Hay fever can be really miserable, especially as it's often at its worst during summertime when it’s so nice to be outside.
But there are a few things you can do to help reduce the severity of your symptoms and keep annoying symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes to a minimum.
How can you stop hay fever symptoms naturally?
Reducing the risk of hay fever and the severity of hay fever symptoms can be approached from a few different angles:
Certain nutrients and foods can be really helpful in achieving these goals and I’ll take you through each step below.
But first, I've popped a very simplified explanation of how some of these foods may help balance the immune response (addressing the root of the issue). The link between gut health and certain types of allergies, like hay fever are closely intertwined.
How come some people are more "allergic" than others?
Picture the T-cells of your immune system as a see saw. On one side of the see saw you have T-Helper 1 cells (TH1), and on the other side of the see saw, T-Helper 2 cells (TH2). In an ideal world we want this see saw to be balanced.
With high levels of inflammation in the body, TH2 goes up and TH1 comes down. This increase in TH2 cells leads to inappropriate immune responses, with some people becoming more “reactive”.
People with certain types of allergies, including:
What causes this heightened reaction in the first place?
Regulation of the immune system takes place largely in the gut so supporting gut health in general and reducing the risk of leaky gut would be helpful here.
Probiotics are helpful for supporting the lining of the gut wall and may be a helpful adjunct to the hay fever nutrients discussed below in this blog post. I cover all areas of gut health and gut healing at my Learn to Love your Gut event and you can read more about leaky gut here.
Be mindful that anti-histamine medications, (especially steroids) while essential at times, deepen this imbalance in the natural see saw system.
What foods and supplements help hay fever symptoms?
1. Reishi Mushrooms
Reishi is a Japanese mushroom shown to suppress the inflammatory TH2 response and support balance in the immune system.
This is great news because by dampening down the TH2 response, we are addressing the symptoms of hay fever (inflammation), as well as addressing the underlying issue of hay fever - the immune imbalance.
The mushroom polysaccharide extracts move the immune balance away from TH2 and towards TH1, overall supporting a balanced immune response.
And the benefits of reishi don’t stop there. Reishi mushrooms also contain a bioflavonoid (triterpene) which inhibits histamine release.
Reishi is also rich in antioxidants which help mop up inflammation debris, minimising damage to nearby healthy cells.
Powell, M, 2014, Medicinal Mushrooms A Clinical Guide. 2nd edition, Mycology Press, UK.
2. Red Onions
Red onions contain quercetin, a flavonoid found in certain fruits and vegetables. Quercetin acts as a natural anti-histamine because it helps stabilise the cells that release histamine in the first place. (Histamine is what triggers the hay fever symptoms – runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing).
What foods contain quercetin?
The core of a pineapple contains a plant based enzyme called bromelain. Quercetin (mentioned above) is often found alongside bromelain in supplement form because bromelain has shown to support the effectiveness of quercetin. Together they may reduce the inflammation associated with hay fever.
What foods contain bromelain?
Bromelain is found inside the core of a pineapple. So not the nice fleshy, juicy part of a pineapple unfortunately but the actual core (the hard part at the centre of a pineapple).
If you have a high speed blender you could pop the pineapple core in the blender with some ginger and make a lovely anti-inflammatory smoothie, for example.
Pineapple is also a fantastic source of vitamin C – another potent anti-histamine nutrient.
Vitamin C prevents the secretion of histamine and may increase the elimination of histamine from the body. Other sources of vitamin C rich foods to include are a kiwi, broccoli, bell peppers and cabbage.
Thornhill, S., & Kelly, A. (2000). Natural treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis. Alternative Medicine Review : A Journal of Clinical Therapeutic, 5(5), 448-454.
Stinging nettles are maybe not the most appealing leafy green that springs to mind but yes this common garden weed is a priority when it comes to reducing the severity of hay fever symptoms. And it's free and ready to pick in spring, perfect timing!
Nettles prevent the production of prostaglandins (inflammatory chemicals) by blocking two inflammatory pathways in the body, COX-1 and COX-2. This has shown to prevent allergy symptoms including: sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy and watery eyes and related discomfort.
This is my favourite hay fever food because it is natural, it grows wild and organic (so it costs nothing) and aside from helping with hay fever, it is a fabulous source of iron, calcium and vitamin C.
Roschek, B., Fink, R., McMichael, M., & Alberte, R. (2009). Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis. Phytotherapy Research, 23(7), 920-926.
How do I cook nettles?
Nettles need to be cooked in order to eat them, or at least blanched (e.g. added to boiling water to make tea).
