I thought I would take a bit of a different approach here and start by explaining what hay fever is.
What Is Hay Fever
Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, it is a type I hypersensitivity reaction mediated by IgE antibodies that are set off by grass, weed and tree pollens. Pollens effects the ears, eyes, nose and throat. The eyes are itchy and watery, the person has a runny or stuffed up nose and the sneezing is obnoxious. It may interfere with sleep, work, recreation, cause a person to feel irritable and may also be associated with asthma and in severe cases induce anaphylaxis in susceptible individuals. Over the long-haul, these seasonal attacks on the person's sensitive mucous membranes may cause structural damage of the respiratory tract and can lead to nasal polyps, and vasomotor rhinitis which can cause nasal congestion all year round as well as repetitive upper respiratory tract infections.
Pollen lodges into the mucous membranes of the eyes, the nose and throughout the respiratory tract. The first time an allergy-prone person meets up with pollen, a white blood cell, called a B-cell is alerted to what it sees as an intruder. This B-cell is transformed into a plasma cell and makes large quantities of immunoglobulin E (IgE) that is specific to recognizing and attacking that pollen. The IgE made for this pollen will attach to mast cells and the next time the person comes into contact with that pollen again, the mast cells with this specific IgE on them will perceive an invasion and release powerful substances called vasoactive amines. The most powerful and the one most talked about with hay fever is histamine. Histamine is synthesized by mast cells, basophils, platelets, histaminergic neurons, and enterochromaffine cells, where it is stored intracellularly in vesicles and released on stimulation. This is what is primarily responsible for the runny/stuffy nose and watery eyes, itching and sneezing. This is an overreaction of the body due to a weakness on the part of the upper respiratory mucosa with an overreaction of the immune system. So support of the upper respiratory system and modulating the immune system are in order. Before we tackle how to treat hay fever, we want to investigate methods used to prevent it. Calming the immune system, supporting the respiratory tract, liver and digestion go a long way in preventing or decreasing symptoms. These supportive measures are key in preventing an explosive reaction that can irritate these sensitive membranes. There are some general behaviors and lifestyle practices that will assist the person with hay fever in living a more comfortable life. Dietary and lifestyle changes often decrease the need for drugs, herbs or supplements. However, when they are not enough there are many healthier options to drugs for resolving or lessening the symptoms of hay fever.
A whole book could be written on how different organ systems are involved in hay fever (especially the immune system, respiratory tract, liver and digestive tract) and the intensity of symptoms. However, I am going to give you one example regarding the digestive tract and how it can be involved as it is a big one.
An example of digestive tract involvement
We find that supporting the digestive tract goes a long way to decreasing overall body inflammation and histamine levels. If you have dysbiosis (your gut flora is out of balance and have too many bad guys to good guys) you will get increased histamine released and more histamine will end up in the general circulation adding to the histamine created from the pollen reaction. Treating the dysbiosis and lowering histamine in the gut are key in this case to lowering histamine load in the body as this histamine will add to the histamine from the pollen. So, how is the gut and dysbiosis involved in making hay fever worse?
The histamine issue and the gut
When there is dysbiosis, this means that there are some less desirable gut bacteria that are out of control. Many of these will add to the histamine load in the gut by irritating and damaging the gut lining in various ways. This causes the gut wall mast cells to release histamine and other inflammatory mediators. We can stabilize mast cells so they release less histamine and we can also remove histamine from the body with the use of enzymes, herbs, and supplements. Additionally, we can go after the histamine producing bacteria. Most of my experience with severe histamine reactions is from my work with people who are reacting to water-damaged buildings. Many of these folks inevitably end up with histamine issues at some point if they don’t take appropriate steps to protect and treat themselves. For folks with excess histamine using the enzyme Diamine oxidase (DAO) (which degrades histamine in the gut) with high histamine meals can make a huge difference in lowering the histamine load their body is under. Stopping all the histamine containing or histamine creating foods is really not an option as this removes a lot of healthy foods and people find it hard to eat. Therefore, using DAO is a big help for these folks along with adding healthy gut bacteria that will compete with the histamine making bacteria. Often these high histamine folks will find themselves unable to take probiotics as they make their digestive issues worse. This is due to the bacteria being types of gut flora in probiotics that add to the histamine load. This does not matter if the person does not tend to have high histamine normally, as we actually need a certain amount of histamine in our body as it is important in various reactions. However, in folks with either genetic or functional reasons for high histamine those probiotics will really bother them as their histamine load is already too high. So, the way to go is to compete with those histamine making bacteria in the gut by introducing only probiotics known to be associated with low histamine in the gut. Why we care about histamine in the gut is that this gut histamine can be picked up by our circulation and travel to other areas of the body. This increases the general histamine load everywhere, thereby, adding to any inflammation in the body including the respiratory tract. This can be quite noticeable for some people including those with hay fever. You can read more about mast cells and how to stabilize them so they release less histamine as well as the use of DAO and gut flora and herbs and supplements to decrease overall histamine and other inflammatory activators at this link. https://youarethehealer.org/mast-cell-activation/
Hay fever often needs a multilayer approach
I am trying to give you the idea that hay fever is not something that takes place in the body all on its own. It is not as simple as pollen creating a reaction. That is important for sure, but ultimately you want to ask yourself why am I reacting to pollen. Why do I react and others do not? What is my inflammatory load in my body? Do I react only to pollen or do I have other sensitivities? If I react to many things, I need to find what is the cause of these reactions. Is there involvement of gut pathogens, toxins in my home or work, an underlying viral or bacterial illness that is unrecognized, heavy metals etc. Are my genetics adding to this and if so, how can I support myself to compensate for this? How do I lower my inflammatory load overall and how do I specifically lower the histamine in my body that is known to be a part of the pollen reaction? If I can’t control the pollen completely, what can I control that is raising the histamine level in my body or causing other inflammatory mediators to add to my inflammation load? The reason you will see so many different things help with hay fever, is that there are a variety of underlying reasons that can set someone up to being susceptible to pollen reactions. Finding the underlying reaction will help resolve or decrease the symptoms. Think of finding the cause to alleviate the hay fever reactions. Think of histamine as a major player in what causes the symptoms and attend to it as needed. It is not the cause though. The cause(s) are the multilayered issues that all together make us more sensitive to pollen.
I wrote a series of articles on hay fever that I am going to list here. They range from prevention to treatment and go over everything from how to set your environment up, to the use of diet, lifestyle factors, supplements, herbs, enzymes and more.
Preventing Hay Fever:
Herbs used to prevent hay fever prior to hay fever season https://youarethehealer.org/herbal-medicine/herb-articles/hay-fever-prevention-with-herbs/
Hay Fever Prevention With Diet and Nutrition:
Goes over general dietary measures, specific dietary actions that help, what makes hay fever reactions worse, and dietary supplementation that helps. There is also some coverage of supporting the liver to support the biotransformation system.
Hay Fever Prevention Tips:
What is hay fever, what takes place in the body, the role of histamine, common sense tips to prevent it, to remove pollen from self and home,
Acute treatment with herbs:
What to do acutely with a link to directions on making herbal compress
Hay Fever Prevention With Focus on Histamine:
Here the focus is on healthy lifestyle practices, digestion, histamine in food, enzymes that remove histamine, how to support the body in stabilizing mast cells that make enzymes and nutrients used for making enzymes.
Mast Cell Activation and Histamine:
All about histamine. Symptoms associated with high histamine listed by body system, diseases high histamine is associated with, how mast cells are activated, other reasons for high histamine, testing and treatment.