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Independent health store advice on allergies, hay fever and sinus issues

Looking for advice on natural health and wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Emma Taylor, nutritional therapist at Down to Earth, South Great George’s St, Dublin 2

Seasonal allergies affect many people in Ireland with an estimated 1 in 10 suffering from hay fever. Allergies are the result of histamine, a compound found in the body (and certain foods) that is released when the person is exposed to an allergen. There are many natural ways to tackle the symptoms of hay fever and allergies without having to resort to medication.

To start with, it is a good idea to look at your diet. Some foods can be mucus-forming which will aggravate allergies, so it can be beneficial to cut out or reduce your intake of foods such as dairy products. There are now many dairy-free options available in your local health food store ranging from milks, cheeses, yoghurts and cream. A reduction in sugar and refined carbohydrates can also be beneficial as these can suppress your immune system. Aim for plenty of vegetables – onions, peppers and capers are good sources of a flavonoid called quercetin which offers many health benefits including the reduction of histamine in the body.

Certain foods contain high levels of histamine. These include smoked products, pickled/fermented foods, alcohol, cheeses and coffee. If you suffer from severe seasonal allergies it is a good idea to try and follow a low histamine diet.

Add turmeric into your cooking. This spice contains curcumin which has anti-inflammatory and decongestant benefits. It can also be made into a drink known as ‘golden milk’ which is a warm drink combining milk (use a dairy-free alternative such as coconut), turmeric, and ginger. There are many good recipes online and turmeric has the added benefit of being beneficial for other conditions due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Increase your intake of oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and wild salmon. Again this is for anti-inflammatory benefits. If you don’t like fish think about taking a good quality fish oil supplement. Look for one that contains a high amount of EPA and DHA. If you are vegan opt for an algae omega supplement.

There are many natural antihistamine supplements available. It is a good idea to start taking them at least a month before hay fever season kicks in.

  • Quercetin – ideally look for one that is a complex and also contains vitamin C and nettle.
  • Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine and can help support the immune system. The liposomal form of vitamin C is the most absorbable form as it is fat soluble.
  • Stinging nettle (urtica dioica) – has an antihistamine action and can be found in capsule, tincture and tea form. The topical cream can also be very effective if you suffer from prickly heat rash in the summer or you react to mosquito bites.
  • Probiotics (live natural bacteria) – keep the body topped up with good bacteria which can help boost the immune system, these are especially essential after antibiotic use, times of stress, or if someone frequently takes antihistamine medication, as these can all disrupt the balance of gut flora.
  • Local honey – if you can source it, can be beneficial as this can gradually build up your immunity to local allergens.

Some people prefer not to take supplements so there are other options for coping with the symptoms of hay fever and sinus problems. The use of a neti pot or other nasal rinsing devices can offer great relief. They involve salt water solutions being rinsed through the nasal cavities.

Nasal balms are also available and are applied around the nasal cavities and work by trapping pollen, dust and other airborne allergens. There are also many nasal sprays available. Some work by ‘washing out’ the sinuses and some will contain herbs such as luffa and chapparal which can have an anti-inflammatory action.

Himalayan salt lamps are also a great addition to the home. They release negative ions into the air which improves the air quality and are particularly beneficial to have in the bedrooms of babies and children.

Homeopathy can also be a gentle way to deal with allergies. Some homeopathic companies produce products that contain a combination of remedies that can help with hay fever and similar seasonal allergies.

It is a good idea to visit your local health food store and talk to a qualified member of staff. Most places would have a nutritional therapist, naturopath, herbalist or homeopath available in store who could offer you more personalised advice targeted at your particular health issues.

Who's who and what's what at Down to Earth, George’s St, Dublin

“Down to Earth was started by my father,” says manager Jane Smith. “It was in Malahide and then Fleet St in the 1970s and I worked there at weekends and after school. It has been open in George’s St since 1986. Dad would still be hands on in the day-to-day running of the shop so he still comes to work.

“We are in a busy location right in the centre of town and would have a wide range of customers from tourists to locals, and people who used to come to Fleet St in the 70s. We offer student discounts for all ages – 5% when paying with a card and 10% with cash. We run special offers and hold samplings and tastings of things like raw foods and green tea. We are a happy friendly store and all customers are welcome.

“With the increasing awareness around healthier lifestyles, people of all ages are becoming more conscious of what they eat and put on their bodies. With the expanding use of social media and blogging our customer base has broadened. As a result of this raw foods and unprocessed foods are becoming more popular. Nut bags are very good sellers at the moment for making alternative raw milks.

“We have a large selection of vegan and vegetarian options and we are expanding them every month with new products.

“Supplements would include all the major brands, and a good selection of specialised supplements for bone health, pregnancy, children and an organic range. Magnesium is huge at the moment. We also stock a wide range of probiotics (live natural bacteria).

“Our beauty section includes haircare, skincare, bodycare, natural soaps, hair colours and natural feminine hygiene products. Tourists in particular like to buy Irish cosmetics. We actively support Irish brands and companies in-store and stock over 30 Irish companies.

“We also have a wide range of eco-cleaning products. We recently added a section for pets which includes pet food and pet care products.”

Visit: Down to Earth, 73 South Great George’s St, Dublin 2,
speak to: Manager Jane Smith, nutritional therapist Emma Taylor, herbalist Eileen O’Callaghan, and a team of homeopaths who offer an acute over the counter service.

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