I would recommend using them in any dish as a replacement for spinach. They also work really well added to a traditional potato and leek soup.
Favourite Nettle Recipes:
Here's a delicious nettle pesto recipe I would recommend. It's so good on pasta, or as a dip. It contains parmesan which is also a source of probiotics for gut health. And for a vegan or dairy-free nettle pesto try this one.
It goes without saying, but make sure you wear rubber gloves when you cut, wash and prepare the nettles to avoid getting stung. They lose their sting once cooked or blanched.
Go for the nettle tops, where the younger leaves are, and avoid nettles growing on the verge of busy roads to reduce risk of contamination. Like all fruits and vegetables, wash them before use.
How much nettles do I need to eat for hay fever?
If you have hay fever, aim to eat some nettles daily as well as drinking nettle tea, at least three cups per day. Nettle teabags are also readily available to buy for convenience.
Dose and consistency is really important in order to see an actual improvement in hay fever symptoms. Taking these foods sporadically won't work. If cooking and eating nettles is not convenient or realistic for you (totally understandable), do consider a nettle supplement for a stronger, more therapeutic dose. Drop me a message if you are unsure what to order.
Milani, Duranti, Napoli, Alessandri, Mancabelli, Anzalone, . . . Milani, Christian. (2019). Colonization of the human gut by bovine bacteria present in Parmesan cheese. Nature Communications, 10(1), 1286.
5. Bee Propolis
Bee propolis is an adhesive substance produced by honeybees and stored inside their hives to protect them from rain and bacterial infections (so clever!!)
Bee propolis has been found to effectively regulate the immune response without over stimulating it. The combination of these actions may be helpful for hay fever sufferers.
You'll often find it added to hay fever supplements in combination with reishi, vitamin C and other nutrients to help support the immune system and reduce the risk of hay fever symptoms.
Bachiega, T., Orsatti, C., Pagliarone, A., & Sforcin, J. (2012). The Effects of Propolis and its Isolated Compounds on Cytokine Production by Murine Macrophages. Phytotherapy Research, 26(9), 1308-1313.
So what supplements should I take for my hay fever?
Get in touch with me if you need help choosing the right hay fever supplements for you or a loved one. I can provide a comprehensive hay fever supplement plan as part of a consultation.
For best results you want to get ahead of allergy season. So start before hay fever symptoms flare-up with pollen exposure. Try to incorporate these natural approaches for hay fever in January, and use them daily leading up to the spring and throughout allergy season.
If you suffer from allergies or if you are on medications, as with other supplements, always seek professional advice before supplementing. Get in touch with me here and find out how we can work together.
Tried everything for hay fever and nothing works?
If you experience chronic, year-round hay fever or sinusitis, it's maybe time to rule out histamine intolerance and work on gut health.
The next steps could be to start a low histamine diet for four weeks and reduce your histamine intake by eliminating the following foods for a month – aged foods e.g. cheese and fermented foods like sauerkraut, alcohol, sausages and other processed or cured red meats.
If this resonates with you please get in touch with me or check out the various packages I offer as there's lots we can do to help.
For most of us, our working day has changed drastically and we’re dealing with various pressures, stressors and commitments. Here are my top tips to help you work well from home.
Get some good routines in place
A great place to start if you're new to working from home is to simply stick to regular meal times. While stress and anxiety can lead to a loss in appetite, sticking to set mealtimes is important for our mental wellbeing.
Skipping meals can trigger a drop in blood sugar and this can really interfere with our mood, increasing anxiety levels (especially if we add coffee and sugar to the mix) - so please do not skip meals.
A nourishing breakfast, lunch and dinner will help you work more efficiently from home and keep you feeling energised and upbeat. Keep a jug of water on the table so you stay hydrated, and keep coffees to 1-2 per day.
Cannot stay away from the fridge while working from home?
If you’re prone to grazing or boredom snacking while working from home, keep healthy snacks in the house. The quality of the snack really counts so choose something that contains a little protein to help curb your appetite and keep you feeling satisfied for longer.
Some examples of healthy snacks could be:
Back to those good routines:
Wake up feeling hungry, not sluggish
Spending more time at home increases the chances of late nights, and mindless snacking while watching Netflix.
Consider fasting for 12-14 hours overnight. For example, finish dinner by 7pm and eat breakfast between 7am and 9am.
Structuring your meal times and fasting overnight for 12 hours will:
Fasting overnight has shown to improve blood sugar response, weight loss and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, including type two diabetes. Why not commit to it for one week and see how you feel?
