• Introducing Oasis Living’s new health columnist Beverley Mason, a Bach registered practitioner, herbalist and naturopath. Here she offers some top tips for those afflicted with allergies

    Anyone who has been living in the UAE for a while will know the challenges posed by the weather and sandstorms. The air quality, particularly in Al Ain, can affect the health of many people, including myself.

    Problems include asthma, chest infections, wheezing, sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes. I seem to have woken up with these conditions every morning for the past few weeks.

    Of course, here in Al Ain, we do not have the benefit of the sea air which acts as a buffer for any allergens. Not only are we landlocked, we also have the pollen from the lovely flowers planted everywhere in the UAE’s Garden City!

    Obviously, if your breathing is affecting you severely, the only recourse is to go to the doctor and get proper treatment. However, as always with natural medicine, we try to prevent illness by using other remedies.

    People who suffer from allergies produce too much histamine in their bodies and this is why they are given antihistamine medicines. Histamine is released during allergic reactions and the inflammation resulting from this causes the symptoms described above.

    In severe allergic reactions, there can be skin inflammation in the form of hives, or sometimes even anaphylactic shock. Allergies can often be an intolerance to a particular food, especially wheat or dairy products; or substances such as dust and pollen.

    Allergy tests are readily available if you wish to find out which substances are negatively affecting your health. Emotional upsets and stress can of course make allergies worse, although to avoid these in a normal working week is often very difficult.

    There are two approaches to treating allergies which are to either isolate the offending allergen or to just boost one’s own immune system to counter any allergy problem. Herbs which build up immunity include echinacea, liquorice and red clover, all of which can be taken either as tea or capsules.

    The most highly recommended supplement for allergies, however, is Quercetin. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid from buckwheat and citrus fruits, which means it is a plant-based remedy and semi-essential nutrient. It stabilises the membranes of cells which release histamine. This is a readily available in health shops, usually at a dosage of 400mg per day.

    Quercetin is more readily absorbed when taken with Bromelain, which is the protein digesting enzyme in pineapple. Quercetin is found in red onion, peppers and berries. Vitamin C, calcium and magnesium also help to reduce the severity of allergic reactions.

    Garlic and onions in the diet reduce the production of histamine, whereas food such as milk, wheat and peanuts may trigger an allergic reaction. As with many health issues, it is responsible to monitor your own reactions to different foods and situations as ‘one size’ does not necessarily ft all. Honey also comes highly recommended, although it is preferable that the honey is local as then you will be ingesting local pollen and thus develop an immunity

    Turmeric has an active ingredient called curcumin which blocks cells from releasing histamine. It also reduces inflammation in the sinuses and removes excess mucus from the respiratory tract.

    Over the years I have met several UK sufferers of the seasonal hay fever who swear by reflexology. One particular patient suffered years of conjunctivitis in the UK and after one summer of reflexology treatment he was cured. I cannot claim such success for myself unfortunately, but it is a therapy well worth exploring.

    Reflexology involves massage of certain pressure points on the feet which are related to specific parts of the body. It is certainly a treatment worth exploring for many ailments.

    Homeopathic drops called Pollinosan are also available in most health stores. Also recommended as homeopathic remedies are Apis for skin irritation, Ferrum phos for inflammation and Urtica, which ironically is a form of stinging nettle! The premis for homeopathy is constantly under debate but the idea is that by giving an individual the same symptoms, it will allow for a cure, much like the principle behind vaccinations.

    Latest forecasts for all over the UAE are predicting high allergy levels for some time to come, so it is good to be prepared with as many natural remedies as possible. Health reports suggest that one in six people in the UAE suffers from asthma and one in five have allergic rhinitis, so there are many of us suffering at this time.

    There are options other than a doctor’s visit so just give some a try.