Nothing to sneeze at!

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It’s now that time of year when many are constantly reaching for the hankie to blot blurry eyes and distressed noses. And this summer, according to the Met office experts, even more of us will be affected due to a greater pollen count resulting from the unusually high volumes and frequency of rainfall over winter and spring.

A fifth to almost a quarter of the UK population are afflicted by this seasonal allergy and this can impact wider society too. Recent newspaper headlines are wailing that “Hayfever costs Britain 29 million a year”. You don’t need to be a scientist to guess that if you are not feeling your best then this will affect whatever plans you have that week but the Met Office wanted statistics and their survey found that productivity actually declines by 26%.

So what is the problem exactly?

Well, an allergy happens when the immune system is spooked by benign particles commonly found in the environment – be it through pollen, plant spores or grass in the case of hay fever. This over-reaction by our Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies typically affects the parts of the body that are soft and mucous-y – such as the eyes, throat, nasal passages and symptoms can range from mild to severe and can start from  any age. It is also more probable in people who suffer from other inflammatory conditions such as asthma or eczema.

The IgE antibodies dispatched by our body’s defence charge into the fray and liberally discharge histamines (experienced as that prickly sensation). Now in theory this is a great idea as a histamine is a substance designed to guard our sensitive tissues by promoting fluid release containing the cavalry – otherwise known as white blood cells. Regrettably it is this action that prompts the months of misery as casualties experience all the associated symptoms: i.e itchy throat, constant sneezing and red, sore eyes. In some people, these effects continue long after the environmental irritant is gone due to the inability of their body to break down and expel the histamine after it has done its job. This is called histamine intolerance and is related to genetic susceptibilities.

When the drugs don’t work

A conventional approach to allergies is through using anti-histamines. For some people. For some of the time. However histamines are known to keep us awake and alert and so if you introduce anti-histamines then, that’s right, drowsiness occurs. As recently as last week I saw a media headline warning hay fever sufferers not to drive whilst using this medication. Is this realistic when some allergy drugs are supposed to last for 24 hours? Of course, there are other medical treatments such as decongestants and glucocorticosteroids but these impose side effects that are often overlooked or are merely a sticking plaster to provide temporary relief.

If you, or someone you know, is not having great success with traditional methods it may be worth considering other nutrients that as well as supporting relief of symptoms, in some cases can also start to work on the underlying biochemical imbalance.

What else is there?

For example quercetin a plant-based compound naturally present in the skin of everyday fruit and vegetables such as apples, peppers, dark cherries – and even red wine. This flavonoid is esteemed for its anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy and antioxidant attributes. In regards to seasonal allergies, research into quercetin has demonstrated its ability to inhibit the production and release of histamines. But before you rush to the supermarket, it’s worth bearing in mind that the dose of quercetin heralded to have these beneficial effects is between 500 mg to as high as 2,000 mg per day collaborated to body weight. This is significantly higher than the 5-10 mg of quercetin found in the average apple or 15 mg found in a whole bottle of red wine. So this is where food supplements would offer a clear benefit – again only if the quantity of quercetin contained is clinically effective.

The work of this particular flavonoid confers benefits for a number of health conditions including cardiovascular, prostate and even brain health. In order to obtain the full protective effects it is worth taking it for 4-6 weeks prior to the start of the hay fever season.

As well as quercetin there are a number of other natural solutions to explore that have been documented to be helpful in addressing seasonal allergies including probiotics, turmeric, vitamin C and diet modulation. If your allergy symptoms are due to your genetic makeup, then the good news is that this can also be addressed.  Ultimately an integrated approach to managing the effects of histamine on the body is recommended as a protocol suited to one person often differs to what ultimately works for another.

Hi! My name is Sandrine Martin, and I am really pleased to work with Sandrine Gasnier in helping people to reach optimum health.

I look after the nutrition side of health. So if you want to lose weight, address a particular cardiovascular, immune or digestive issue, increase energy levels or just generally look and feel healthier then get in touch with me to book a health check consultation on 07836 232549. Or for more information go to www.sandrinesnutrition.co.uk.

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