While many of us rejoice at the mere mention of a sunny spell, it can be jolly bad news for allergy sufferers. Symptoms like a runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing attacks suddenly become par for the course, with sufferers forced to lurk in the shade and wait it out. When my husband's antihistamines weren't cutting it and he started to wish away the UK's latest mini heatwave on account of his symptoms, I became determined to find a solution and did so in an unexpected place: the gut. Turns out, probiotics can help alleviate hay fever symptoms, and luckily there are plenty of great options on the British high street.
So how does it work? According to the Kresser Institute, allergies are caused by a lack of good bacteria in the gut. This stems from our excellent hygiene, which means we're in contact with fewer natural bacteria, but luckily, probiotics contain the good bacteria that colonise in the gut. While some experts dispute their exact health benefits, others, like The Beauty Chef founder Carla Oates, argue that they can markedly improve the appearance of your skin. Luckily, the evidence around the use of probiotics for hay fever is a little clearer cut.
Nutritional therapist Hannah Braye explains to me via email, "Research suggests that live bacteria supplements, i.e. probiotics, can help hay fever sufferers via interactions with the immune system, which modify the natural course of allergic disease." Braye is referring to a probiotics medical study from the University of Florida, where 173 people with seasonal allergies were given either a placebo or a probiotic. Those in the latter category showed improvement.
Braye goes on,
"It’s hypothesised that live bacteria supplements may be even more effective when taken as a preventative measure, so it’s recommended to start supplementation a few months before hay fever season, or to supplement regularly throughout the year."
Probiotics are available in supplement form as well as in certain yoghurts and drinks, and given that NHS reports that one in five people suffer with hay fever, the benefits of probiotics could be an all-round game changer. Here are five of the best for those looking to keep the hay fever symptoms at bay.
Symprove Live & Activated Bacteria
Bio-tiful Kefir Milk
It may be well-hyped, but this fermented drink is actually good for you, and pretty tasty, too. While doctors advise against drinking kombucha when pregnant, due to the small alcohol content caused by the fermentation process, you can otherwise give it a go. There's a ton of brands to choose from, but my favourite is Captain Kombucha.
Skyr Icelandic Style Yogurt
Start stocking up now. The heatwave may be over and if you suffer from hay fever, you may be glad — but armed with your probiotic reinforcements, the sunshine will be a lot more enjoyable. See you at the park?