Wednesday 18th May 2016

Don't let the pollen count

Foods that strengthen the mucus membrane barrier such as whole grains, seaweed and root vegetables, along with cutting out sugar, could help to banish the symptoms of hayfever.

For millions of people, the summer months are blighted by debilitating hayfever symptoms, which now affect a staggering one in five people in the UK at some point in their lives.

Yet changes in diet can greatly reduce symptoms without the need for medications, says Oliver Cowmeadow, leading macrobiotic author and teacher.

“It’s been a growing problem in the last 40 – 50 years, yet we have always lived with nature, so there must be a reason why so many people now have allergies to pollen and other natural substances,” he explained.

“The answer is in the change in diets over that time, we have forgotten how to maintain good health. 

There is so much sugary and highly processed foods in the daily diet of many people - in Oriental medicine, this leads to an imbalance in the Lung energy.”

On a physical level, weak Lung energy leads to swollen mucus membranes which then form a weak barrier, letting pollen into the body, stimulating an allergic reaction with the well know symptoms of watering eyes, itching and sneezing.

From an Oriental point of view, foods that are expansive weaken the lung energy. These include refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine and tropical fruits.

Foods that strengthen the lungs are:

• Whole grains such as brown rice, millet, barley, buckwheat, wheat and quinoa
• A good supply of minerals such as that found in seaweed
• Seasoning like miso, shoyu and tamari
• Root vegetables
• Spring wild food such as hedge garlic and nettles


Oliver said: “A change in diet isn’t a quick fix solution, but over months, there will be a change. Over a year or two, it is possible to greatly reduce or eliminate the symptoms.”

See infographic below for more information and RECIPES for quinoa salad and seaweed soup.


Quinoa Salad

You need: 1 cup quinoa, 2 carrots cut in fine cubes, 1 small broccoli cut in small florets, 1 medium onion, ½ red pepper, spring onions, oliver oil, 1 lemon, shoyu

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add a pinch of sea salt and 1 cup of quinoa. Simmer for 15-20 minutes with a lid until all the water has been absorbed.
2. Blanch the broccoli florets and then the carrots and set aside to cook.
3. Dice the onion and red pepper very finely and sauté a few minutes until soft and sweet.
4. Mix all the ingredients together.
5. Make a dressing by mixing the juice of 1 lemon, 1-2 tsp shoyu, 2tsp olive oil and a few spring onions chopped very finely, and mix into to salad.


Soba in Seaweed Broth

You need: a 4 inch piece of kelp (kombu) 4 Shitake dried mushrooms, 1-2 carrots, ½ pack soba (buckwheat and wheat) noodles, root ginger, spring onions or watercress, shoyu.

1. Soak the shitake in a little water for an hour to soften. Remove the shitake, keep the soaking water, and then cut off and discard the stalks, and slice the caps finely.
2. Bring a pan of water to a boil, add the soba and cook until soft enough to eat but still firm. Quickly rinse and drain.
3. Make a dashi by heating 3-4 cups of water in a pan, adding the kelp, shitake and shitake soaking water, and carrot sliced finely, and cook for 10-15 minutes.
4. Remove the kelp (keep for cooking in another dish like a stew or with beans) add 3-4 tsp shoyu.
5. Grate a little root ginger finely, put in the centre of your hand and squeeze about 1 tsp of juice into the soup, and cook another 2 minutes.
6. Place some soba in bowls, add the broth on top, and garnish with finely chopped spring onions, watercress or chives.