Hay Fever: Gut & Stress Levels Matter!
Posted: 20 September 2021
There are a couple of factors that are overlooked when remedying allergies. It may not seem directly related, however, gut function and stress levels play a huge role in the severity of allergic symptoms.
A Naturopaths Guide to Hay Fever
Ahhh Spring! Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and 1 in 5 Australians are beginning to feel congested and stuffy. We meet again, hay fever season.
In short, allergenic rhinitis (hay fever) is a hypersensitive response to environmental triggers such as pollen and dust. This hypersensitive response results in large amounts of histamine and inflammatory substances, causing mucosal swelling and nasal blockage – all the fun stuff.
Interestingly, there are a couple of factors that are overlooked when remedying allergies. It may not seem directly related, however, gut function and stress levels play a huge role in the severity of allergic symptoms.
The Gut-Immune Connection
As up to 70% of our immune system resides in the gut, it cannot be overlooked when supporting allergic conditions. There is a strong interplay between the microbiome (colony of gut bacteria that support health) and the immune system. So if the gut isn’t up to scratch, we can expect immune dysregulation to occur!
If that isn’t enough to demonstrate the gut-immune connection, researchers have found that the composition of gut bacteria in children with asthma possess a lower diversity of beneficial gut bacteria compared to those without asthma. Additionally, studies have shown that certain probiotic strains, when taken orally, decrease the severity of hay fever symptoms.
The easiest way to support the gut is through diet. Choose colourful foods rich in prebiotics (plant fibres) to feed and nourish the microbiome. Reduce refined sugars and digestive irritants such as alcohol, sweets, fast-food and soft drinks, as these will disturb our good gut bugs.
The Stress-Immune Connection
Stress impacts various bodily functions, particularly immune function! When stress isn’t managed, the immune system starts to dysregulate and allergies can sky-rocket.
Interestingly, participants of a study with high stress scores had significantly higher rates of nasal discharge, post-nasal drip and cough compared to other participants. This demonstrates that stress can increase the severity of allergic symptoms in those with hay fever.
Another great example of the stress-immune connection is the dreaded cold sore. It is well known that stress can activate dormant viruses as the body is unable to control their activity. This is why people experience cold sores when they’re stressed – the immune system isn’t able keep the herpes virus dormant!
So, how do we stress less?! Beyond Blue outlines various ways to reduce stress. If the symptoms of stress become overwhelming, there are many specialised health services you can contact here.
Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and 1 in 5 Australians are beginning to feel congested and stuffy.
About the Author
Laura Ballin is a Clinical Naturopath (BHSc) passionate about empowering individuals to reconnect with their body and return home to their true self. After battling with an eating disorder and various digestive concerns, Laura has a special interest in the gut, mental health, women’s hormonal health and skin conditions.
AIHW. (2020). Allergic rhinitis ('hay fever'). Retrieved 5 September 2021, from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-respiratory-conditions/allergic-rhinitis-hay-fever/contents/allergic-rhinitis
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