It’s September and that means Spring is on its way. For many people that comes with the added bonus of sneezing, itchy eyes and runny noses thanks to the spring flowers, pollens and grasses wafting through the breeze.
Symptoms of hayfever occur when the immune system reacts to allergens in the air, causing inflammation, increased mucus production, sneezing and itchy eyes. Some of the complications of hayfever include sinusitis and asthma. (1)
What can be done to help? Well, generally the best way to reduce allergy symptoms is to eliminate the allergen, but that’s super unhelpful considering pollens, grasses and seeds are literally *everywhere*. There are a few things you can do to help reduce inflammation and ease symptoms.
A diet that is high in inflammatory foods can exacerbate symptoms of hayfever, sinusitis and asthma. Your body will thank you for reducing foods high in trans-fatty acids and saturated fats and replacing them with antioxidant rich whole foods! Increasing your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables like berries, green leafy vegetables, and a variety of coloured produce as well as consuming whole grains instead of refined will increase your consumption of essential nutrients including minerals, vitamins and antioxidants which will benefit you in many ways. Foods containing omega 3 fatty acids are also important, as these are helpful to reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract. (2) Specific foods that may be beneficial include pears, cold water oily fish such as tuna or salmon, turmeric, ginger, kale, spinach and kiwifruit.
Hot chicken broth is also a great food to have when congested, especially if you add in herbs such as ginger and garlic – the hot water helps to clear congestion, and the spices and herbs can help to reduce the inflammation and open up the nasal passages. (3)
There is also a strong link between dietary intolerances and increased hayfever symptoms. Some of the more common foods allergens include dairy products, wheat, eggs, nuts and shellfish. It is not advisable to cut out whole food groups unless under the guidance of a health professional, however dairy has been known to increase mucus and congestion so it may be worth reducing or eliminating dairy for a week or two to see if symptoms improve. For a more comprehensive plan to follow, consider Bio-Compatibility testing. If you do suffer from hayfever every year then now is the perfect time to get started with it.
Once again, probiotics are part of the picture. I have written about probiotics before and want to emphasise again that not all probiotic strains are created equally. There is no point just grabbing a probiotic off the shelf thinking it will help with your allergies. One of the big ones that have been researched with regards to allergies is Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG®). It is one of the most extensively researched strains and has been shown to reduce inflammation and allergic response and balance the immune system - and has been demonstrated as safe to take from an early age. This strain can be found in some retail products, as well as practitioner products. (6)
The herbs that are most beneficial are ones that help to reduce inflammation and congestion, specifically in the upper respiratory tract. There are a number of ways that you can utilize herbs – teas, in cooking, and aromatherapy (diffused or topical) are the main ones for general use at home.
Ginger is a fantastic anti-inflammatory herb that can be used in cooking and teas. A tea of fresh ginger, lemon and honey is a very soothing drink. Other herbs that have beneficial properties and are great for use in cooking include garlic, thyme, turmeric. (3)
There are many places you can purchase tea blends from, and in addition to the above cooking herbs which you may also find in tea blends, look for peppermint, echinacea, cinnamon and licorice. I love the Pukka teas and stock them for purchase, however there are so many great options available from health food stores, online or markets.
For a more concentrated herbal option, liquid extract products are the way to go. You can purchase pre-made blends such as the Kiwiherb range – and their De Stuff (for both children and adults) is a great quality product. They also do immune blends and can be purchased at the clinic or online direct from their website.
As a Naturopath I also prescribe custom liquid extracts and tablets. Liquid herbal extracts are individually blended and prescribed, with doses that ensure a therapeutic effect. Tablets or powdered herbs in capsules can also be prescribed for those who don’t like taking herbal liquids.
Aromatherapy is a great way to clear the sinus and airways. When looking foran essential oil to use, it’s worth taking the time to do some research around reputable brands to ensure the oil you’re using is high quality. I have written a previous article around essential oils (here). Oils that are beneficial specifically for helping to clear congestion and open the airways include peppermint, eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree, lavender and rosemary. Care must be taken when diffusing around infants and children, ensure that the oils you are using are suitable for use. (3)
5. Other Therapies
Some other therapies that may be beneficial include:
Nasal Irrigation – Available for purchase from a pharmacy are nasal irrigation kits (Flo Nasal Rinse is one brand) which is a saline rinse that can help to clear out the sinus and can help to reduce inflammation, clear allergens and pathogens that may be lurking, and improve mucus clearance of the area. (3)
Breathing Techniques / Yoga – There is some evidence to suggest that deep breathing techniques can improve respiratory function in asthma sufferers. (4) The Buteyko method and breathing techniques used in Yoga are both beneficial and so may be worth exploring, especially for hayfever sufferers who also experience asthma. Some examples of breathing exercises can be found here: http://www.noasthma.net/breathing-exercises.php
Tactile Therapies – Therapies such as Chiropractic and Remedial Massage can improve symptoms in hayfever and asthma sufferers. For many clients who experience respiratory issues, the chest and upper back area are restricted which can contribute to shallow breathing. Chiropractic and massage can help to open up the area thereby improving respiratory function. (5)
Exercise – Regular exercise can improve overall quality of life for asthmatics, byimproving lung function. (3) If you do suffer from allergies or asthma, always consult with a GP prior to commencing any vigorous exercise regime.
It is essential to mention that if you experience severe symptoms please consult with your GP, and never cease taking medication prescribed by your doctor unless they have advised you to do so. Naturopathic treatment plans can complement the care and treatment that you receive from your GP, it’s not a case of “one or the other”.
If you would like more information on what services are offered, then you are most welcome to email me with any questions at email@example.com, or phone 0410 259 273 for a free 15 minute phone appointment to find if a Naturopathic appointment is suitable for you. Otherwise, you can book an appointment online using the button below.
1. Hechtman L. Clinical Naturopathic Medicine: Elsevier Australia; 2012.
2. Galvin K, Bishop M. Case Studies for Complementary Therapists: A Collaborative Approach: Elsevier Australia; 2010.
3. Sarris J, Wardle J. Clinical Naturopathy: An evidence-based guide to practice: Elsevier Health Sciences; 2014.
4. Saxena T, Saxena M. The effect of various breathing exercises (pranayama) in patients with bronchial asthma of mild to moderate severity. International journal of yoga. 2009;2(1):22.
5. Wu J, Yang X-W, Zhang M. Massage Therapy in Children with Asthma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2017;2017.
6. Metagenics, Lactobacillus paracasei LP-33TM and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG®) for Immune Control; N.D.