Hay Fever – can it be managed with diet? 4

In this house, you can always tell when it is going to be a ‘bad hay fever’ day. First of all there is stereophonic snoring, courtesy of my grass pollen allergic husband and my intolerant child. It is enough to bring the plaster down from the ceiling. Last summer, Sophia came wandering into our room in the middle of the night and said she couldn’t sleep because she could hear tigers!

The other sign is that despite all the windows being tightly closed – the snoring turns to sniffing and snorting by about 5am and by 6am the sneezing attacks start. My husband is a hay fever expert, having lived with it every summer of his life. He tells me it is always worse first thing in the morning, when the pollen rises and in the early evening when the pollen comes down!  In June our windows are always closed but somehow it permeates the double glazing! Probably need to get them looked at!

Windy days are also very bad and today is a very windy day and when we got to the school playground this morning, I could see we were in good company. Rows and rows of Mums in sunglasses. It wasn’t even that sunny. I know we can be a vain old bunch but just for once they were as much for function as for fashion.  Clearly I am not the only one who has been told that big wraparound sunglasses are a good defence on the worst days as they act as a barrier – and in my case, hide the fact that my eye make-up is being washed away rapidly by the very itchy tears.

So as I looked around the playground and looked at all the small people and big people with red watery eyes I wondered if there is anything that can be done with diet, as many anti-histamine drugs just don’t cut it on days like today. By the way we live in a very rural area and are surrounded by swaying oceans of wheat, grass and oilseed rape – so apart from move to the coast, or stay indoors until September what can be done?

One of the most widely discussed natural remedies is consuming lots of local honey. Apparently it is a form of desensitisation. But what if you don’t like honey! Are there any foods that have a natural anti-histamine effect?

You could give your diet a boost with foods that prevent your body from producing too much histamine – these include nuts, sunflower seeds, onion, cabbage, blackberries and apples.

Tom was advised once to try a ‘quercetin’ diet supplement. We got it from Holland and Barrett and it really did help. http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/pages/categories.asp?cid=298 It is a plant extract that seem to have natural anti-histamine qualities. Vitamin C also has this effect – but tomatoes and oranges are full of histamine, so you need to get the Vitamin C from another source otherwise you will just make it worse. Luckily the Holland and Barrett supplement combines both.

It probably won’t come as a great surprise to lean that the worst culprit of all is dairy and foods which increase mucus production. These include sugary and starchy foods. I have read that cutting out wheat based products could also help. Interestingly Zac had very bad hay fever as a baby but since wheat and dairy were completely eliminated he has been a lot better – not great, but manageable with anti-histamines and inhalers – he is rarely incapacitated by it and certainly not as bad as his poor old Dad!

In an article that recently appeared in the Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-111273/How-better-diet-beat-suffering-hayfever.html Patrick Holford of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition gave a few interesting quotes. According to him, ‘the three most common substances reacted to (pollen, wheat and milk) are all originally grass products. It may be that some hayfever sufferers become sensitised to proteins that are common to grains, grasses and possibly milk’.

The article also gave a few useful lists of foods to try and others to avoid.

Here’s their lists.

Foods to try.

Soya products, fish (those high in Omega 3 as they have an anti-inflammatory effect), all vegetables, all fruits other than oranges and tomatoes, raw unsalted nuts and seeds, garlic and onion, honey, maple syrup, herbal teas, beans, lentils, pulses and drink plenty of water. Pretty much the usual list of ‘good things’ we should all try and consume more of.

Foods to avoid.

Again the usual suspects are on this list – dairy products, meat (contains acids which contribute to allergic and inflammatory reactions), wheat products, caffeine and alcohol (because a congested liver can increase hayfever symptoms), tomatoes, oranges, red wine and chocolate – because they all contain high levels of histamine.

No surprises there then. I work pretty hard at giving the kids food and drink from the good list and they certainly suffer less than their Dad, so perhaps he needs to live like Zac too. He does have some other good survival tips though for the days when the antihistamine, nasal spray and sunglasses are failing.

Baby wipes – keep a packet on you and regularly clean your hands and face with them. They are cool and comforting and will help wash that pollen away.

He always changes his clothes the minute he gets in the house after walking home from the station and instantly has a shower to wash it out of his hair too!

A remedy we discovered at the Allergy Show last year was Hay Max http://haymax.biz/, a beeswax based balm to put on your nostrils, acts as another barrier. Widely available in Boots and Holland & Barrett.

Air purifiers/filters are also a worthwhile investment and definitely helped Zac when he was at his worst. Not cheap but if you have house dust mite allergy and/or asthma too it is definitely worth it as it is a year round ‘helper’.

But my favourite solution of all is just get to the seaside if you can. It is always so much better when we are at the coast. Roll on summer holidays!!!



  1. It’s only our second year with hayfever, so always on the look out for hints on dealing. My boyfriend had terrible hayfever until we moved from London to the Midlands, it has been much milder since!

    • Thanks for the comment. I think the geography of it is very interesting. I read somewhere that it is bad in London because of the types of trees and grasses that have been deliberately planted in the parks etc. I will dig it out and see if I can find the actual facts. Best wishes.
      Incidentally – yesterday was a bit of a shocker – my Dad, husband, brother in law and nephew were all in hell with it. Another very windy day blowing it all over the place!

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