Jim Manson questions the concept of ‘safe limits’ for exposure to pollutants and rounds up some of the market’s most dynamic solutions to keep allergies under control

The human body is a remarkably robust organism with powerful natural defences that protect against a daily bombardment of chemicals and pollutants. But those defences can eventually be breached by accumulative exposure to toxic chemicals, or when the total ‘pollution load’ passes a critical threshold – and we become sick.

With both these disease-drivers – long-term exposure and rising pollution load – now seemingly advancing in a pincer movement, the risk is that more of us will be pushed over that critical threshold.

The effect on human health from daily exposure to comparatively low levels of chemical pollutants is the subject of intense debate, and a growing body of research. 

No safe limits
The argument often made by industry and regulatory bodies – that so long as ‘safe limits’ are not exceeded, the presence of toxic substances in food, drinking water and in the home is harmless – is now under direct challenge. In fact, the very concept of safe limits is being called into question. At the same time, more research into the ‘cocktail effect’ is revealing the ways in which chemicals in combination may produce an amplifying effect on their properties (typically, safe limits are based on studies that examine one chemical at a time).

Anna Turns, author of Go Toxic Free: Easy and Sustainable Ways to Reduce Chemical Pollution, says that some chemicals commonly found in the home (including PFAS, so-called ‘forever chemicals’) actively ‘increase the chances of developing certain cancers, disrupt brain development and interfere with the body’s hormones’. As a way to reduce long-term exposure to toxic chemicals, she advocates ‘streamlining’ the number of products in the home, and focusing on conscious consumption.

Turns also wants consumers to be wary of ‘distraction claims’ and labels that focus on what a product doesn’t contain, such as ‘paraben-free’ or ‘no nasties’. “Real transparency is about disclosing ingredients, not distracting us from them,” she insists.  

Invisible killer 
Air pollution is responsible for the deaths of a staggering 8.7 million people globally, according to research by Harvard University. The Harvard research represents some of the most detailed analysis carried out on the health impact of particles emitted by car and truck exhausts and factories. This particulate matter is known as PM2.5 because the particles are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter – that’s 30 times smaller than the diameter of the average human hair. These tiny particles, once inhaled, lodge in the lungs. But the damage to health caused by inhalation of PM2.5 goes well beyond effects on the lungs, ‘affecting potentially every organ in the body’, according to the Harvard team.

Much of the media attention on air pollution focuses on outdoor sources. But according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air pollution levels can be as much as five times higher.

“Real transparency is about disclosing ingredients, not distracting us from them”

Fine particles are released from a range of activities including cooking (frying and roasting in particular), cleaning and from fires and candles. A study by the air quality firm Zehnder UK found that people are exposed to more PM2.5 cooking an omelette in their kitchen than standing on an average London roadside. 

Vitamins to the rescue? 
In 2017, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health announced the startling findings of a study that looked at whether micronutrients could offer some protection against the effects of air pollution. Scientists were particularly interested in PM2.5, which has been shown to cause epigenetic changes associated with a number of diseases, including cancer. 

The scientists were able to show in a trial that the B vitamins folic acid (2.5mg), vitamin B6 (50mg) and vitamin B12 (1mg) taken daily ‘completely offset’ the damage caused by very fine particulate matter. The clinical study was the first test on humans to suggest a remedy for genetic damage caused by smog and was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This ground-breaking research formed the basis of the development of the newly launched AirDefence formulation from BetterYou. The company’s biochemists have produced a patent-pending formulation as an oral spray, delivering key nutrients directly into the bloodstream. A bold marketing campaign announces that the product ‘combats the damage of fine particle air pollution from the inside out’. 

BetterYou founder Andrew Thomas, says early reception to the product has been ‘highly positive’. “It is clear that the demand for heightened ‘immunity’ in every form is high on people’s agenda. More and more we consider the external world we live in as a challenge to optimal health and wellbeing. Often we accept that it’s of our own making but most of us feel powerless to change what has become a universal and omnipresent threat.”

Nutritional approaches to building natural defences against toxic pollutants is a specialism of Dr Jenny Goodman, author of Staying Alive in Toxic Times and practitioner of ecological medicine. 

