As we are approaching the end of February and the evenings are getting lighter, there is a glimmer of hope that we are nearing the end of Winter and Spring is on the way – despite the recent weather!

It is at this time of year that I encourage my clients who experience the misery of allergic rhinitis, pollen allergies – especially tree pollens – and those who are prone to hay fever a little later on in the year, to take a few steps to help boost their immune system now.

A more natural approach using tried and tested nutrients has been shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms  even when you need to use medicines as well.


Quercetin is a flavonoid from the group known as polyphenols: antioxidants that protect cells from damage by free radicals.  Quercitin is sometimes called ‘nature’s antihistamine’ as it stimulates the system, promotes antiviral activity, inhibits histamine release and reduces inflammation in the tissues of the body. It is found in many fruits, vegetables including red onions, kale, broccoli, both black and green teas, leafy veg and apples.


Bromelain is an enzyme found in the stems of fresh pineapple. Research shows it has benefits in reducing inflammation and supporting healthy nasal and respiratory airways. Bromelain may also increase the absorption of quercetin.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for the normal functioning of the immune system by protecting against oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Although it is abundant in many vegetables and fruit, many individuals have low levels so boosting with supplement can be  beneficial.


Elderberry extract is traditionally used to help reduce the severity of both sinus and chest infections whilst boosting the immune system.  Elderberry is a great remedy for children who are bringing up lots of mucous – it is available in pleasant tasting syrup – and can really help support immunity.


A 2012 study found that taking regular doses of Echinacea is beneficial to people with weakened immune systems.  Echinacea can be used to protect against colds reducing the duration and recurrence of colds by up to 60%.  Echinacea is available in tablets and tinctures and there are over the counter remedies specifically formulated for children.

Beta Glucans 

Beta Glucans are compounds that help support the immune system and have been shown to prevent colds, improve symptoms and increases the body’s potential to defend against invading pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.  They are especially useful for those with upper respiratory tract infections and are able to provide allergy relief without the side effects of medications such as steroids.

Beneficial bacteria

Recent research into probiotics show that many strains are beneficial for those suffering allergic rhinitis.  It is believed that they work  by increasing the number of regulatory T-cells in the body which in turn may increase tolerance to hay fever and allergy-type symptoms.  An American study showed that those taking a probiotic supplement experienced fewer allergy-related nose symptoms allowing them to get on with daily activities.

However not all probiotics help but the following have been identified as being useful: Lactobacillus GG and Lactobacillus gasseri along with Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis.

Other advice

All of the above nutrients can be found in a variety of ‘over the counter’ medications which are formulated for different age groups and in different strengths.

If you are taking prescribed medicine please consult with your GP before taking any other medications and/or supplements including those mentioned above especially over the long term.

Pippa Mitchell is a registered Nutritional Therapist.  For more information visit: