Updated: May 31
Spring has sprung, and for many, this means the return of the dreaded hay fever symptoms. Itchy watery eyes, stuffy noses, sneezing, low energy all wreak havoc with the increased pollen in the air.
These symptoms, however, are a sign of something much deeper and troubling for the sufferer's health long term. Runny noses, watery eyes and sneezing are all ways your body attempts to rid itself of the allergen. Although these pesky symptoms should not occur regularly and if so they should be viewed as a warning sign, not be ignored or suppressed with anti-histamines or over-the-counter medications.
Well, at least that's the functional health care approach, where we look to find and address the root cause of the symptoms.
So, what is the most common culprit for hay fever and seasonal allergies?
Poor gut health!
Our gut or gastrointestinal tract is the long passage that runs from our mouth to our stomach, to our intestines and right down to our anus. It is where we digest our food, absorb vital nutrients and eliminate waste and toxins.
Becoming increasingly common is a "leaky gut", where the junctions between the cells lining the intestinal wall are no longer tight but porous or "leaky". This allows bacteria, toxins, undigested food and fungus/yeast into the otherwise sterile bloodstream.
Your body's immune system then launches an attack on these foreign invaders triggering an inflammatory response. Inflammation that comes from a leaky gut can come in many forms, including irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, joint pain, skin conditions, thyroid disease and of course seasonal allergies. Nutritional deficiencies are also common, further impacting the body's ability to function.
What causes poor gut health or a "leaky gut"?
Poor dietary choices, excess sugar consumption, medications such as antibiotics and oral contraceptives, alcohol and toxins or chemicals in our food and water.
To discover more about the vital role our gut plays in our health and well-being, check out "You are 90% bugs, but are you the right kind?" and "Six simple steps to heal your gut and boost your immune system". Or visit my IBS & Gut healing Facebook Group.
Natural symptom relief
Healing your gut may require the help of a qualified holistic health practitioner, but there are some things you can do to give you a head start on symptom relief.
Increase your vegetable and fruit intake, especially brightly coloured ones. They often contain higher levels of Vitamin C and beneficial flavonoids. So think, citrus fruits and red or orange capsicums. But even broccoli, Brussels sprouts and spinach contain high levels of flavonoids.
Flavonoids possess antioxidant and anti-allergic activities as well as immune-modulating traits. A common flavonoid used in a supplemental form that can help allergies is quercetin.
Quercetin is a plant pigment found in many common herbs and foods, but taking around 500 mg per day (for adults) has been known to help.
Vitamin C can also be supportive. Consider around 2000 mg per day. Thorne has a Vitamin C product containing flavonoids.
Freeze Dried Stinging Nettle Leaf has been found to be as effective as over-the-counter anti-histamines! It needs to be freeze-dried to work, however. (This product contains both stinging nettle and quercetin here).
Those with low levels of DAO enzyme may benefit from a supplement containing it. Diamine oxidase (DAO) is responsible for breaking down histamine that you take in from foods. Foods like aged cheeses, red wine, bone broth, processed meats, and fermented products.
Avoid wheat, gluten, sugar, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol as these have been known to make allergies worse and prevent gut healing.
Probiotics can be beneficial. Different types, or strains, have their own unique ways of helping out. Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus casei Shirota, Saccharomyces cerevisiae (EpiCor), Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) and Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum are some strains that have been shown to improve the symptoms of seasonal allergies. The right dose is important, and in many cases needs to be upwards of 10 billion colony forming units (CFUs) per day. (Please note: There are some people who may not benefit from probiotics. They often have a Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth).
Digestive enzymes, zinc, and vitamin D may also be required.
Mould is another potential allergen. It is recommended you safely and effectively address any mould growing in your home or work environment. Inhaling mould spores can be highly dangerous to your health.
Stopping medications for reflux or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also be necessary. But please do this only with the support of your health practitioner.