In a podcast with wellbeing specialist Matt Morley, Goodman offers a striking example of the power of nutrients to do battle with toxins. She says: “I’ve worked with many people in the farming community who are exposed to pesticides and what I’ve discovered is that the farmers who eat badly are the ones who are most impacted. To understand what’s going on here, we need to understand what pesticides are. They are toxins that are very hard to destroy, and they are fat soluble. That means they like fatty substances, and they dissolve in fat. Brain cells and all the nerves in our body are coated in fat. Classically it is the brain and nervous system that is most harmed by pesticide exposure. But if you are eating lots of really good, healthy fat like avocado, nuts, seeds, eggs and fish then you’ve already got some of the nutrients that will help you get rid of those things.” 

‘Pollution allergy’ 
The connection between pollution and allergy is the subject of a growing body of research. Traditionally, when we think about allergy we often focus on common ‘natural’ allergens, whether environmental – pollen, mould spores and dust mites – or those present in food, and the very specific mechanism, the classic IgE response, that produces symptoms. New research shows that not only does pollution produce similar symptoms to allergies as a result of irritation, but it may also ‘set up’ allergies. For example, diesel exhaust particles have been shown to activate primary sensitization to antigens, leading to an IgE response. In this instance, pollution is causing allergy. The extent to which this is happening with other pollutants is not yet known, but in time studies may cast more light on why so many previously non-atopic people succumb to allergies. ‘Pollution allergy’ is a concept that is gaining traction. And it’s a term we are likely to be hearing a lot more of.

Allergy opportunity: a view from the shop floor
“Allergy is such a broad umbrella topic that you literally can shop the shop for it,” says Alan Martin, owner of Food for Thought (Kingston and Guildford) and Oliver’s (Kew). “It reaches across a whole number of different health food categories, from supplements and herbal remedies to food and personal care.” 

Martin says Food for Thought treats free-from foods separately from other allergy products, since it is a major category in its own right. But, he says: “Nutritional switches and adaptions more widely are a growing feature we see when it comes to allergy.” As an example, he cites a ‘noticeable shift away from dairy to plant-based alternatives, specifically to address allergy issues’. Similarly, he notes, ‘people are searching out alternatives to sugar, which affects immune response and exacerbates inflammation’, adding that stevia and honey are popular. 

When it comes to supplements and herbals, Martin says there is ‘a whole armoury available’. Eyebright, stinging nettle, chamomile and spirulina are among top recommendations for herbals, while B vitamins, antioxidant formulas, vitamin C and quercetin are popularly used supplements. Essential oils, breathing aids and air purifiers, such as Himalayan Salt Lamps, also come into their own as the hay fever season gets underway, as do barrier products such as HayMax.


Bee prepared immune supplements

Unbeelievable Health Ltd
Tel: 020 7993 2471
E-mail:  [email protected]

Multi award winning hay fever and immune system support – A well-functioning immune system is shown to help ease hay fever and allergy symptoms. Bee prepared immune supplements blend therapeutic amounts of plant sourced ingredients with studies behind their use which also contain natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties including bee propolis, black elderberry, olive leaf and more. The ingredients also have natural antiviral & antibiotic properties. They’re suitable for children too (capsule contents may be opened into juices & food). Unbeelievable Health’s supplements are concentrated & contain no excipients or fillers, so fewer are required. Formulated by nutritionists & Vegetarian society Approved. Excellent reviews too! 


Pollution Protection Daily Multi with Antioxidants

City Survivor Ltd
Tel: 020 8032 9723
E-mail:  [email protected]

An exceptional multivitamin designed for modern life. The benefits of a general multivitamin & mineral plus a broad spectrum antioxidant in one product; nutrients to help protect the liver & cells from oxidative stress. With high strength Natural Vitamin E, CoQ10, Alpha Lipoic Acid & N-Acetyl-Cysteine. Energy support including methylated B Vitamin complex. Bone support with Vegan D3 plus Vitamin K2. Essential immune nutrients. Safe for smokers thanks to a natural Beta-Carotene & carotenoid extract.  Ideal to combine with antioxidant skincare for anti-ageing protection inside and out. Free from iron. Just 2 capsules daily. RRP £34.95


