If you suffer from hay fever, it can make it miserable to spend time outside in the summer. Typical hay fever symptoms can include a runny nose, nasal congestion, an itchy throat, sore/itchy eyes, and sneezing.
Most hayfever remedies focus on reducing the histamine production that is triggered by exposure to pollen but you don't need to rely on tablets to keep symptoms at bay. There are lots of natural ways to reduce the misery of hay fever!
What causes hay fever?
When you’re trying to treat hay fever symptoms, it’s helpful to know what you’re up against. Symptoms are the result of histamine, which is produced when your immune system wants to fight off something it thinks is harmful.
This can be due to an infection or to promote healing but with hay fever, it’s purely a reaction to pollen.
For some people, being exposed to pollen causes the immune system to overreact to the “threat” and the result is those irritating and often debilitating hay fever symptoms.
Natural ways to reduce hay fever symptoms
One of the most effective ways to reduce hay fever symptoms is to stop pollen from getting into your nasal passage in the first place.
Using a barrier balm around the inside of your nostrils can do this. Wraparound sunglasses can stop pollen from entering your eyes and causing the inevitable itching and soreness.
It’s not foolproof but it can minimise the amount of pollen that can trigger symptoms.
Cleanse your sinuses
Clearing out your sinuses can help remove pollen and reduce irritation in your nose. A saline nasal spray can do this and there are lots of natural options that are just salt water (with no nasties!). Using one of these sprays regularly can unblock your nose and flush out any pollen that may have found its way there.
Support your liver
Your liver works hard to break down histamine. Anything you can do to support your liver can help to ease hay fever symptoms.
Some easy ways to give your liver some love include drinking plenty of water, limiting your exposure to toxins (including caffeine, alcohol, and chemicals), and eating plenty of foods that cleanse your liver (including artichokes, leafy green vegetables, and watercress). Some herbs also support the liver, such as milk thistle.
Drink herbal teas
Herbal teas aren’t just a tasty way to stay hydrated. Chamomile, nettle, elderflower, and liquorice teas can help calm histamine production.
Eat garlic and onions
Garlic and onions contain quercetin, a natural antihistamine. Quercetin can reduce the production of histamine and minimise your body’s reaction to pollen.
Other foods that contain quercetin include apples, citrus fruits, berries, green tea and parsley.
Embrace natural decongestants
What you eat can have a big impact on how congested you feel. Chilli peppers can open up the nasal passages. Foods that contain biotin are crucial for keeping the mucous membranes healthy. Eggs, leafy greens, fish and nuts are great examples.
On the other hand, some foods have the potential to cause more congestion - not what you want when you’re already feeling blocked up with hay fever! Dairy can be a big culprit here. If you experiment and find that dairy makes hay fever symptoms worse, try swapping it for dairy-free options.
Essential oils can be powerful decongestants too. Eucalyptus and peppermint are great for unblocking your nasal passages and easing a stuffy nose.
Sweeten things up with honey
Because honey is produced by bees, it’s thought that it could make your body less sensitive to pollen. It won’t work for everyone but it’s worth a try!
To get the best benefits, go for honey that is local to your area. This is more likely to measure up against the pollen that’s prominent locally. Supermarket honey is much more generic and may even be sourced from abroad. Plus, it’s more likely to be processed, which can ruin the anti-inflammatory benefits of honey.
Load up on vitamin C
Vitamin C can reduce histamine levels. Strawberries are packed with this nutrient and are always a big hit in the summer. Other vitamin C-rich foods include peppers, blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and of course, citrus fruits!
Elderberries are a great source of vitamin C. You’ve probably heard that elderberries are a good move for colds and flu but they can also help with hay fever. Elderberries can soothe the mucous membranes in your nose and throat and ease congestion. You don’t necessarily need to eat them - herbal tea that contains elderberry can give you some of the benefits.
Get your vitamin D
If you’re low on vitamin D, you can be more likely to suffer from allergies. Lots of us are deficient in vitamin D and if this is the case for you, it may be contributing to your hay fever.
Vitamin D isn’t naturally found in many foods, so the sun is definitely going to be your friend in the summer. Try to get outside as much as your symptoms allow you to top up your vitamin D levels but don’t forget the sunscreen!
Add anti-inflammatory spices
Turmeric and ginger have powerful anti-inflammatory qualities. Adding these spices to meals can reduce hayfever symptoms that are linked to inflammation and swelling. Pairing turmeric with black pepper makes it more effective.
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