Are Seasonal Allergies Getting You Down?
Some people know summer is coming when the sneezing starts. The sun may still not have raised its weary head from winter slumber but the pollen has got up peoples noses already. Up to 1/4 of all New Zealanders suffer from seasonal allergies which can really impact significantly on stress levels, sleep quality and school and work performance. Many people find they have to rely on antihistamines, steroids and decongestants throughout the entire throughout the spring and summer months to try and contend with the sneezing, running nose, itchy eyes and wheezing. There are natural options to help to reduce the immune dysfunction, inflammation which lies at the root of seasonal allergies.
Support your gut health - Yes, although the symptoms of allergic rhinitis are positioned in the upper half of the body, the lower half can definitely contribute. How pray tell? Well, the majority of immune cells live in the gut and when the gut microbiota is out of sorts, so is your immune system. Studies show that supplementing with specific probiotics can result in reduced symptoms of seasonal allergies (Wang, Lin, Wang, & Hsu, 2004) If you are not a fan of popping pills ( like me) then try implementing more fermented foods into your diet - Ím talking kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass, kefir - the world is your fermented oyster ( Don't ferment those - that sounds smelly!) Make sure you also give your gut microbiota some food to keep them happy - I'm talking prebiotics- which you get from VEGES and wholegrains!
Increase your intake of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods - The tell tale symptoms of allergies - the swollen mucous membranes, the itching, the painful eyes are all inflammatory symptoms so choosing your diet wisely and incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods can be helpful. Good choices include oily fish, green leafy vegetables, ginger, turmeric, green tea, ginger, onion, garlic and ( thank god) chocolate - the 90% good stuff! Its just as important to ditch some of the inflammatory foods as well - sugar, refined carbohydrates, red meat, trans fats, refined seeds oils and alcohol.
Up your vitamin C intake - Vitamin C has numerous actions which help to support you when the sneezes attack. Vitamin C is thought to help stabilise mast cells; which are involved in histamine release, be anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and may help to balance the immune system (BD, 2016) Vegetables that are high in vitamin C include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green and red peppers, spinach, cabbage and other leafy greens. If you like fruit then you have oranges, lemons, kiwifruit, berries and melons to get your vitamin C fix from.
Get some sun/vitamin D - Vitamin D is not really a vitamin but is actually a steroid hormone. We have known for nearly 40 years that alongside being integral for bone health, vitamin D also has an immune modulatory action which can reduce allergic responses (Tsoukas, Provvedini, & Manolagas, 1984). There is a decent amount of research around the correlation between low serum vitamin D levels and the occurrence of seasonal allergies. The results regarding synthetic supplements and resolution of allergies is not compelling though and in some cases even contradictory (Tian & Cheng., 2017, Wjst, 2009 ) Some foods do contain vitamin D - they are predominantly animal based foods such as organ meats, some dairy and oily fish. Fresh mushrooms though, do contain pro-vitamin D which transitions into vitamin D2 when exposed to sunlight. To turn your mushrooms into vitamin D factories - put them under the sun for 15 minutes with the gills up facing the sun. You can also slice them and still get the benefit from them and it survives cooking! Of course getting yourself some safe sun exposure is also very beneficial!
Take adaptogenic herbs - Adaptogens are specific herbs which help to maintain balance in the body. Adaptogens are herbs used over longer period of time in order to regulate the neuroendocrine system and bring the body back to homeostasis. By their very nature adaptogens help to minimise the ill effects of stress, which can be pertinent for those with seasonal allergies, as its pretty stressful feeling like your nose is a leaking tap and your head is full of cotton wool! In addition adaptogens like ginseng appear to help to modulate immune system function (Riaz, Rahman, Zia-Ul-Haq, Jaffar, & Manea, 2019) The best options are ginseng, ashwagandha, rhodiola, eleuthero, holy basil, cordyceps ( especially if you also get asthma) and my favourite - reishi.
Take reishi - Often referred to as the "spirit plant' reishi is used extensively by practitioners both historically and in modern times in the treatment of both seasonal allergic rhinitis and in constitutional allergies. A 2012 study in an animal model of allergic rhinitis, showed that treatment with reishi led to mast cell stabilization and antihistamine actions (Mizutani, Nabe, Shimazu, Yoshino & Kohno 2012). An additional study of a model of childhood dust mite induced atopic asthma showed reishi may switch the immune system from a more allergic and autoimmune response called Th2 response to a more balanced immune response. This may be a substantial find and may represent a new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of children with allergic asthma.( Jan et al., 2011) Other studies show G. lucidum inhibits the release of histamine, while stabilizing immunoglobulin levels ( (Bhardwaj, Katyal, & Sharma, 2014). These effects, alongside traditional and anecdotal evidence suggest Ganoderma lucidem may help alleviate food sensitivities (Kohda et al., 1985). With these studies in mind, G lucidem would prove a valuable treatment option in patients with any type of atopic conditions and possibly in autoimmune conditions.
Reishi is pretty damn bitter (as it contains so many amazing anti-inflammatory triterpene compounds) so its great added to coffee or hot chocolate but if you want to really up your game and use all the big guns against hay fever then try making this Reishi Hayfever Shot. It makes enough for two shots and has so much goodness in it!
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Bhardwaj, N., Katyal, P., & Sharma, A. (2014). Suppression of Inflammatory and Allergic Responses by Pharmacologically Potent Fungus Ganoderma lucidum. Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery, 8(2), 104-117. doi:10.2174/1872213x08666140619110657
Jan, R., Lin, T., Hsu, Y., Lee, S., Lo, S., Chang, M., … Lin, Y. (2011). Immuno-modulatory activity of Ganoderma lucidum-derived polysacharide on human monocytoid dendritic cells pulsed with Der p 1 allergen. BMC Immunology, 12(1), 31. doi:10.1186/1471-2172-12-31
KOHDA, H., TOKUMOTO, W., SAKAMOTO, K., FUJII, M., HIRAI, Y., YAMASAKI, K., … UCHIDA, M. (1985). The biologically active constituents of Ganoderma lucidum (Fr.) Karst. Histamine release-inhibitory triterpenes. CHEMICAL & PHARMACEUTICAL BULLETIN, 33(4), 1367-1374. doi:10.1248/cpb.33.1367
Mizutani, N., Nabe, T., Shimazu, M., Yoshino, S., & Kohno, S. (2011). Effect of Ganoderma lucidum on Pollen-induced Biphasic Nasal Blockage in a Guinea Pig Model of Allergic Rhinitis. Phytotherapy Research, n/a-n/a. doi:10.1002/ptr.3557
Riaz, M., Rahman, N. U., Zia-Ul-Haq, M., Jaffar, H. Z., & Manea, R. (2019). Ginseng: A dietary supplement as immune-modulator in various diseases. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 83, 12-30. doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2018.11.008
Tsoukas, C., Provvedini, D., & Manolagas, S. (1984). 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3: a novel immunoregulatory hormone. Science, 224(4656), 1438-1440. doi:10.1126/science.6427926
Wang, M. F., Lin, H. C., Wang, Y. Y., & Hsu, C. H. (2004). Treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis with lactic acid bacteria. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, 15(2), 152-158. doi:10.1111/j.1399-3038.2004.00156.x
Wjst, M. (2009). Introduction of oral vitamin D supplementation and the rise of the allergy pandemic. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, 5(1). doi:10.1186/1710-1492-5-8