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Hay Fever and Autoimmunity

Let’s have a talk about hay fever.

It’s been on my mind lately because every second person is complaining about it and for the first time in 8 years, I’ve had nary a sniffle or an itch. You see, when my health imploded with Hashimoto’s disease I had the most horrific two years of gut issues. And severe hay fever was one of the seemingly unrelated issues that reared its ugly head at the same time…or was it unrelated?!

It was so sudden & severe that I relied on anti-histamines to stop myself from sneezing myself off the freeway or gouging my itchy eyeballs out.

When I look back it all makes sense, I had been through a period of trauma & high stress (fire, cancer scare, financial pressure, grief, family troubles, you name it), I was fasting frequently, eating restrictively and over exercising in an attempt to manage my hypothyroidism weight gain, running a business, studying full time and raising pre-schoolers. On top of that the house we were renting developed a leak and we had an indoor NGV style water wall every time it rained heavily but it wasn’t arty and chic, it was a mould nightmare.

My gut health plummeted, I was diagnosed with a nasty SIBO infection and allergies entered my world for the first time.

So what in the actual heck causes a seemingly perfectly healthy person to suddenly mount an immune response to harmless substances such as pollen or dust?

Research tells us that babies who are breastfed and kids who grow up with pets and play in the dirt are less likely to suffer with allergies, so what does that tell us? Allergies are related to the different types & breadth of variety of bacteria (or lack of) that we are exposed to. This is one of the reasons why I go all the way back to your birth in your Initial Health Assessment so I can look for red flags and start to identify the drivers of your autoimmunity and your constitutional weaknesses so we can make a plan to get you feeling human again.

Allergies and autoimmune disease both have something in common…the gut!

70-80% of immune function occurs in the gut and behind mucosal layers (think nostrils, lungs, gut lining) so when your gut modulated immune function is compromised & on high alert your immune cells can start to identify substances such as grasses as a threat. And when things are really dire your immune cells can mis-identify your self-cells as a threat, hello autoimmunity!

So yes, it’s really common for people with autoimmunity to also have allergies as it is one of the first signs that all is not well in the gut. But not everyone will express that way either. So do you have to have hay fever to have autoimmunity? No. But do you have to have gut issues in order to develop autoimmunity? Absolutely! For some people it’s been an issue since infancy and for others it’s an inflammatory response to a number of factors that are unique to their story but often involve periods of high stress, the wrong food choices, a deficiency of thyroid hormones, mould exposure and sometimes antibiotic or certain medication use.

When it comes to hay fever if this is one of the ways your body is expressing disordered immune function, there are some very helpful nutrients & foods that act like anti-histamines in your system I’ve shared below. But when it really boils down to it, your gut health needs to be addressed so your immune system & gut health can turn off those wailing red alerts and stop expecting a bogey man behind every dust mite or thyroid cell.

Strategies to battle hay fever symptoms…

  • Avoid exposure: wear sunglasses outdoors, not heading out if it’s windy, smearing lip balm on the inside of your nostrils to protect that mucosal lining, change your shirt when you come home
  • Vacuum regularly with a HEPA filter vacuum
  • Ingest omega 3 fatty acids via regularly consumption of fatty fish or a supplement to drive down inflammation
  • Reduce consumption of inflammatory foods such as processed foods, excessive refined sugar containing foods, alcohol & vegetable oils
  • Take specific strains of probiotics that are allergy-specific (like LGG)
  • Consume nutrients that act like antihistamines (quercetin – caution it’s a goitrogen, zinc, vitamin C, ginger)
  • Focus on upping your vitamin D either through sun exposure and/or supplementation
  • Cooled chrysanthemum tea eye wash for allergic itchy eyes
  • Focus on microbiome restoration and gut health (a longer term option, but start now!).

Without improving gut function, lowering gut inflammation and improving your microbiome composition your gut will continue to drive autoimmunity. You may find that you continue to struggle with bloating, constipation and other uncomfortable GI complaints, allergies, food intolerances, fatigue, joint pain, low moods, brain fog, skin issues like eczema & dermatitis, nutrient deficiencies, frequent respiratory infections and your skin, hair and general health will never reach their full potential. Releasing weight becomes that much more difficult when an inflamed gut is causing internal stress on your system and dysbiosis (an imbalance of the good & bad bacteria in your gut) has been shown to impair glucose tolerance meaning that increased insulin will keep you in fat storage mode.

YES! Your gut health even affects your metabolic health!

This is precisely why I address digestive function and gut health with all my Hashimoto’s clients and why a gut healing protocol is one of the pillars of The Thrive Method. It’s just too essential to ignore and without it, it is kind of like trying to fix a leaky boat with a pad of post it notes. Implementing a gut healing protocol is often the first thing I do depending on my findings in your Initial Health Assessment and your pathology results. Not forgetting that the way I teach my clients to eat regulates their blood sugar which is one of the foundations of restoring gut function.

Has hay fever been part of your autoimmune journey? What about any of the other symptoms I’ve mentioned above?

Tessa