My annual hay fever misery has begun. I’m talking antihistamnines and using eye drops which the pharmacist advised. is there anything I can eat and drink that may just help to ease my symptons
As you will know, hay fever is a seasonal allergic reaction to various pollens and can cause anything from a blocked and runny nose to itchy, watery eyes, copious amounts of sneezing, and if you are unlucky, all of these. Pollen has this effect in some people because the immune system thinks that pollen is the enemy (like a bacterial or viral infection) and stimulates it to release histamine and other compounds to fend it off. This triggers inflammation at the point where the pollen entered your body — the eyes, nose and throat. You have done the right thing in going to the pharmacist and if symptoms worsen, a trip to your GP may be necessary.
As far as nutritional support and dietary changes are concerned, there is not a huge amount of clinical evidence that any particular course of action will work. Probably the best I can do is to outline some avenues that have been explored and leave you to decide whether they are worth pursuing.
First, there is quercetin. This is a naturally occurring flavonoid supernutrient found in certain fruits and vegetables, especially apples, apricots and blackcurrants. I have heard medical herbalists recommend supplementing with quercetin at levels of 500mg twice a day, believing that rather than blocking the effects of histamine once it has already been released, quercetin may help to stop its release.
Most people in the UK eat an estimated 19mg of quercetin each day, so you will see that these intakes are much larger. It is unlikely that you will have any unwanted side-effects but if you want to boost intakes naturally an apple contains around 50mg, four mugs of tea about 20mg, four apricots about 2.5mg and 100g of blackcurrants about 4mg.
Some medical herbalists also recommend taking a supplement of nettle leaf (make sure that it contains at least 1 per cent plant silica) at a level of 250mg, three times a day. Together with quercetin, it is thought that these remedies may help to combat sneezing, itching and swollen passages in the nose.
A more familiar ally is vitamin C. It is said to be the main antioxidant in cells in our noses and throats and is known to support the immune system, which takes a battering when hay fever hits. While supplementing with 500mg twice a day may help, such levels can cause tummy upsets in some people.
The foods most rich in vitamin C include guava, blackcurrants, peppers, broccoli, strawberries, papaya, kiwi fruits, oranges and other citrus fruits and dark green vegetables such as cabbage providing between 230mg per 100g to around 50mg in descending order. Omega-3 oils found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and herrings may also provide some relief as they dampen down inflammation.
Finally, sipping certain herbal teas is worth a try. Ginger or peppermint teas can have a mild decongestant effect while anise should help to relax your airways and calm down the sneezing