Hayfever Season: What Should You Do?

For the last few weeks, we have seen the first patients of this year suffering from hayfever, or allergic rhinitis as it is medically termed. While most people put up with this form of allergy, from my point of view, and of many holistic practitioners, hayfever is a major disturbance of the body’s self-regulating mechanisms.

From a holistic point of view, what causes hayfever?

Medically, hayfever is caused by a build-up of histamine, and for this reason, the first type of medications are anti-histamines. Histamine is a naturally occurring substance in the body that has many functions. In essence, the level of histamines will increase locally or generally when there is stress in the body. For example, a cut or a wound will increase histamines in the area, and this will trigger an inflammation and then a healing response. What doctors fail to tell you is that basically everything increases histamine level in the body: the food, we eat (histamine is a key part of the digestive process), emotional stress (histamine is a neurotransmitter), and physical stress…. Even being thirsty will increase significantly histamine levels. Hayfever sufferers have a very high level of histamine when they suffer from hayfever but also at the time when they do not appear to suffer (such as winter). Because of this, their level of histamines can reach the symptoms threshold when being exposed to innocuous stressors, such as pollen, dust, animal hair or plant moulds.

The job of a health practitioner is to find the cause of the high level of histamines, and set up a plan to reduce it.

Profiles of hayfever sufferers

There is usually a genetic link to that condition, and when looking at the family medical history, it seems that this pathology is closely linked to asthma, eczema, chronic constipation and chest infections. The majority of patients suffer from hayfever at the same time every year, depending on their sensitivity to pollen. In London, when I was practicing there, the majority of sufferers were sensitive to the pollen of willow, birch or hornbean (pollen season: March to April). In Cambridge, grass and nettle are quite prevalent (both pollinating from May to September), but agricultural chemicals, heavily used around the city seems also to be a trigger. However, a large minority of customers have actually all-year round symptoms, with permanent itches, sniffles and sneezes, triggered by a wide range of allergens.

How to reduce the symptoms of hayfever

Beside trying to stay away from known stressors, a hayfever sufferer should try to reduce his or her “normal” level of histamines. Drinking more water, reducing coffee, soft drink and possible food allergens, may help. In general, I suggest people to stay off sugar, wheat and dairy during their hayfever seasons until they are symptom-free. You can find more tips here if you wish. On top of this, off the shelf natural alternatives can also help. I really like A. Vogel’s Luffa Complex tincture (which can be found at Revital). It can be found in form of tinctures or nasal spray and has no counter-indications. Liquorice tincture with a good multi-vitamin complex is also fantastic, but I usually advise against self-prescribing liquorice as some people can be sensitive to it after long-term use. I also make a homeopathic remedy with the season’s pollen, that seems to work well. Feel free to contact me for more information.

What is the best way to address hayfever in the long term?

To fully eliminate the symptoms of hayfever however, a more complex support is required. You can not fix hayfever during a hayfever crisis as the body is in such a state of shock. You should try and alleviate the symptoms, and work on reducing your overall “normal” level of histamines on winter. By experience, this is best done with a health practitioner, and it takes about one to three years to be fully symptoms free, with a 50/70% improvement on the first year for most customers.

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Hay Fever Crisis in Cambridge

hayfeverCompared to last year, hay fever (or allergic rhinitis as it is called medically) has been mild. Only a handful of customers have been coming for every week. More information below to help your friends find the right approach about their seasonal allergy.

While most people put up with this form of allergy, from my point of view, and also of many holistic practitioners, hayfever is a major disturbance of the body’s self-regulating mechanisms, and should be addressed seriously.

From a holistic point of view, what causes hayfever?
Medically, hay fever is caused by a build-up of histamine, and for this reason, the first type of medications are anti-histamines. Histamine is a naturally occurring substance in the body that has many functions. In essence, the level of histamines will increase locally or generally when there is stress in the body. For example, a cut or a wound will increase histamines in the area, and this will trigger an inflammation and then a healing response.

What doctors fail to tell you is that basically everything increases histamine level in the body: the food, we eat (histamine is a key part of the digestive process), emotional stress (histamine is a neurotransmitter), and physical stress. Being dehydrated will increase significantly histamine levels.

Hay fever sufferers have a very high level of histamine when they suffer from hay fever but also at the time when they do not appear to suffer (such as winter). Because of this, their level of histamines can reach the symptoms threshold when being exposed to innocuous stressors, such as pollen, dust, animal hair or plant moulds. The job of a health practitioner is to find the cause of the high level of histamines, and set up a plan to reduce it.

How to reduce the symptoms of hayfever and address it in the long term
Beside trying to stay away from known stressors, there are several simple approaches that can alleviate the condition. To know more, check the full article on my website.

Image reproduced from restorenaturopathy.com.au

Alternative Remedies for Hayfever

London Life Coach & Wellbeing Consultant Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about hayfever. Follow Sloan Life Coach on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s Life Coaching website www.sloansw.com

I’m sorry to hear that your hayfever is impacting you to the point where your social life is compromised. You are not alone in wanting to avoid over the counter remedies such as Beconase, Piriton and Zirtek; although these are great for some people I understand and hear your concerns.

If you would prefer to go the homeopathic route, Allium Cepa is a useful remedy if your symptoms are a streaming and/or itchy nose however if it is your eyes that are giving you more trouble then a better option would be Euphrasia. You haven’t mentioned whether you have used homeopathy before so in case you haven’t I highlight here that it’s treatment works on the principle of like cures like and so a homeopathist is also likely to give you a preparation of mixed pollens that may help in alleviating some of your symptoms. As I am not a qualified homeopath, I suggest you go to www.a-r-h.org to find a qualified registered homeopath to make sure you get the best and most appropriate advice for your exact symptoms.

In the meantime, it would be beneficial for you to boost your immune system starting with a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement along with a course of Echinacea. You do not mention you diet in your question, therefore I stress it would be useful for you to make sure you include plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet to keep your immunity high. If you have varied quantity of fish in your diet this will also help if not perhaps add an omega-3 oil to your supplement intake.

As you are against taking over the counter anti-histamines whose main effect is to stabilise mast cells which relieves the nastier effects of hayfever, a more natural anti-histamine is quercetin – this is found in onions, apples and green tea. Alternatively a trip to your local Holland & Barrett to pick up some pine bark could also aid in an anti-histamine like effect.

If supplements are your preference, there has been research to suggest methylsulponylmethane (MSM) can help keep mucus thin, enabling easier breathing, however this is a relatively new dietary supplement so do check whether it is suitable for you. If you are concerned about taking MSM you could try substituting it with liquorice which also has an anti-inflammatory effect which could aid in soothing the irritated mucus membranes. Where possible avoid dairy products because they increase mucus production and can aggravate your condition.

Although your symptoms do sound like an allergy and more likely hayfever, it is worth highlighting that there is a lesser known food intolerance based on histamine intolerance. Such foods that can aggravate the situation if you do have an intolerance would be red wine, matured cheeses, cured meats and tomatoes. The symptoms you would have if you were intolerant to these foods would include runny nose, bloating, sore eyes and headaches. It may be worth asking your doctor if you could be tested for such if you are not convinced that you have hayfever.

Good luck – I hope this answer has been helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to leave a comment or email me directly.

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