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Health store help

Looking for advice on natural wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Grace Kinirons, onsite nutritionist with Nuts and Grains in Mullingar, Co Westmeath

Independent health store advice on natural relief for hay fever, allergies and sinuses

In Ireland, we long for the arrival of brighter evenings, warm weather and watching nature come to full bloom. Yet for the 20-30% of people living here who experience seasonal allergy symptoms, summer can be a time of sheer misery.

Seasonal allergies are on the increase worldwide and one theory suggests that the properties of pollen have become more allergenic due to pollution and the increased environmental stress on trees and plants.

Seasonal allergy is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of different conditions including allergic rhinitis (hay fever), atopic dermatitis and urticaria. Symptoms include sneezing, running nose, itchy and streaming eyes, scratchy or sore throat, headaches, increased asthma attacks or hives or worsening of skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis.

Symptom causes

For humans to survive and stay healthy we need an intelligent immune system that recognises the difference between our own body's cells and disease-causing organisms. Our immune system tries to prevent these substances getting into our bodies by using our skin and mucosal surfaces in our mouth, nose, lungs and digestive tract as a barrier and alerts the immune system if this barrier is breached.

For people with seasonal allergy the immune system views pollen as if it was a dangerous organism and mounts a full immune response. Their body tries to capture the pollen in mucosal surfaces (nose, throat and lungs) and then eliminate it through sneezing, coughing and watering nose and eyes. It also produces histamine, antibodies and other inflammatory chemicals to neutralise and destroy it.

Nutritional and lifestyle tips

Preparation is the key. Many people visit a health food shop when they already have full-blown symptoms. For best results changes need to be made seven to eight weeks before the onset of the pollen season.

Reducing dietary histamine

Histamine is a naturally-occurring chemical found in many healthy foods such as, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and kombucha. These foods are wonderful sources of beneficial bacteria but might be worth limiting if you are histamine sensitive. Other foods high in histamine include aged cheese, tinned fish, tomatoes, strawberries and alcohol.

The role of honey

Eating locally-produced honey is often recommended for hay fever relief as it may induce oral tolerance to local pollen. Honey also contains anti-inflammatory substances that might reduce hay fever symptoms.

You can reduce exposure to pollen by:

  • Keeping house and car windows closed during peak pollen hours.
  • Wearing wraparound sunglasses if you're going to be outdoors.
  • Showering, washing hair and clothes when you return indoors.

Histamine-lowering and immune-supporting supplements

  • Black seed oil from nigella sativa has been found to improve allergic rhinitis symptoms in randomised control studies in adults.
  • Bromelain found in pineapple reduces inflammation especially of the nose and sinuses. Enhances the efficacy of quercetin when taken together.
  • L-glutamine and N-acetyl glucosamine promote mucosal barrier function and integrity.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin help produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, which reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
  • Probiotics support the integrity of the junctions between mucosal cells and help modulate the immune response. Look for a probiotic that contains B-infantis, B-longum, L-Plantarum and L-Rhamnosus strains, as these may also degrade dietary histamine.
  • Pycnogenol and other antioxidants such as grapeseed extract and vitamin C have been shown in laboratory studies to block histamine release from immune cells exposed to airborne allergens such as pollen.
  • Quercetin, a flavonoid found in onions, apples, berries, tea, grapes and red wine has been shown in studies to prevent the production and release of histamine.
  • Vitamin D modulates and balances the immune response.

What's What and Who's Who at Nuts and Grains

Marion Moffatt is the owner of Nuts and Grains in Mullingar. "The shop was set up by my mother and my aunt in 1985 and I used to do some packing there after school," she says. "Later I went to college in Dublin, got a part-time job in a health store and got the 'bug'. I worked in natural health for many years in the UK and when I returned to Mullingar I bought Nuts and Grains.

"It's still a family affair as my husband Justin works with me in the store. The kids have also been dragged in for the occasional shift! Our ethos is to give customers a friendly, approachable environment, providing the latest in quality wholefoods, nutrition and natural skincare. We pride ourselves on giving sound advice to help customers achieve their health goals.

"We are in a great location, flanked by a car park and the Dunnes Stores shopping centre, 70% of our customers are regulars but we are getting new customers all the time. The shop floor has food and grocery and only the best quality supplements, cosmetics and eco home.

"Our sourdough bread deliveries from Durrow Mills Organic Bakery have customers queuing around the block, and porridge from Kilbeggan Organic Farm is our top-seller. Our organic seasonal vegetables are popular and people drop in every day to see what is new in. We stock great treats for people on special diets who cannot eat sugar, gluten or dairy. Our meat-free alternatives are popular and vegan treats such as chocolate spreads and mayonnaise do well.

"Our eco home section offers a refill service which fits in well with the ethos of our health store and is of real benefit to our customers. We now also offer refills of apple cider vinegar from the wonderful Highbank Orchard in Kilkenny."The website keeps us busy too. We ship most of what we have on offer next day to anywhere in Ireland. Orders over €30 are shipped for free."

VISIT: Nuts and Grains, 4 Chapterhouse, 1 Friars Mill Rd, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. Tel: 044 93 45988.
SPEAK TO: Any member of our knowledgeable team which include a nutrition therapist, a naturopath, an acupuncturist, a chef and even a finance whiz!

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