Hay fever (or allergies) is a common condition that affects many people, and it can really make us miserable! Not being able to enjoy the warm spring air after a long winter is no fun.
But what causes hay fever?
Hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen and other airborne irritants and can result in a range of symptoms, such as sneezing, itchy eyes, and congestion.
However, recent research has shown that hay fever may also be linked to poor gut health.
Our gut microbiome is an extraordinarily complex ecosystem of microorganisms that live in our intestines. They set up shop and keep us healthy! They are busy breaking down food, absorbing and distributing our nutrients, and regulating the immune system.
When the gut microbiome becomes imbalanced, it leads to a wide range of health problems because our good gut bugs cannot do their job effectively!
A study published in the journal Nature Communications found that people with hay fever tend to have a less diverse gut microbiome compared to those without the condition. This reduced diversity leads to an imbalance in the microbiome, which in turn results in higher levels of inflammation in the body.
Inflammation is the body's immune response to irritants and foreign invaders, such as allergens. And when the immune system detects an irritant, it sends out a strike force of chemicals that cause inflammation in and around the affected area. This inflammation can cause symptoms such as redness, swelling, and pain.
In the case of hay fever, the immune system mistakenly identifies pollen and other airborne irritants as harmful and launches an immune response team to strike against them. This immune response causes inflammation in the nasal passages, eyes, and throat, leading to the classic symptoms of hay fever that drag us down! Haaaachoo!
However, the reduced diversity of gut bacteria in people with hay fever may also contribute to this inflammation. When the gut microbiome is imbalanced, it can cause the immune system to become overactive, leading to chronic inflammation throughout the body. This chronic inflammation can exacerbate the symptoms of hay fever, making them more severe and longer-lasting.
Can I prepare my gut for allergy season?
Yes! If you want to prepare your gut for allergy season, one of the most effective things you can do is focus on a high-fiber lifestyle. Prebiotic fiber helps promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and reduces inflammation.
When you consume prebiotic fiber, it passes through the digestive system largely undigested, providing fuel for your gut bacteria!! Go good gut bugs!!
This allows the bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which help to reduce inflammation in the body. In other words, when they are happy, they set up shop and multiply, working non-stop to keep us healthy! Vrooom!
In addition, SCFAs also help strengthen the intestinal barrier, which can reduce the risk of allergens and other irritants entering the bloodstream. WOW!
What kind of fiber and how much do I need?
Be sure to include a variety of fruits and vegetables with every meal, and choose whole grains over refined grains! Snacking on nuts, seeds, and dried fruit can also help to increase your fiber intake throughout the day. Aim for 30 grams of fiber daily!
In addition to your meal plan, it is also important to stay hydrated and get enough sleep.
Dehydration can lead to constipation, which can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and increase inflammation. Getting enough sleep helps to reduce stress, which can also impact the health of your gut microbiome, so keep that in mind too!
Overall, focusing on a high-fiber lifestyle is a simple yet effective way to prepare your gut for allergy season. By getting enough fiber, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep, you can promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, reduce inflammation, and make spring… just better.® this year!