Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is caused by environmental allergens such as pollens, grasses, dust mites, mounds and animal hair.

Symptoms can include:

  1. Runny or stuffy nose
  2. Red, itchy or watery eyes,
  3. Itchy ear, nose and throat
  4. Sneezing
  5. Headaches

Allergic rhinitis is a common and debilitating disease, affecting more than 3 million Australians and New Zealanders. The prevalence of seasonal allergic rhinitis is higher in children and adolescents than in adults and there is a significant correlation between asthma and allergic rhinitis in school children, says The Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA).

Hay fever is driven by inflammatory mediators. Reducing inflammatory foods such as sugars, refined grains and flours, and hydrogenated or seed oils can help. Several studies suggest the bioflavonoid quercetin (found in citrus fruits, berries and pineapple) has anti-inflammatory properties. These are also high in vitamin C - nature's antihistamine. A diet high in coloured veg and fruit can ease symptoms, as can anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, chia, avocado and olive oil.

Studies on probiotics have shown benefits in the prevention and treatment of allergic rhinitis. One possible mechanism is thought to be due to 70-80% of the immune system being based in the digestive tract. Recent data shows that probiotics can modulate the production of cytokines by monocytes and lymphocytes and specifically the probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG) has a regulatory effect on the Th2 immune response.

Herbal medicines such as bacial skullcap, albizia and nettle leaf also help to prevent and ease symptoms of allergies due to their antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. These herbs can be consumed as teas or as a tincture. Herbal tinctures are available from accredited herbalists and naturopaths (such as me!).