With the new season can come a new you
The first Saturday of this month was World Health Day 2012 - designed to "raise awareness for global health matters" and to "encourage everyone to think more about their own well-being". A nice idea, but sneeze and you probably would have missed it, as the saying goes.
In fact, you may well have been sneezing and missed it since the change in seasons in this part of the world is often attributed by health experts to the surge in reported symptoms of allergies.
A new survey conducted by Takeda pharmaceuticals into Allergies in the Middle East (AIME) has revealed that the prevalence of nasal allergies is increasing in the region. More than one third of adults across the Emirates suffer from allergic rhinitis, or hay fever as you may know it.
"This study highlights an unmet need for a safe, effective, fast and long-lasting allergy treatment in the Middle East where more and more people are suffering from allergic rhinitis," declared Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman, the director of medical affairs and the head of ENT at Dubai Hospital as Takeda launched its Omnaris (ciclesonide) Nasal Spray, for the treatment of hay fever and allergies, in the United Arab Emirates.
Dr Rahman pointed a finger at environmental pollutants as a key trigger for the increasing number of allergies in the region. It's hard to argue with those who link the rise in those suffering from allergies and intolerances to the increasing amounts of artificial colourings, flavourings, toxins, pesticides and herbicides we unwittingly consume. And even if you don't smoke, drink or work among dirt and dust, your body is still exposed to high doses of pollutants every day. But there are ways to purge them from your life:
Watch on the weather
One stark reason for the rise in allergies among UAE citizens is the change in seasons. Through the spring the wind distribution of pollens and mould spores, followed by high summer temperatures, can dehydrate and irritate your nasal passages. It all adds up to play havoc with the senses of allergy sufferers.
Aside from following air pollution and weather reports and using any steroid sprays or allergy drops in advance, you could look around your home and workplace for other detoxifying defences. The AIME survey showed that office productivity drops by 27 per cent due to allergy attacks. Where possible, avoid using window fans to lower temperatures since these can also draw pollen into rooms.
Call in the cleaners
"Cleansing foods such as wild rice, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, papaya, peaches, cauliflower and celery, are all great detoxers," says Hala Barghout, a nutritionist and dietician at Platform 3 at Park Islands, Dubai Marina. "These foods will help your body eliminate toxic substances - as does an intake of around two litres of water through the day."
Eat more brightly coloured foods and berries too. "Carotenoids such as beta carotene are important antioxidants that aid in immune system function," says Barghout. "They're present in bright yellow, orange and green vegetables." Berries are also rich in vitamin C, bioflavonoids and phytochemicals that may also prevent injury to cells.
Look behind the quercetin
Diet and detox when combined often conjure up a vision of a painful abstinence from all the foods we like. But some nutritionists insist that instead of depriving yourself of food, you should look into adding ones to your diet that will help purge your body of oxidants and toxins - such has those high in quercetin.
Research into complementary medicine from the University of Maryland in the US suggests that in test tube studies, quercetin prevents immune cells from releasing histamines - chemicals that cause allergic reactions. As a result, some allergy sufferers take quercetin supplements, but it's available in many natural forms such as in citrus fruits, onions, apples, parsley, tea, tomatoes, broccoli and lettuce - and may reduce symptoms such as a runny nose and watery eyes.
Add fighting fats too
Several recent studies have highlighted how having a diet that's rich in omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, walnuts and flaxseed oil as well as grass-fed meat and eggs, may reduce allergy symptoms and prevent food intolerances in youngsters.
Experts from France's National Agricultural Research Institute (INRA) found that when mothers-to-be ate a diet high in these fatty acids their baby's immune systems were found to be more effective in producing antibodies and thus less likely to suffer allergies and food sensitivities. "Our study identified that a certain group of polyunsaturated fatty acids causes a change in how a baby's gut develops, which in turn might change how the gut immune system develops," explained the chief researcher, Dr Gaëlle Boudry.
Fill up with folate
Foods that are rich in the B vitamin folate, such as chicken, lentils, black-eyed peas, pinto, chickpeas, orange juice, okra and spinach may be vital allies in the battle against asthma.
US researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined data from over 8,000 people with reactions to allergens as varied as dog and cat fur to the moulds that can trigger severe asthma. They found that those with high folate intake levels were less susceptible to asthma and chest problems - though the evidence wasn't so strong when it came to the more everyday allergies.
Naturally detox your home
To protect your body from exposure to toxins, be sure to take a long hard look at what you're using to clean your home with. Research conducted by the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine has shown that the chemicals in everyday household cleaners can trigger the onset or the worsening of asthma. Health experts also claim that our overuse of antibacterial chemicals may be having an adverse, long-term effect on our well-being by promoting the growth of stronger bacteria.
Take a look at your household cleaning solutions and try replacing them with eco-friendly ones such as distilled white vinegar, baking soda and even lemons.
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Updated: April 16, 2012 04:00 AM