Better Health, Naturally
Spring is back again and we welcome the warmer temperatures. Unfortunately, this is also the prime season for hayfever (allergic rhinitis). Dry winds and pollens affect many people living in this area which has one of the highest incidences of hayfever in Australia. Hayfever is a type of atopy grouped together with asthma and eczema, and there is an inherited predisposition. Some people only get hayfever seasonally (mainly spring and autumn on the North Coast), this is usually in response to pollens from flowering plants. Hayfever can also occur all year round, mainly due to sensitivity to dust, dust mites, animal fur and moulds. Most people with hayfever are sensitive to more than one allergen. Typical symptoms include sneezing, runny and itchy nose, itchy eyes, and congested sinuses, which often leads to headaches and/or sinusitis (infection of sinuses). Many people find that hayfever affects their concentration, energy levels and overall wellbeing considerably. The symptoms are caused by allergens binding to immunoglobulin E (IgE) on mast cells. This triggers a number of reactions, including the release of histamines and other vasoactive and inflammatory substances.
While hayfever is predominantly caused by an oversensitive immune system, other contributing factors include stress, lowered gut function, unidentified food sensitivities and others. A wholistic approach usually works well. Homoeopathic remedies can be very successful, and likely ones include Allium cepa, Nat mur, Euphrasia, Nux vomica and Sabadilla. The specific remedy will depend on your individual symptoms. The herbal approach also works very well. Of prime importance are immune-modulating herbs such as Albizia and Baikal Skullcap, which stabilize mast cells, thereby reducing the release of histamine; and immune-enhancing herbs such as Echinacea. Other herbs include Golden Seal, a mucous membrane tonic and antibacterial, and astringents such as Eyebright, Elder or Golden Rod. Herbs that support the liver, the nervous system and adrenal glands may also be combined. Anti-inflammatory herbs include Ginger and Licorice.
While food sensitivities are not necessarily part of a typical hayfever picture, it is worth considering the amount of dairy and high-salicylate foods (such as strawberries, tomatoes, peaches and others) consumed. They can contribute to mucous build-up and sinus congestion in sensitive individuals. A diet high in alkalising foods (vegetables and fruit) may be of benefit in hayfever. Include plenty of herbs and spices such as horseradish, fenugreek, garlic, mustard, cayenne, cardamom etc. High doses of Vitamin C may temper the histamine response. Essential fatty acids from fish, nuts and seeds have an anti-inflammatory action, and….. Flavonoids (found in berries, fantastic for people not sensitive to salicylates) also stabilise mast cells. Also, try to reduce the amount of allergens, such as moulds, in your environment.
There are many different complementary approaches (including ones I haven’t even mentioned here, such as acupuncture), and you need to find what works for you. And for those lucky enough not to suffer from hayfever: please have some empathy because it really affects wellbeing profoundly!
Martina Pattinson, Naturopath ph 0427025051