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managing hayfever
BodyHealth

Everything you need to know about managing hayfever

One in four of us suffer from hayfever, yet it still seems impossible to manage. Which is why A.Vogel are here to share their top tips on managing hayfever

This article is sponsored by Wholefoods, Ireland’s largest distributor of natural foods and health care products

Have you ever found yourself dealing with hayfever and not knowing how best to treat it? You’re not alone. But thankfully the experts at A.Vogel are on hand to share their insider knowledge and natural solutions.

What is hayfever?

Hayfever is a an allergy to pollen, the very fine powder that trees, flowers and grasses produce. Basically male gametes (sperm cells) of our plant friends. Yep hayfever is basically an allergy to plants getting it on, perhaps that’s where the term love is in the air come from!

But unfortunately for many of us our bodies don’t recognise the beauty of this important natural phenomenon. In fact, the 25% of us who suffer from hayfever do so because our immune systems sees pollen as a potentially harmful substance, like a virus or bacteria that could cause illness. The body then reacts by producing a large amount of histamine, which results in inflammation of the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose, and often of the skin as well. And it is this that causes the characteristic itchiness, sneezing, running nose and watery eyes we associate with hayfever.

But what about allergies to dust and pets?

Those of us who are allergic to things like dust, animal dander or mould spores often experience the same symptoms as hayfever. However, this condition is called allergic rhinitis. There is even a new term floating around called pollenution, which refers to a combination of pollen and pollution is causing allergic rhinitis and hayfever in many cities.

What’s the atopic triad?

Many people suffer from both allergic rhinitis and hayfever so the terms are sometimes confused. Allergic rhinitis is seen in the medical system to be part of what is called the atopic triad, alongside eczema and asthma. It’s common for anyone with one of the atopic or allergic conditions to be more prone to suffer from one or both of the other conditions. Often the underlying cause can help to ease all three of these conditions and as we’ll see later on in this article, it often comes down to the gut.

What causes hayfever?

So hayfever is caused by a pollen allergy, yet only 1 in 4 people suffer from it while everyone is exposed to the pollen. So what makes some people’s immune systems respond differently? Like many other conditions related to the immune system, including most auto-immune illnesses, the western medical system generally says the root of the issue is unknown. However naturopathic practitioners and holistic health therapists look at the body more holistically and have found some interesting links to the digestive system. Not surprising really, because even Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, said “all disease begins in the gut”.

Read more: 7 ways to improve gut health

Naturopathic options for hayfever

Naturopathy is a form of holistic medicine which harnesses the healing power of nature to treat a patient holistically and to achieve a state of true wellness. This includes using nutrition first and foremost along with lifestyle advice, hydrotherapy, herbal medicine and many other protocols to address the root cause of an ailment, rather than just managing symptoms. In order to get to the root of any illness it is important to approach the treatment holistically.

As mentioned above, a gut healing protocol is often key for eliminating hayfever, alongside adrenal support which can also be a big part of your healing protocol. If you try the following advice and your hayfever symptoms still pop u from time to time, it can helpful to work with an experienced practitioner. Because every one of us is different and the underlying causes of our hayfever can vary too. The following governing bodies can be helpful ways to find experienced, qualified practitioners in your area:

Association of Naturopathic Practitioners
Irish Register of Herbalists
Nutritional Therapists of Ireland

Top nutrition tips for curing hayfever

Avoid coffee

I know, I’m sorry! But coffee increases the production of histamine which can make your hayfever symptoms worse. Nettle tea is a wonderful alternative (as you’ll see in our herbal medicine section below.) Our Bambu drink is a natural, tasty and caffeine-free alternative to coffee. It contains organic chicory, Turkish figs, malted barley, wheat and Greek acorns to give it a wholesome flavour.

Reduce sugar intake

I often feel like the bad cop in someone’s healing protocol because I really do take away all the good stuff! However refined sugars, including alcohol, cause your blood sugars to rise and fall dramatically which causes a surge in adrenaline, increasing histamine which of course exacerbates the symptoms of hayfever.

Get some ginger into your diet

This really belongs in the herbal section below because ginger is such a wonderful herbal medicine but it is one that can so easily be incorporated into the diet. Add it fresh or dried, to your porridge in the morning, to your salad dressings at lunch or to curries and stews for dinner! You can also make delicious ginger tea.

