Summer can be a wonderful time of the year. Some might say it's the best time of the year. There's just something about waking up to sunshine, birds chirping, and warm air that puts many of us in a better mood. Our exposure to (sun)light has such an enormous effect on our biological clocks, serotonin levels and melatonin levels; it's easy to understand why summer is such a better time for many of us. Unfortunately, not all of us can enjoy it carefree. Is hay fever getting you down? The good news is there are many natural and DIY remedies you can try to control your allergy symptoms. Let's dive in and discover how you can breathe easy again.
Apply a thin layer of Vaseline or any other type of balm around and inside your nostrils to trap pollen. It effectively blocks the pollen from entering your nasal passage, thereby stopping your symptoms from becoming worse.
Some studies have shown that the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture can be a natural way to help reduce hay fever symptoms, such as a runny nose and itchy eyes. As acupuncture tackles underlying balances within the body, the theory is that it can also alleviate hay fever symptoms by strengthening the body's defences against external allergens.
It's thought that reflexology can reduce inflammation, help you breathe more easily and improve your natural energy levels – which all boosts your body's ability to combat hay fever. Press down on the Qu-chi acupressure point found at the outer end of the crease at the elbow to help relieve your symptoms.
4. Foods to avoid
Try to avoid foods containing high levels of histamine, as this can intensify your allergy symptoms. Unfortunately, that means chocolate – don’t shoot the messenger. Tomatoes, eggplants, vinegar, sauerkraut, dairy products (mature cheese, milk), miso, soy sauce and canned fish also belong in the don’t category. There's also a group of foods out there that doesn't contain histamine itself but does trigger histamine production in your body's cells. This applies to strawberries, pineapple, bananas, citrus fruits and egg whites.
Though it's not the case for everyone suffering from hay fever, some other problematic foods include wheat products and sugar, which cause your body to produce more histamine.
5. Foods to add
Coconut oil is an anti-inflammatory oil and can be used in cooking, baking or added to your smoothies. Apple cider vinegar can help boost your immune system as well as break up mucus and support lymphatic drainage – just mix 1-2 tbs with water and lemon juice three times a day to alleviate your symptoms. Another great tip to try is consuming local honey as this exposes you to the same pollen and helps your body create a natural tolerance by desensitising your body to these pollens.
Other food items to add to your diet are:
- Herbs like parsley, sage, thyme, oregano and basil are anti-inflammatory
- Spices like turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, fennel and nutmeg are also anti-inflammatory.
- Quercetin-rich foods (a plant flavanol that inhibits the release of histamine): onions, garlic, goji berries, asparagus, berry fruits, apples, kale, okra, peppers, red grapes and plums.
- Vitamin C foods: blackcurrants, blueberries, peppers, kale (again), collard leaves, broccoli, kiwis, cauliflower, courgettes and mango.
- Beta carotene (a natural anti-inflammatory) foods: carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, red and yellow peppers, apricots, peas, broccoli, leafy greens like kale and spinach, and romaine lettuce.
- Vitamin B foods (for biotin to help maintain healthy mucous membranes): fish, egg yolks, avocados, leafy greens and nuts.
6. Vital Vitamins
Though some of you may prefer to hide indoors with all the windows closed, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to the development of allergies and autoimmune diseases. So, try to spend time outdoors every day or incorporate a Vitamin D supplement into your diet. Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine that's also present in oranges, lemons and grapefruit. These fruits also contain bioflavonoids, which have powerful anti-allergy effects. The combination of Vitamin C and bioflavonoids acts as a potent natural decongestant and antihistamine.
7. Herbal tea
Drink green tea, chamomile, elderflower, ginger, peppermint or anise tea to help limit the effects of hay fever. Green tea is chock full of antioxidants, which help boost your immune system and block one of the receptors linked to hay fever. An antioxidant and antihistamine, chamomile tea contains flavonoids that act as an anti-inflammatory agent. Ginger tea has been shown to help reduce allergic reactions by lowering your body's IgE levels (the antibody involved in the specific immune response associated with hay fever). Peppermint tea is worth trying because menthol is a natural decongestant that may help improve your symptoms. And finally, if you're up for it as it's not everyone's cup of tea – ahem – nettle tea can help relieve inflammation of the upper respiratory tract and ease your stuffy nose, sneezing and itching.
If you feel your symptoms are particularly bad this year, think about your mental well-being for a second. Are you stressed out? If so, your stress hormones may be negatively impacting your immune system's ability to combat allergies. Try meditating to relieve stress, and make sure you treat yourself with kindness.
This in no way prevents your allergy but showering after a day outside can lessen your symptoms. A change of clothes or shower washes off the pollen you've collected on your body when you're out. If you're not heading home yet, consider tying up your hair to keep it away from your eyes, nose and mouth as allergens can collect in your hair.
Allergies can be worsened by toxins in your body. For example, a liver that's busy dealing with stress and processing medication, alcohol and processed foods has a harder time dealing with inflammation in the body. Detox your body by staying away from fried foods, sugar, alcohol and other toxins to see if this reduces your allergy flare-up.
11. Essential oils
Remember those herbs and herbal teas I mentioned before? Peppermint, basil, eucalyptus, and tea tree oils are known to fight inflammation and boost the immune system. Add some of these essential oils to your bath, oil diffuser or massage to help reduce allergy symptoms.
12. Gin & vodka
Though number 10 lists alcohol as a toxin that could limit your liver’s ability to tackle inflammation, Asthma UK says that, “switching your regular tipple to gin might help to relieve symptoms more than other drinks.” While alcoholic drinks like beer and red wine contain high doses of histamine and sulphites –, a big no-no if you’re suffering from hay fever – clear spirits like gin and vodka both have a relatively low histamine content, while gin also contains no sulphites.
Let me finish with a disclaimer, your favourite G&T is not a cure; it’s simply a lesser evil when it comes to having drinks in the sun with a friend or two. Enjoy your summer everybody!