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I cured my hay fever with yoghurt

I've achieved a miracle, and I did it without even trying: I've conquered my hay fever.

My secret? Yoghurt.

I can't believe I've just written that: I sound like some pseudo-scientific self-help New Age psychobabble crystal-gazing find-your-personal-angel article. Incidentally, want to drive me batty within five minutes? Force me to listen to New Age music. It raises my hackles like nails on blackboard or tinfoil on a tooth filling. "I had rather hear a brazen canstick turn'd, Or a dry wheel grate on the axle-tree."

Anyway. Hay fever. Yoghurt.

This, every day. PS: A daily dose of Marx might not be a bad idea either,
given what capitalism is up (down?) to nowadays.

I've suffered from acute hay fever since high school. If you need proof, I've written plenty of blog posts about this annual misery (link, link, link, link, link). It's been particularly intense in Tokyo, where a third of the population struggles with the allergy thanks to stratospheric pollen counts caused by surrounding cedar plantations. I'm so resigned to hay fever hell that I went to my doctor in January to preempt this year's assault. I was armed with antihistamines and nasal spray, ready to launch a counter-attack as soon as my nose twitched.

Except … the pills remain in their blister pack, the nasal spray unopened.

The big difference between 2013 and 2014? Diet.

It started in September last year, just after my mother's death, when I realized that my body was about to self-destruct due to stress, sorrow, overwork and a wheat-heavy diet that was semi-killing me.

Too many people have unnecessarily climbed aboard the gluten allergy bandwagon, but I – as a matter of fact, my entire family on my mother's side – have a confirmed-by-medical-tests gluten intolerance. I've written about this, too, but in short: if I eat too much gluten, I get blinding headaches, digestive problems, can't sleep, have no energy. Massive traffic jam in my body. Sluggishness all over. As much as I love bread – oh goddess, I adore bread – my body hates it. 

So I changed my diet drastically in September. I don't want to say I follow a paleolithic diet, because that's yet another pseudo-scientific self-help New Age psychobabble crystal-gazing find-your-personal-angel thing.

I eat fruit, nuts, vegetables, gluten-free grains (like oats, rice and buckwheat), eggs and dairy products. I don't eat meat, at least not at home. I'll occasionally have meat if I'm dining out, but I'm insufferably fussy about it. So much for a paleolithic diet.

I also eat chocolate. That's a very important source of antioxidants, theobromine, phenylethylamine, serotonin, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese; as well as vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E and pantothenic acid. So there.

Because I have to be careful to get enough protein, and because I like its taste, and because it's beneficial for any digestive problems, I started eating yoghurt. Lots of yoghurt. Usually probiotic. Two cups every day.

Fast forward to March 2014. The spring winds have started blowing, the pollen count is sky-high, Tokyo is sniffling and snuffling and snortling, and Ru … Ru is bouncing around like a rubber ball with too much kinetic energy.

I'm not saying I'm entirely unaffected. When I went for a hike in Okutama, I got paranoid and swallowed two pills just in case. While I was walking, my nose was slightly itchy and my eyes slightly scratchy, but the next day … nothing. Maybe I imagined those symptoms? Perhaps a rebound effect caused by the pills themselves?

I watch the pollen levels every day. I go outside every day. No medicine. No masks …

Sorry, Japan, but those masks are ridiculous. I refuse to wear them. Pointblank. Where wôs I?

I watch the pollen levels every day. I go outside every day. No medicine. No masks. No symptoms.

Unused and unnecessary antihistamines.
If you're curious, this is a generic version of Allegra.

I guessed it might be diet-related, but never in my wildest dreams thought it might be due to yoghurt until I went Googling. Lo and behold. Several studies have indicated that there is, indeed, a link between yoghurt and hay fever.

Don't use Google Search, because that will again give you results in the pseudo-scientific self-help New Age psychobabble crystal-gazing find-your-personal-angel category. Use Google Scholar, and you'll find results such as "Immunostimulatory oligodeoxynucleotide from Bifidobacterium longumsuppresses Th2 immune responses" and "A probiotic dairy product containing L. gasseri CECT5714 and L. coryniformis CECT5711 induces immunological changes in children suffering from allergy".

Let's not over-simplify things, though. I think my hay fever symptoms have disappeared thanks to a healthy diet in general, a properly functioning digestive system, less stress and more exercise. It's also possible that I've outgrown it. It happens.

Let's not over-complicate things, either. I've always been fairly healthy and fairly active, which brings me back to the one factor that's different.


I'm not saying it's a cure-all magic potion, and take into account that you have to eat a fair amount every single day for a few months. I also hope my hubris isn't tempting the gods.

But …

I am  saying …

For the first time in decades …

No misery. No head wrapped in cotton. No murderous/suicidal/genocidal thoughts.

You may reach your own conclusions.

PS: I know that I'm not updating my own blog as often as before, or responding to comments as quickly, or commenting on other blogs as regularly, but I have a workload that's creaking under its own weight, and … the new academic year starts in April. It won't get better. My humblest apologies. I interwebs when I can, but there's this thing called real life, and it's a rather precious thing. A luta continua

PPS: I promised Massimo a blog post about a recent Okutama hike in search of plum blossoms. It will follow on Monday or Tuesday. It was simply faster to write this post in limited time: it's easier to waffle than to be a good journalist.

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