Hay fever and nutritional supplements

Hay fever is a predisposition to react allergically to harmless environmental factors, in this case pollen (pollen) from grasses, trees or other plants. In this hypersensitivity reaction, the mucous membranes of the nose and eyes become inflamed and people experience sneezing, a blocked nose, runny nose, itching and watery eyes. In addition, headache, fatigue, itchy skin, coughing, shortness of breath and a dry throat may be among the complaints. Various nutritional supplements and herbs can be used instead of (or in addition to) regular medications (antihistamines, corticosteroids) to reduce symptoms of hay fever. These include methylsulfonylmethane MSM, vitamin C, vitamin E, butterbur, nettle and eicosapentaenoic acid EPA.

Pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory eicosanoids

Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids (oily fish, linseed) and omega-6 fatty acids (vegetable oil) are precursors of eicosanoids: local hormone-like substances such as prostaglandins, leukotrienes and thromboxanes, which play an important role in (allergic) inflammatory reactions. Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid from vegetable oil that (like arachidonic acid from meat) is converted into type 2 eicosanoids including prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and leukotrienes. Omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish inhibit the formation of linoleic acid and arachidonic acid metabolites because they require the same enzymes (lipoxygenase, cyclooxygenase) for their conversion (competitive inhibition) and their metabolites do not have a pro-inflammatory effect. PGE2 and leukotrienes promote allergy, partly because they disrupt the balance of two types of lymphocytes, Th1 and Th2 cells (T helper cells type 1 and type 2). PGE2 inhibits the activity of Th1 cells and stimulates that of Th2 cells.
A high intake of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid from (oily) fish, is associated with a lower risk of hay fever. EPA inhibits the conversion of arachidonic acid and linoleic acid into pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Perhaps using an EPA-rich fish oil supplement during the hay fever season will help reduce symptoms. In addition, it is a good idea to limit linoleic acid intake, as a higher intake of linoleic acid is (dose-dependent) associated with the occurrence of hay fever in adults.


A high dietary intake of quercetin is associated with a lower risk of allergy. Quercetin, a bioflavonoid found in high concentrations in apples and onions, is a natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antihistamine (in a Japanese in-vitro study, quercetin significantly inhibited histamine release in a cell culture of mast cells from people with hay fever). Effects of quercetin include: inhibition of degranulation (dissolution) of mast cells and basophil granulocytes by stabilizing the cell membrane, counteracting the formation of pro-inflammatory leukotrienes and inhibition of the enzyme hyaluronidase that breaks down the tissue matrix in the area of inflammation. The recommended dose of quercetin for hay fever is 250 to 600 mg three times a day, taken five to 10 minutes before meals. The effect of quercetin is enhanced by, among other things, vitamin C and bromelain from pineapple

Other nutritional supplements that can help with hay fever

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Quercetin
  • Coltsfoot (extract)
  • MSM
  • Fish oil (especially EPA)
  • Bromelain
  • Phytosterols
  • Nettle leaf
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