by Daphne Lambert
There are different kinds of allergy, food allergies like peanuts, soya or shellfish, perennial allergies like dust, mold or feathers or seasonal allergies from tree, grass and weed pollen.
Now as we head through spring into the summer the seasonal allergies also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis are upon us. Sneezing, coughing, runny nose and itchy eyes, the classic symptoms of hay fever, affect 10 million people in the UK causing sufferers great discomfort.
Allergies set in when your immune system misjudges a harmless protein, interpreting it as a threat. The immune system studies the perceived threat, called an allergen, and in preparation for any further exposure develops antibodies, special cells designed to detect it. You are now "sensitized" to the mistaken allergen. Then, the next time you're exposed to this allergen, your immune system jumps into action. The antibodies pick up the allergen and deliver it to white blood cells called mast cells, which trigger the release of chemicals like histamine inducing the allergic symptoms of sneezing, itching, swelling and rashes.
There are different theories as to why the immune system makes this mistake. 'The hygiene hypothesis' is an accepted theory that inadequate exposure to bacteria and viruses during early childhood results in an immune system that gets fewer opportunities to learn how to discriminate between dangerous pathogens and harmless things like pollen.
Potential allergies are caused by the pollen of hazel, elm, willow, ash poplar, birch, oak and pine between February and April. Between May and June it is the grasses, oil seed rape, lime and plantain and between July and September mugwort, ragweed, nettle and chrysanthemum.
Foods & drinks that help minimise the effects of seasonal allergies
Medical studies have repeatedly concluded that powerful chemicals called antioxidants—found in fruits, vegetables and other foods and beverages—help battle inflammation inside your body, a critical factor in controlling allergies. Ensure your diet is rich in anti-oxidants full of natural anti inflammatory action, in practice this means including plenty of colourful, organic, seasonal fruit and vegetables in your diet every day.
Certain foods and beverages are particularly helpful and include:
Beetroot – this high anti-oxidant rich food has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory benefits.
Asparagus – this fantastic spring food contains the antioxidant nutrients vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and zinc as well as a unique combination of powerful anti-inflammatory compounds
Garlic - the most researched compound in garlic, allicin, has been found to have many anti-inflammatory properties.
Nettle – another food arriving just at the right time to ease the discomfort of hay fever as nettles inhibit the body making histamine. Make a tea with the fresh leaves and add a slice of lemon to make it even more potent. For best results drink daily for 6 weeks before the pollen count rises.
If you cannot source fresh nettles use the dried herb or take a tincture.
Avocados – many nutrients in avocados have been linked to anti-inflammatory action.
Ginger – ginger is loaded with anti-oxidants and a powerful anti-inflammatory
Green tea – Green tea has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties.
Turmeric – curcumin in turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory the bio-availability of curcumin in fresh turmeric is limited so it may be worth considering a high potency curcumin supplement
Lacto fermented vegetables – The seat of your immune system is located in your gut, so supporting your digestive health is essential part of supporting your immune system, which protects us against all disease, including allergies.
Two especially important nutrients
Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 is crucially important to overall health and the prevention of disease. A 2005 German study found that a high intake of omega 3 fatty acids was associated with a decreased risk of allergic sensitisation and allergic rhinitis. Omega-3s help fight inflammation and can be found in walnuts and flaxseed oil, as well as cold-water fish, grass-fed meat and eggs.
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found in a number of foods. It is a natural antioxidant protecting the body against free radicals that helps mop up molecules called free radicals that cause cell damage. Quercetin helps to stabilise mast cells and prevents them from releasing histamine. Foods high in quercetin include broccoli, citrus fruits, onions, apples, parsley, tomatoes & red wine.
Anti inflammatory smoothie
serves 1 generously
½ avocado peeled, stoned and cut into small pieces
125ml hemp milk
125ml fresh nettle infusion
½ teaspoon turmeric powder (or teaspoon freshly grated)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon linseed oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
juice of half a lemon
Place all the ingredients into a blender and process until smooth, pour into a glass and serve.