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 or 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!
For some people this can also mean the onset of MCAS (Mast Cell Activation Syndrome) when the immune system is in such dire straights that a person can experience prolonged states of severe allergy and anaphylaxis.
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…
PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS TO REDUCE ALLERGEN EXPOSURE
- Wear sunglasses outdoors
- Avoid going out if it’s windy
- Close windows
- Smearing lip balm or a barrier balm on the inside of your nostrils to protect that mucosal lining
- Change your shirt when you come home
- Use a dryer rather than a clothes line to dry sheets and clothing to avoid pollen exposure in the home
- Vacuum regularly with a HEPA filter vacuum
HOW FOOD CAN HELP
The power of what you choose to put on your plate to help with hay fever is two fold, firstly to reduce inflammation and secondly to feed beneficial bacteria in the microbiome. These are two crucial foundations that need to be addressed for any disordered immune system.
- Ingest omega 3 fatty acids regularly via consumption of fatty fish a minimum of three times per week or a supplement
- Reduce consumption of inflammatory foods such as refined sugar & vegetable oils – this is a biggie! Foods that contain these should be occasional
- Get as much fresh ginger into your daily eating as possible through food or tisanes as it’s a natural anti-histamine
- Ditto with Turmeric, get it into your food as frequently as possible
- Include lots of fresh, colourful fruit & vegetables on your plate to boost your antioxidants intake
- Bromelain is an antioxidant found in pineapple stalks that is another natural antihistamine – so get some pineapple on your plate too
- Chilled chrysanthemum tea (found at Chinese grocers or herbalists) used as an eye wash helps relieve itchy eyes
HAY FEVER HELPFUL SUPPLEMENTS
- Take specific strains of probiotics that are allergy-specific (like LGG)
- There are certain nutrients & compounds that act like antihistamines such as quercetin (caution it’s a goitrogen), zinc, bromelain and vitamin C
- Focus on upping your vitamin D either through sun exposure and/or supplementation
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.