Eat anti-inflammatory foods

Anti-inflammatory foods are great for most ailments but when it comes to hayfever it helps balance the pro-inflammatory effects of histamine. The following are all well-known for being anti-inflammatory, plus some contain beta-carotene which is excellent for the respiratory tract as well:

• Blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, blackcurrants.
• Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash.
• Mangoes, apricots, peaches, nectarines, papaya, pears, pineapples.
• Prunes, plums, raisins, figs, avocados.
• Oils such as pumpkinseed oil, flaxseed oil and hempseed oil.

Nutritional supplements

Vitamin C and quercitin are two important nutrients to help your body deal with hayfever. You can supplement both of these when symptoms are intense but it is great to get the nutrients in from food all year round. Vitamin C is obviously high in citrus fruits but also in kiwis, strawberries, mangos, broccoli and cauliflower. Quercitin is found in broccoli as well (another reason to eat the mini trees!), in leafy green veg, red onions, peppers, apples, grapes, black tea and green tea.

Herbal medicine to help hayfever

Herbal medicine is a wonderful form of medicine that has been tried and tested throughout history in all parts of the world. Herbalists are qualified practitioners who will look at your entire case history holistically and give you a very specific prescription for your ailment.

There are also many wonderful over the counter herbal medicines for hayfever that you can find in your local health food shops or pharmacies, or even in your back garden.

Some of the herbs used to treat hayfever symptoms are as follows:
Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)
Nettle is a well known hayfever remedy. It has anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory effects. It can be drank as nettle tea, using dried or fresh nettles. If you have nettles in your garden get some gloves on and pick some to make into homemade nettle tea, nettle pesto, or nettle soup! You can also use nettle tincture which can be found in your local health food store.

Luffa tincture
Our Luffa tincture is a blend of 7 tropical herbal extracts that Alfred Vogel formulated when he worked with Dr Fritz Aichele, a German naturopath. It is very effective for treating hayfever.

Pollinosan
This is a tablet form of the Luffa Tincture. This is a licensed medicine which means it has scientific studies to back it up and has been licensed by the Health Products Regulatory Authority to be sold as an effective treatment for hayfever symptoms.

Pollinosan Luffa Nasal Spray
Luffa is also available in a nasal spray. This is a great option for anyone who wants topical relief from sneezing and from an itchy nose. This is also suitable to use in pregnancy, while most other herbal products are not (unless you are working with an experienced herbal practitioner).

Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
Reduces congestion and secretions. It is good for itchy eyes, sneezing, and excess mucus.

Eyebright eye drops
Eyebright is also available in eye drops which is a wonderful way to treat dry itchy eyes. I have found that this year specifically there is a higher number of people with dry eyes at this time of year.

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
Helps reduce allergic, inflammatory, and histaminic reactions and supports liver function. Milk thistle could be a great addition to your hayfever treatment, especially if you’re enjoying a few drinks in the sunny beer gardens regularly this summer!

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow reduces congestion and secretions. Our Yarrow Herbal Bitters Complex provides wonderful digestive support and helps hayfever from the very root in the digestive system. This is one that is best not to dilute as the bitter taste is important, and it should be taken before meals to aid digestion while also reducing your hayfever congestion symptoms.

Calendula Complex
Our Calendula Complex is an excellent hayfever adjunct because it also contains the antihistamine actions of nettle. Calendula is a wonderful skin remedy and I find it really helpful to add 20 drops of this complex into a warm bath when itchy skin is one of the main hayfever symptoms.

Tips for managing hayfever

Being aware of the pollen count so you know when to avoid grassy fields can help. On days where the pollen count is high simple tips to avoid contact with the pollen are as follows:
• Close your windows.
• Drive with the windows closed, use aircon instead of the air vents.
• Wear wrap around glasses to protect the eyes.
• Use a lip balm on the nostrils and around the eyes to create a barrier.
• Shower after you have been outside to wash away any pollen.

Siobhán Carroll is a qualified naturopath, herbalist and plant based nutritionist. She also teaches yoga and meditation, runs an online blog called the Nerdy Naturopath and is the A. Vogel Trainer for Leinster, Connaught and Ulster

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