Spring is a joyful time but with more than 10 million people in the UK estimated to suffer from hay fever according to the NHS, it can be a season of misery and discomfort for a significant proportion of the population.
The impact of hay fever is often underestimated but the symptoms can have debilitating effects. For some, the nature of allergic rhinitis (its medical name) can lead to loss of sleep and reduced concentration levels. Research has also shown that the condition has affected exam performance in teenagers (Walker et al, J Allergy Clin Imm 2007).
In this article, we take a closer look at hay fever and examine the role nutrition and reflexology may play in alleviating symptoms.
Hay fever – The Lowdown
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to plant pollens or fungal spores, triggered by the release of histamine and other powerful inflammatory substances from our immune system, particularly within the mucus membranes lining our eyes, nose, throat and sinuses.
Symptoms vary in nature and severity but can include frequent sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy, red or watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis), an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears, or a cough caused by postnasal drip. Less commonly, symptoms can include the loss of sense of smell (anosmia), facial pain caused by blocked sinuses, headaches, earache, or tiredness and fatigue.
According to Asthma UK, teenagers and young adults are most commonly affected by hay fever although it can develop at any age. The condition is more common in boys than in girls but in adults, men and women are equally affected.
An increasing prevalence
Allergy UK have highlighted that the frequency of allergic diseases, such as eczema, asthma and rhinitis (which includes hay fever) has increased in westernised countries including the UK over the past 60-70 years. What’s more, diagnosis of children with hay fever has trebled in the last three decades (Gupta 2007).
Our Registered Nutritional Therapist, Silvia Grisendi, says it is important to remember that while plant pollens and spores acts as triggers, air and food pollutants have been identified as prime drivers of the underlying inflammation. This makes our body more susceptible to react and develop unpleasant allergy-type symptoms during hay fever season.
She suggests: “Easy preventative measures that can help keep reactions under control include avoiding high-traffic city roads and exposure to cigarette smoke or chemical fumes (e.g. paint, solvents); keeping windows shut when pollens are high, especially at night; treating yourself to a good quality air purifier to help clean the air in your home; and choosing organic produce to minimise exposure to pesticides and other toxic chemicals.”
Nutrition and hay fever
As hay fever causes the release of histamine and other powerful inflammatory substances from our immune system, foods that have natural anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties can be very beneficial in the alleviation of symptoms.
Silvia says: “Garlic, onions, apples, oranges and all types of berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, etc.) are rich in the natural antihistamine quercetin, a type of bioflavonoid that is protective of mucous membranes.
“Quercetin’s beneficial effects can be significantly enhanced when consumed along with other bioflavonoids, such as catechins in green tea, resveratrol in red grapes, bromelain in pineapple, as well as turmeric and ginger, the king and queen of anti-inflammatory spices.
“Vitamin C is another very potent antihistamine nutrient, in addition to being a key antioxidant, essential to many body functions. Freshly squeezed vegetable juices taken daily can really help maintain good levels of vitamin C throughout the day, support the immune system and flush out damaging toxins and free radicals.
“Taken daily as nutritional supplements, preparations containing quercetin, bromelain, and other bioflavonoids in combination with vitamin C can help reduce puffy eyes and irritation in the nose.”
Reflexology and its role in alleviating symptoms
For hay fever sufferers Reflexology can help by supporting the immune and respiratory system, which helps to reduce the effects and severity of hay fever symptoms.
For those not fully up to speed on Reflexology, it is a system of massage used to relieve tension and treat illness, based on the theory that there are reflex points on the feet, hands, and head linked to every part of the body. It increases blood flow, circulates oxygen and nutrients around the body as well as eliminating toxins from the body. Reflexology can also help to reduce stress and has calming effects.
According to our in-house Reflexologist and experience massage therapist, Elisha May: “There have been case studies that support the role that Reflexology can play in combatting the misery induced by hay fever. In some cases, symptoms improved dramatically and in others some clients even stopped taking their antihistamines as they felt Reflexology stopped them from needing them.
“The points I would focus on in Reflexology to try to help relieve the symptoms of hay fever would be the head, the eye/ear/nose area, sinuses, lungs and throat. These points help alleviate the physical symptoms. I would also work the points for the adrenal glands to help reduce inflammation caused by hay fever.”
Reflexology for pregnant hay fever sufferers
For pregnant women suffering for hay fever, Reflexology may be a preferable option to certain types of hay fever medication.
Elisha says: “Reflexology is safe to be used on pregnant women suffering from hay fever. Some medicines can be taken when pregnant and some cannot be taken, it depends on the medication. Some pregnant women may prefer to try Reflexology rather than taking hay fever medication.”
Prevention is better than cure
As ever, prevention is better than cure and there are various preventative nutritional interventions that can help to alleviate the misery caused by hay fever.
“Preventative nutritional interventions that work best when started early in the season include consuming honey from your local area, preferably with honeycomb still in it. Take this throughout the winter and early spring – as long as you are not allergic to bee products or bee stings! The pollen in the honey may have a positive influence on your immune system, and protect you from developing full-blown hay fever.
“Also helpful is spirulina, the green-blue algae with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Evidence suggests that daily consumption prior to and during hay fever season may significantly decrease the extent of certain allergic symptoms, such as nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching,” advises Silvia.
Do it at home
“Reflexology can be performed on oneself if the correct reflex points are shown to the client. That way the client can do them at home when they feel the symptoms. This is easy to do and can be done on the hands as well as the feet. The hands will be easier for most people to work on by themselves, ” says Elisha.
From a nutritional perspective, Silvia suggests: “Upping your daily intake of water can make a big different during hay fever season. Evidence has shown that people who are dehydrated tend to suffer more hay fever-type symptoms.”
Silvia Grisendi’s Spring anti-hay fever smoothie recipe
- 1 glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice
- 2-3 cherry tomatoes
- Handful of blueberries
- 2 small handfuls of fresh baby spinach
- 1 tbsp of honey (locally sourced if possible)
- 1 small piece of fresh ginger
- Handful of crushed ice
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, pour and enjoy!
To book in and see Elisha May please get in touch on +44 (0) 20 7490 4042 or email us. To arrange an appointment with Silvia Grisendi, please visit www.silviagrisendi.com