Hay fever. It's the bane of at least 12 million Brits annually who find themselves lumbered with itchy, watery eyes, violent sneezing, chesty coughs and a nose that merrily flows like Niagara Falls.
These sniffles can also play havoc with your training. It's understandable that with the sunnier evenings and warm weather on the horizon you may wish to perform your cardio workouts outside. Maybe even utilise all those green grassy areas for some body weight exercises.
But, and you can be certain of this, if you are one of the unfortunate few to suffer from this nuisance allergy, you'll probably make it 10 minutes before you find yourself coughing, spluttering and feeling like a small vice has been placed around your lungs.
The worst part is that hay fever can strike you down at any time in your life. It's not one of those childhood allergies that can stick around for the rest of your days. Oh no, hay fever can creep up on you in your teens, 20's, 30's, 40's… You get the picture.
However, we bring good news. Hay fever is treatable – and no, we don't mean you have to spend a fortune on over-the-counter antihistamines. Some even say it can be cured!
According to Roger Newman Turner, a Naturopath of the research Council for Complementary Medicine, he's found that “diet plays a very important role in the management of hay fever.”
In fact, by switching up their diets, “most of [his] hay fever patients have been able to reduce the severity of their symptoms and, in some cases, eradicate the condition.”
Sounds super promising, so how do you make it happen?
What Is Hay Fever?
Hay fever, AKA ‘Seasonal Rhinitis,' is a very common allergic reaction to pollen, the fine powder produced by grass, trees, flowers – basically anything that grows from Spring to Summer. You can be afflicted with the condition at any time depending on which type of pollen you are most sensitive to:
· Tree pollen peaks between March and May
· Grass pollen is most common from May to July
· Weed pollen can last the whole Spring/Summer time
A Whey Issue
Cutting down on certain foods which encourage mucus production, whilst upping foods that boost your immune system and have natural antihistamine properties will greatly reduce or eliminate your hay fever symptoms.
Unfortunately, this means you may have to give up your daily Whey Protein shake… for the warmer months of the year at least.
You see, milk is one of those congesting foods that stimulate the production of mucus membrane in your nose and throat. If you are naturally more sensitive to dairy, this can increase your vulnerability to pollen.
The result? Chestiness, streaming eyes and sneezing so hard your head hurts.
Grains, in particular wheat, and refined sugar can also have this effect, so it's worth staying clear of them along with histamine containing fruits and veg like tomatoes, oranges and, surprisingly, avocado!
What About My Gains?
If the thought of ditching your Whey Protein shake gives you heart palpitations and nightmares that all your Herculean muscle gains you made during the Winter months wither away, you'll be pleased to know there is a whole stack of alternative proteins out there you can enjoy:
· Pea Protein
· Soy Protein
· Brown Rice Protein
Whilst switching up your favourite protein for one of these alternatives may not be overly enticing, at least you'll be able to enjoy the warmer weather and maybe even take your HIIT sessions outside or go for a walk without needing to carry a man-sized box of Kleenex…
What Should I Eat?
Quercetin – What is It?
Quercetin is a bioflavanoid that can be found in red or purple fruits and veg and appears to reduce the release of histamine from your body's cells.
It's also thought to help stabilise the membrane of your cells so they are less sensitive to allergens including pollen and boost production of white blood cells increasing your ability to fight infection.
As already mentioned, ramping up your intake of foods that can naturally boost your immune system is a must. Calcium, magnesium, Vitamin C, anti-oxidants and flavonoids – in particular quercetin - are your friends and can be sourced from a host of whole foods.
Nuts, apples (including the peel), blackberries, seeds, garlic, onions and oily fish rich in Omega 3 all have a brilliant anti-inflammatory effect which will help diminish or eliminate your symptoms altogether.
It's also recommended you grab yourself some local honey as honey produced in your local area will have been made from native pollens that will exacerbate your own hay fever. By eating the honey, however, your body will learn how to battle the onslaught of the airborne allergen.
Don't Worry, It's Not Forever…
Switching up your Whey Protein shake may seem daunting, especially if you've never tried any of the alternatives before - but trust us - it's worth it and Pea, Soy or Brown Rice Protein are great muscle building substitutes to try.
By making these small changes to your diet for a few months of the year, you will be able to train at your absolute max for 365 days of the year (unless you pick up a bug in Winter) without suffering through hay fever hell.
It's not going to be an instant fix, but you should begin to see improvements about one week after you cut out those congesting foods and, most importantly, you'll keep those Herculean gains!
Does hay fever impact your training? How do you combat its effects and fight through the symptoms? Share your tips with us on our socials…