By naturopath Jessie Denmeade
People don’t just suffer from hay fever in Spring. Those of us living in northern New South Wales and South-East Queensland know that Autumn brings its own allergy challenges as ragweed and fleabane burst into flower.
I’m seeing a lot of people with allergies and hay fever in the clinic at the moment. Many patients rely on antihistamines to (temporarily) help reduce their hay fever symptoms, but there are effective, natural strategies that can provide you lasting relief.
We are exposed to abundant natural and synthetic foreign substances as we go about our daily lives. Our immune system’s role is to detect which are harmful and mount an appropriate immune response. However, when we experience hay fever symptoms, our immune system mounts an inappropriate response to a harmless substance (e.g. pollen) and becomes hyper-reactive. This causes specialised immune cells, known as mast cells, to migrate to our noses and throats (sometimes eyes, lungs and skin), releasing histamine. Histamine triggers an explosion of inflammation, which forces foreign particles out of our bodies (often via mucus, phlegm and tears). This swelling and irritation caused by the inflammation lead to the miserable symptoms of hay fever.
Antihistamines block the effects of histamine, which reduces the hay fever symptoms, but they don’t address the underlying hyper-reactive immune response that causes histamine release in the first place. Therefore, we only experience temporary relief of our symptoms, and they return once we stop taking the medication. Alternatively, an approach that builds immune tolerance can treat the underlying cause of hay fever. We can improve the ability of the immune system to resist reacting to harmless substances.
There are two key ways to help improve immune tolerance. The first is to modulate our immune system to boost our body’s production of specific immune cells known as T-regulatory (Treg) cells. Essentially, the more Treg cells we have, the more balanced our immune system is, and the less likely we are to react to harmless substances.
The second way is to support the health of our gut and microbiome, as there is a strong connection between the microbiome and immune reactivity. When there is an imbalance between our gut’s favourable and unfavourable microorganisms, our immune system can become hyper-reactive and ultimately less tolerant to harmless substances. A healthy microbiome also requires a healthy gut lining (and vice versa). If the gut lining is inflamed or damaged (perhaps due to a poor diet, medications or digestive illness), this can also disrupt your microbiome, increasing immune reactivity and allergic symptoms.
A holistic approach to managing allergies can provide long-term results. The symptoms of hay fever can not only be frustrating but also debilitating. Whilst antihistamines may give a quick fix, increasing your immune tolerance is the key to resolving your symptoms in the long term. By improving gut and immune function, we can help address the cause of hay fever symptoms, allowing you to get the most out of life.
Feel free to reach out if you would like assistance in resolving your hay fever or allergy symptoms. I am more than happy to talk to you about treatment options and management.