Want to create healthy habits and routine at home?
NOW more than ever is the time to prioritise your health. With time spared from commuting, why not use this extra half hour for creating a delicious wholesome meal for yourself?
Flick through those recipe books and check out some recipes online. I'd love you to join my free online cookery demos for more inspiration and tips.
Use this as time to unwind and listen to your favourite podcast or music. Far more uplifting than the news channel!
How to meal plan and save money
To prevent unnecessary trips to the shops now is the perfect time to get back into meal planning. If you’ve not tried meal planning before, I challenge you to trial it for two weeks. I promise you will:
You’ll find loads of helpful meal planning tips, templates and ideas, as well as healthy cookery demos in my Facebook group, The Gut Health Club. Come join us here.
New to meal planning? Start by:
Meals like stews, soups and roasted vegetables make convenient yet deliciously healthy choices that serve multiple portions.
Take your list with you to the supermarket and stick to it. It’s a great way to limit impulse purchases on multipack buys and treats you don’t really need.
Nourish your body with all the right foods
If you have lots of tinned beans and pulses in your cupboards at the moment look for creative ways to use these. For example:
Focus on injecting these cupboard essentials with flavoursome herbs, spices and vegetables (fresh or frozen). You’ll easily:
If you're looking for more inspiration and help with meal ideas, join my Facebook group The Gut Health Club. I'll be running free cookery demos each month. If you can't make them live you can still receive the recipes and watch the replays here.
You may also be interested in my up-coming online nutrition classes. The next one is all about supporting our immune system. Further details of all my online events can be found here.
Have you ever felt 'sick to your stomach' with worry or anxiety? Maybe around an exam, money worries, important meetings or a marathon?
Stress has a huge impact on our ability to digest food, and can even trigger IBS flare-ups in some people. Symptoms may include:
When stressed, the body switches off unnecessary functions (like digesting lunch) in order to power the legs and major muscle groups with oxygenated blood because it’s tricked into thinking we are in fight or flight mode. There is no 'room' for digestion when we are about to be attacked by a sabre-tooth tiger.
When we are sitting at our desk feeling tense and anxious because we have a demanding schedule with impossible deadlines or an overbearing boss, our body is in fight-or-flight mode.
Sub-consciously, we're now busy producing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, not digestive juices. The gut is literally 'starved' of oxygenated blood when we are sitting tensely for long periods of time, our blood pressure increases, and our breathing naturally becomes shallower.
So what can we do??
Rest and Digest
Next time you are about to eat, ensure you are in 'rest and digest' mode: switch off email, put the phone down, don’t multi task and eat mindfully (see below).
Before eating, take three deep belly breaths. See if you can prolong the out breath. For example, breath in for a count of three and out for a count of six. This slows the heart rate and helps switch off the stress response. Then check-in with how you are feeling.
Take a short walk before lunch if you need to clear the head, relax and unwind. And after lunch, take a short walk outside to help your digestion, when you can.
Mindfulness is the buzzword of the moment and it's so important in so many ways. Mindful eating means being present as you eat.
Really notice the smell, taste and texture of your food. We are all guilty of literally 'inhaling' our food from time to time. Take a moment to truly focus on chewing and enjoying the sensation, texture, and flavour of your food. It's way more enjoyable and chances are you'll suffer much less unwanted bloating and uncomfortable wind.
Saliva is Essential
Gulping down big gasps of air with every bite because you're in a hurry will inevitably create gas, cramping and bloating. Savour each mouthful and chew for longer because this mixes more saliva with the food you are eating.
Saliva is essential for good digestion as it starts the enzymatic breakdown of your food. Without it you will be more prone to stomach cramps, bloating and gas.
Taking your time and chewing food properly also helps signal your brain that you are full and that it is time to stop eating. So if your discomfort is linked to overeating, this should really start to make a difference.
Still having stomach problems?
If you feel you are already following these steps and still have issues, despite getting the all clear from your GP then there could be an underlying gut problem.
Common issues that aren't picked-up in a routine GP or GI Consultant appointment include: digestive enzyme deficiency, bile insufficiency, a parasite or bacterial imbalance in the gut, and/or food intolerance. These are all possible underlying factors and comprehensive stool analysis and other tests can be helpful.
If you suspect food intolerances, these can be identified through elimination diets under strict management and through testing. This is a measured, managed, personalised health plan and requires guidance and regular support. Check out the various packages here.
You may also enjoy reading:
Tune up your digestion in five simple steps
My top 5 tips to prevent bloating
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