animal dander.

Individuals who are sensitive to dairy often had signs suggestive of this in childhood. My experience is that ear, nose and throat issues are often rooted in dairy sensitivity. I asked about this, and our proprietor told me he’d had his tonsils removed as a child. He also said that he drinks a lot of milk. He asked how long it would be before he would know if removing dairy was helping him. I told him people will usually know within a week.

Today, I got an email from the proprietor telling me that he had eliminated all dairy products from his diet yesterday, and today his eyes are not itching and his nose is “totally clear”. He has halved is medication and plans to stop it altogether at the weekend.

Of course, the resolution of his symptoms may not be due to his cutting out of dairy products. Some may argue it is just a fantastic placebo response. However, should this be the case, I don’t think he’ll mind (and neither do I).

However, if this improvement really is because he stopped dairy products (as I suspect), then it does not surprise me. I find that elimination of dairy products brings dramatic improvement in hay fever symptoms in about half of people who try it.[hr]

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