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Hay Fever

Hay Fever Spring has arrived at last and what could be better than longer, warmer days and flowers in bloom! It’s a lovely time of year but for the 10 million hay fever suffers in the UK it marks the beginning of the yearly struggle… The smell of cut grass brings happy thoughts of summer to many but sends the rest of us reaching for the tissues! Months of sneezing, runny noses, itchy watery eyes, headaches and disturbed sleep await…trust me its no fun!

Hay fever is an allergic response to pollen, which can start as early as March when the tree pollen arrives and then continues throughout the summer with grass pollen. When these pollens come into contact with the nose, eyes or throat of someone with a particularly sensitized immune system it causes histamine to be released by the immune system, which causes the symptoms described above.

Over the last 20 years there has been a significant increase in the incidence of seasonal allergies and current opinion suggests that sufferers are also more likely to have food allergies. 2.5% of all GP visits are in reference to hay fever and amazingly this amounts to more than £50 million a year in medical costs! GPs will usually prescribe anti-histamines, decongestants and corticosteroids to treat hay fever however these have side effects such as sedation, drowsiness and hyperactivity.

Thankfully there is an alternative! There is a range of highly effective and safe nutritional approaches which you can take to support you through the summer season and help you avoid the medication.


Essetially this involves reducing comsuption of foods which encourage mucous production such as wheat and dairy and increasing the foods with anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties (like berries). Sugar should also be avoided as this increases inflammation and reduces the body’s ability to repair itself. The best food to eat is plenty of fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds and spices that reduce inflammation such as ginger and turmeric. Some more of the most important nutrients to consider are…

Vitamin C and Quercetin

It is thought that Vitamin C may help reduce overall histamine levels and data has shown that being deficient in Vitamin C can result in increased histamine levels which increases the immune response to pollen. Studies have also shown that flavonoids (such as quercetin) posses anti-inflammatory and immune modulatory activities. Quercetin in particular has been shown to inhibit production and release of histamine so is particularly important! If you want to increase your levels of quercetin you should eat more onions, cranberries, blueberries, cherries and apples.


Bromelain is an enzyme derived from pineapple which also has anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties which helps relieve pain and congestion of inflamed tissues especially in the respiratory pathways. Another benefit of bromelain is that it helps enhance the absorption of quercetin…a double bonus!

Plant Sterols

Plant sterols or ‘phytosterols’ are fats that are found in plants which have long been known for their effect on lowering cholesterol. More recently research has shown they also have immune supporting properties especially in relieving symptoms of hay fever. They do this by inhibiting the release of interleukins (inflammatory substances) which reduces the production of histamine therefore controlling the allergic response.

Omega-3 fatty acids


Horseradish Reduces congestion and mucous
Pineapple Rich in bromelian
Ginger and Tumeric Supports inflammation
Nuts and Seeds Good sources of essential fatty acids
Onion and Garlic Rich in quercitin
Berries High in Vit C and flavonoids

The increase of allergies in the population has been associated with the over-consumption of omega-6 fatty acids which are pro-inflammatory, as opposed to anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. This is an unhealthy balance which is unfortunately very common in a typical Western diet. Omega-3 fatty acids help support a healthy balanced immune system and research shows that a balanced intake of fatty acids has a powerful positive effect in certain people with allergic conditions. A good quality fish oil is an easy way to improve this balance!



Dairy Can be mucous-forming
Wheat Allergenic and mucous forming
Sugar Inflammatory and cause increase mucous production
Alcohol Cause irritation of mucous membranes
Excess Caffeine  Interferes with absorption of nutrients
Red Meat Pro-inflammatory and increases mucous
Refined Carbohydrates Increases inflammation and mucous


There are other ways that you can reduce your exposure to pollen such as:

  • Wearing sunglasses to stop the pollen getting in your eyes
  • Keep car windows closed
  • Avoid grassy areas and cutting grass
  • Don’t dry clothes outside as pollens will attach to them
  • Keep windows and doors shut to avoid pollens entering your home
  • Rub Vaseline around your lower nostrils to trap pollens before they enter your nose



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