Do you find that daily pressures seem to exacerbate your allergy symptoms? Or that if you don’t eat well for a few weeks you sneeze or sniffle more than usual? Research shows that certain lifestyle factors including diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption, stress and quality of sleep can in fact influence the prevalence, incidence and severity of hayfever symptoms. So while avoiding allergy triggers is important for managing symptoms, lifestyle choices may also play a part.
- Diet – Research amongst hayfever sufferers found that those who rated their diet as healthy were the most likely to have milder hayfever symptoms. In contrast, two‐thirds of those with a poor diet found their symptoms were either unbearable or very uncomfortable. A healthy diet is believed to influence hayfever by providing the body with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are otherwise deficient in a diet dependent on processed foods. Try to consume a varied and balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Physical activity – Exercise supports our overall health in a number of ways – it helps with weight management, increases fitness, boosts mood, reduces stress and maintains healthy immune system function. Research of people with hayfever also found that those who exercised the most, more than five half hour sessions each week, experienced milder hayfever symptoms.
- Alcohol consumption – A number of studies have observed the effect of alcohol on allergy symptoms. A 2003 study found that consuming more than 14 units of alcohol per week was associated with an increased prevalence of pollen sensitisation. Researchers also found that alcohol can trigger sneezing and other nasal symptoms, especially in women. As well as making sufferers more sensitive to pollen, alcohol is dehydrating which can make symptoms seem worse.
- Sleep – People with hayfever who get a good night’s sleep with an average of seven hours tend to have the mildest symptoms. Therefore try to avoid too many late nights during hayfever season.
- Stress – There appears to be a clear link between stress and the severity of hayfever symptoms. High levels of stress due to factors such as job pressures influence the action of cortisol, a hormone which affects the immune system, enhancing and prolonging symptoms of hayfever. To help manage stress and therefore your hayfever, include relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, deep breathing and exercise.
For more information, ASCIA website.