Here comes the Summer

Nutritonal Therapist
Sheila Illingworth Bsc (Hons) Dip I.O.N. mB.A.N.T., CNHC

With the warmer weather and lighter nights we now know spring/summer is here at last .  Most of us relish the light nights and the lovely flowers that bloom, however many people suffer with watery eyes, runny noses, yes it’s that time of year when the yields of pollen explode everywhere causing devastation for some.  Other common symptoms include sneezing, itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears.

Hay fever is an autoimmune condition and is a result of our immune system overreacting to pollen or other airborne allergens. Eyes may become so irritated the are itchy, red, watery and even vision can be affected.  Nasal passages can become irritated , and swelling of the ear passages, restricting the air the amount of air that can pass through the nose, is obviously not good for runners. It is the excessive amounts of histamine which causes this and we can find ways through food to reduce the amount of histamine being produced and thereby reducing the symptoms, as you cannot avoid being outside in the fresh air, well you can, but it is unlikely that you want to stay in doors if you are training to run/cycle and even out doors swimming.

Prevention tips

If you are a sufferer of hay fever it is a good idea to be prepared and there are things you can do to offset the worst symptoms. Three weeks before your symptoms start, look at building up your immune system so that your body will be more robust to withstand the autoimmune reaction. To do this eat a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. ‘Eating a rainbow’ diet  (this advice goes for everyone) of different coloured vegetables and salads will help provide you with a wide range of nutrients to support your immune system, such as vitamin A, C and E , zinc and selenium and antioxidants which can help reduce the amount of inflammatory chemical histamine.

When training hard and getting fitter you would expect to be exuding health, however the harder you train the more you tired you become the more susceptible to picking up infections you may be.  So keep up your vitamin C by including fresh fruit and vegetables, but also use herbs in your cooking.  Herbs have health benefits and herbs like oregano are an excellent source of vitamin A, which is not only good for eyes, but also for the immune system, it is a source of vitamin C, E and K and contains good levels of folate, iron,magnesium, calcium and Vitamin B6, on top of this it is a good antioxidant and has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, so don’t forget to use it when cooking.

Mint used on new potatoes, can calm digestive issues, alleviate headaches, congestion and fatigue.  Mint also reduces inflammation and is a source of mineral.

Thyme contains antioxidants and is a good source of Vitamin C, A, and minerals and has powerful antibacterial and antiseptic properties, used in cooking in enhances flavour and looks after your immune system.

Chives, are a good source of vitamin A, C, K and B vitamins, also minerals.  They can stimulate appetite and help with respiratory problems and have are great added to salads, potatoes to add flavour and nutrients to your diet.

Dill is another herb which can be added to meals and you can reap the rewards with these herbs for you health as well as adding natural flavouring to your meals. A good source of Vitamin A, C, B vitamins, and minerals, plus can be used for indigestion, insomnia, respiratory problems, and has antiseptic properties.

There are many more herbs which all have antioxidant properties and  so make sure you use these natural herbs in your daily diet, for protection from infection and inflammation.

Keep hydrated, if your urine starts to look yellow then suspect dehydration unless you are taking a strong B vitamin supplement, and then this can be the side effect from B2, and nothing to worry about.   You can add a touch of sliced fresh lemon to your water or try some herb teas, or if you are training hard you may like to add some electrolytes and there are many on the market for those who are doing long duration training session.

Healthy energy bites, be careful you don’t rely on high sugar snacks, this is fine when you have just finished a hard race, but on a day to day basis you do not want to be flooding your system with too much sugar.  Aim to go for snacks that are made using dried fruit, or low sugar (so sugar is not the first ingredient on the list). You can make your own if you like and these are much cheaper than buying and very simple to do.  DeliciouslyElla web site has good recipes as does Christine Baily.

Aim to have protein at each meal to keep you focused and stable blood sugar levels, this will help stave off energy slumps during the day.  For example at lunch you could choose jacket potato (the carbohydrate)  and tuna (the protein), or egg sandwich, the bread is your carbohydrate and the egg is your protein, if you’re vegetarian you could have jacket potato and humus, aim also to include a salad with this to make sure you reach your  5-6 a day vegetables and fruit a day.  Do not go for 5 fruits and no vegetables!! although fruits have health benefits if eaten to excess they can raise your blood sugar levels too high and also cause a rather rumbling tummy for some.  The best balance would be 3-4 vegetables a day and 1-2 pieces of fruit a day.

If you are training at night and finding it difficult to sleep try eating cherries, these have been proven scientifically to help with sleep, and also at reducing inflammation after hard training sessions.  You can also buy cherry juice from the health food shops, just make sure you do not buy those with added sugar.

Remember just because we have longer sunnier days and the inclination may be to increase your training,  do not forget REST , this is when you get stronger and it is not a rude word, it should be embraced and enjoyed just like your training.

If you feel your health is not what it should be always check with your Dr, and if you feel your diet needs help then contact a CNHC and BANT registered nutritionist. If you live in the Ripon, Harrogate area I am available at or 07947716679