Spring allergies affect a huge percentage of the UK population and airborne pollen is one of the most common causes of seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis. An estimated 80% of your immune system is located in your gut so supporting digestive health is essential to supporting your immune system; this being your primary defense system against all disease, including allergies, sinusitis, rhinitis and asthma.
Allergies are your body's reaction to allergens (particles your body considers foreign), a sign that your immune system is working overtime. The first time your body encounters an allergen, your plasma cells release IgE (immunoglobulin E), an antibody specific to that allergen. IgE attaches to the surface of your mast cells. Mast cells are found in great numbers in your surface tissues (i.e. those with close proximity to the external environment, such as in your skin and in the mucous membranes of your nose), where they help mediate inflammatory responses. Mast cells release a number of important chemical mediators, one of which is histamine.
The second time your body encounters a particular allergen, within a few minutes, your mast cells become activated and release histamine which triggers the cascade of symptoms you associate with allergies: sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, hacking cough, itchy eyes, etc. Histamine can cause your airways to constrict, like with asthma, or cause blood vessels to become more permeable, leading to fluid leakage or hives.
Pollen is an extremely common mast cell activator, but other agents can 'trigger' these processes as well. Mould spores, dust, airborne contaminants, pet hair, environmental products and foods can all cause allergic reactions. Mould spores are more common than people realise and produce allergens and may cause an allergic reaction such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rash.
Processed food, synthetic food additives and genetically modified ingredients all encourage 'leaky gut' (a whole other subject!) and decimate the beneficial bacteria in your gut, having a negative effect on your immune system. Many medicines such as antibiotics also deplete your beneficial bacteria and therefore lower your immune system. Ideally, avoid processed foods and focus on locally-grown (ideally pesticide free) foods and include fermented foods in your diet to optimise your good bacteria, i.e. Sauerkraut, Kefir, Kombucha, Miso or alternatively think of supplementing with a broad spectrum probiotic.