In the UK we have some of the highest rates of allergic conditions in the world, with Allergy UK estimating over 20% of the population is affected by one or more allergic disorders . These numbers are even higher in younger people, with up to 37% of UK teenagers affected by allergy.
Hayfever, the UK’s most common allergy
Hayfever is one of the UK’s most common allergies. Allergy can be described as an excessive reaction to a normally harmless substance, and with hayfever this otherwise harmless substance is pollen. The immune system identifies pollen as dangerous, and produces an antibody called IgE, which triggers the production of histamine. Histamine is an inflammatory chemical that causes an array of unpleasant symptoms, including a running nose and eyes, itching and burning, puffiness, swelling and mucus formation.
Allergy and your immune system
So if histamine is to blame, surely an anti-histamine is the perfect antidote to allergy?
Yes, but it’s worth understanding why your immune system is acting up in the first place as you may be able to dampen down your body’s allergic response.
According to immunologist Dr Ross Walton, allergies are a product of humanity’s progression – an ‘evolutionary hangover’, not so much genetically, but certainly socially. They are driven by an immune response that was initially there to protect us against parasitic infections. However, as society has evolved and become ‘cleaner’ and (fairly) parasite-free, we now have an immune response that lacks the appropriate education and sometimes fires itself up when it doesn’t really need to.
Sleep and allergy
And this is where a decent night’s sleep can help. Whilst scientists are still trying to figure out the exact relationship between sleep and the immune system, many agree that a lack of sleep can severely impair immunity and make you more vulnerable to infections like colds and flu, and now allergy.
Many studies suggest that sleep helps our bodies create the immune cells we need to fight off pathogens. Others show that sleep helps to shift the balance of anti-inflammatory proteins so that the immune system can recognise and respond better to bugs and allergens.
The science certainly shows that improving our sleep is an easy win when it comes to improving our immune response.
So, if you are prone to allergies, making sure you sleep well can help to keep your immune system healthy and responding appropriately, which may help to reduce your susceptibility to allergy.
Reducing your allergen load
In addition to sufficient sleep, other lifestyle adjustments can help to make you less susceptible to allergy.
Keep your body as free from toxins as possible by avoiding junk and eating wholefoods. Keep your caffeine and alcohol intake low and avoid nicotine. If you live in a polluted area or work with chemicals or in traffic-ridden areas, regular detoxes to keep your system clear will help. Simple steps such as drinking plenty of water and keeping your bowel moving daily will reduce the toxic load on your system.
Avoid histamine-rich foods and histamine triggers
If you are sensitive to histamine, reduce your intake of high histamine foods and drinks, such as alcohol, kombucha, sauerkraut, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yoghurt, cured meats, aged cheeses, dried fruit, nuts, tuna, anchovies and sardines.
Keep your intake of refined sugar low. If you suffer with any type of allergy, hayfever included, you’re more likely to have wobbly blood sugar and be sensitive to refined sugar. Sugar can trigger surges and drops in blood sugar levels that cause adrenalin production to kick in, which involves the production of histamine - just what you don't want.
Audit your environment
Tidy up cupboards, deep clean carpets, wash your pets, reconsider intensive cleaning, bleaching, disinfecting products and finally clear away dust, dander and dust mites (and their faeces).
Circling back to anti-histamines, these can of course help to keep allergy to a minimum. Approximately two weeks before your usual symptoms kick in, take Luffa operculata twice daily. Pollinosan Hayfever Tablets from A.Vogel contain seven tropical herbs, including Luffa operculata and Galphimia glauca, to help with allergy to grass and tree pollen. They are non-drowsy and so will not affect your ability to drive or use machinery. A nasal spray is also available for immediate relief.
Finally, a bit of detective work will also help you to outsmart your allergen: stay up to date with the latest pollen information in your local area by checking your 5-day pollen forecast.