How Can I Escape the Misery of Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)?

Question: I dread the spring because I get such terrible hay fever. What do you suggest I do to prevent and/or treat it?

Answer: Nature works in cycles. And since we are part of nature, we are affected by seasonal disorders, some natural and some man-made. You only have to look at the adverts on TV to see what problems are around. Cold and flu products predominate in autumn and winter; treatments for diarrhoea and tummy upsets in the summer months, and antihistamines and other anti-allergic drugs in the spring and summer months, when any people suffer hay fever.

As flowers blossom in the spring and summer, the pollination season arrives. The pollen of some plants is transported by bees and butterflies, while other plants (especially trees, grasses and agricultural crops) throw pollen in the air to spread it. This is when you and many other susceptible people suffer from hay fever, medically called seasonal allergic rhinitis. Like all allergies, this doesn’t affect everyone. In many cases, hay fever and its related allergies, asthma and eczema, run in families; other possible contributory factors include trauma at birth and whether or not you were breast-fed as a baby.

The immune system, the body’s defensive mechanism, is designed to detect, and repel foreign bodies such as bacteria. As soon as aliens enter, the white blood cells (lymphocytes) act as immigration officers and try to arrest the invaders by sending a message to the immune system to develop antibodies (small protein particles) to neutralize them and stop them multiplying. Non-living particles, such as pollen, dust, chemicals, petrol or paint fumes, are a different matter.

Confronted with these dead particles, the immune system becomes helpless and can’t produce antibodies. But these invaders can interfere with the normal functioning of the body. So the body mounts a different defensive strategy and tries to get rid of them at the places where they enter. The blood cells release histamine to dilate blood vessels so that they can produce excess fluids to wash away the particles or pollen – that’s why with hay fever your eyes and nose water. Sneezing is another reflex, to try to blow the particles away.

Although this allergic reaction is the body’s natural way of dealing with the problem, the symptoms are bothersome. Antihistamine will block the reaction for a few hours, but this does nothing to solve the underlying problem. However, there is a smart way of getting the body not to react violently and that is to desensitise it. That means making the body immune to these particles, or raising the threshold so that the body goes on to red alert only when the pollen count is really high (nine plus).

Diet

* To improve gut function, avoid yeast products, citrus fruits, coffee, alcohol, fried food, curries, cheese, mushrooms, canned products, processed foods.
* Make ginger tea: grate a large lump of peeled fresh ginger into a teapot, cover with boiling water and infuse for five to ten minutes. You can keep adding boiling water to this as the ginger goes on cooking:

Supplements

* Sinus oil: put two drops in each nostril twice daily for two months during the hay fever season.
* Cold Relief: infuse contents in hot water for ten minutes, strain and drink. Use once per day for relief of symptoms.

Practice retention breathing (This breathing exercise is useful for any type of nasal congestion.) Breathe in slowly through your nose, then hold your breath for ten to 15 seconds. Just when you think you are running out of air, breathe out slowly. Then breathe in gently, but take only half a breath. Hold that breath for ten seconds, release, then repeat the half breath, hold for ten seconds and release.

Do this five to ten times daily. The process of holding your breath accumulates carbon dioxide in the blood, which triggers a defensive mechanism that leads to an automatic clearing of the nasal passage because the body thinks it is being starved of air.