Doctor of ecological medicine, Dr Jenny Goodman, shares tips for dealing with hay fever and explores why you may be suffering from hay fever now – even if you never have before.
Hay fever is one of many modern epidemics, or what I call the “plagues of the 21st century” – it was rare or unknown before the Industrial Revolution. Its spread is linked to our environment, our diet and our way of life. Like many other illnesses today, hay fever is potentially preventable.
The first description of it in the British medical literature dates back to 1819, in an article presented by Dr John Bostock (1772–1846) to the Medical and Chirugical (Surgical) Society. In Japan, where the Industrial Revolution happened about 100 years later than in Britain, hay fever also appeared about 100 years later. But in Japan, people have developed allergic reactions to pollen from Japanese trees, especially cedar. In the UK, likewise, people become allergic to pollen from their local grasses or trees, although different people get sick at different parts of the hay fever season, depending on when their ‘demon pollen’ is most abundant in the air.
What is happening here is that air pollution particles, mainly from vehicle exhaust fumes, sort of cause violent allergic reactions to a mostly harmless biological material that has been part of our natural environment since then. always: plant pollen.
This is an example of the phenomenon that Dr. Claudia Miller of the University of Texas called “TILT” – loss of tolerance induced by a toxicant. In other words, inherently toxic substances (in this case car fumes) cause the body to react to an inherently harmless substance (in this case pollen) as if it were dangerous. This phenomenon contributes greatly to the increase in allergies in general, not just hay fever.
So what to do? While moving out of town to a less polluted area is not a practical or immediate solution for most of us, there are other things we can do.
1. Watch your gut health.
The lungs (and the skin and the immune system) are deeply affected by the condition of the gut, and the gut is often a good starting point for treating hay fever. Cut sugar, cut out dairy for the duration of the hay fever season, and generally follow the tips on “spring cleansing your gut, not your house” in the spring chapter of my book.
2. Herbal supplements and remedies
Quercetin is a very useful natural antihistamine, a plant product. Vitamin C also helps some people, as does zinc. And of course, vitamin D, if you haven’t taken it all winter. Many herbal remedies help fight hay fever and allergic rhinitis in general (of which hay fever is just one specific example); chamomile, ginger, linden blossom and eyebright are just four.
3. Try local honey
Local honey makes a big difference for some sufferers, but it needs to be local, so the bees will feed on the same plants whose pollen affects you.
4. Try to avoid air pollution
Avoiding air pollution is the best solution, if possible, but it doesn’t work instantly. Remember, it’s the exposure to pollutants that has over-sensitized you to pollen, and that over-sensitization doesn’t go away overnight. It may take two or three seasons away from traffic fumes (or especially away from them) to make a difference.
Finally, it’s important to understand that allergies such as hay fever can behave differently in different people, so resolving hay fever may also require an individual approach. Sometimes it is best to consult an expert, such as an herbalist or nutritionist.
Dr Jenny Goodman is a doctor of ecological medicine and author of “Staying Alive in Toxic Times: A Seasonal Guide to Lifelong Health” (yellow kite). Available in paperback at all good bookstores. Visit drjennygoodman.com
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