HayMax™ organic drug-free allergen barrier balms

HayMax Limited
Tel: 01525 406600
E-mail:  [email protected]

Hayfever? Dust or Pet Allergy? May marks the start of the grass pollen season. HayMax organic drug-free allergen barrier balms are proven to trap all types of pollen, as well as dust and pet allergens, in independent university studies. 80% said HayMax works. HayMax Frankincense and the attractive new look HayMax Triple Tins are both exclusive to independents.  Undercut the multiples with HayMax Triple Tins – margin protected to sell at 3 for the price of 2. Suitable for children and adults, including pregnant and breast-feeding mums. Certified organic, 100% natural and over 50 awards. Wow!



HealthAid Ltd
Tel: 020 8426 3400
E-mail: [email protected]

Boost your body’s immune system – Allergies are versatile. They can show up just about anywhere in your body and create an incredible variety of symptoms. This often leads to physical and emotional distress. Allergforte contains natural antioxidants antihistamines and anti-inflammatories that can help with the symptoms of allergies, its unique formulation containing natural essential ingredients such as Vitamin C, Quercetin and Bromelain, helps to combat the misery of common allergies and make the condition more bearable.  Allergforte is suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Allergforte, retails at £11.99 for 60 Vegan tablets. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit www.healthaid.co.uk


Natural Relief for Hay Fever from Helios

Helios Homeopathy Ltd
Tel: 01892 511555
E-mail:  [email protected]

Hay fever is the cause of seasonal misery to millions of people around the world. Award winning Hay Fever  from Helios Homeopathy combines three homeopathic remedies Allium cepa, Euphrasia and Sabadilla and has a long history of traditional use to relieve typical hay fever symptoms such as irritated eyes and nose, itching, sneezing and a dry, tickly cough.  Being natural Helios Hay Fever is without any known side effects, does not cause drowsiness and is suitable for all the family.  Hay Fever comes in organic sucrose pill form, in our easy-to-us,  single dose dispenser. For information on the full range of award winning combination remedies please contact [email protected] 


Lamberts® Quercetin 500mg – Natural plant sourced high potency flavonoid

Lamberts Healthcare Ltd
Tel: 01892 554313
E-mail:  [email protected]

Quercetin is a plant chemical, or flavonoid, that’s found naturally in foods including apples, onions, teas, berries, and red wine. Quercetin acts as an antioxidant, neutralising free radicals—the chemical by-products that harm cell membranes and damage DNA. Quercetin is a well-researched bioflavonoid and is recognised as being more active in the body than most others, including influencing the production and release of histamine. Histamine causes most of the typical symptoms that occur during an allergic reaction. Lamberts® Quercetin is extracted from a natural plant source and each tablet provides 500mg of pure quercetin, specially coated for ease of swallowing.


Living Nutrition Organic Fermented Reishi Spores

Living Planet Distribution
Tel: 020 3176 9982
E-mail:  [email protected]

Living Nutrition brings the art of fermentation to transform organic medicinal mushrooms into a living food with high bioavailability. Fermenting mushrooms is an effective method to liberate active components including potent polysaccharides that can support the body’s defences when environmental allergies threaten. Fermenting red reishi spores also enhances the activity of ganoderic acid, a group of triterpenoids with promising therapeutic effects on the body’s immune response. Living Nutrition Organic Fermented Reishi Spores are expertly fermented in their onsite laboratory in the UK using a unique kefir-kombucha process to extract all the revered benefits of this valued mushroom.


Organyc Organic
Cotton Sanitary Pads Moderate Flow

Pravera Ltd
Tel: 01557 870203
E-mail:  [email protected]

The award-winning Organyc Sanitary Pads Folded Moderate Flow have been made with a 100% certified organic non-woven cotton top sheet and a highly absorbent 100% certified organic cotton internal core. These soft and breathable pads are anatomically designed to adapt to the contour of your body. The certified organic cotton is hypoallergenic and suitable for women with irritable and sensitive skin, the Organyc organic cotton sanitary pads have protective wings and secure adhesive strips to give you maximum security. They are the world’s first clinically proven sanitary pads to reduce intimate skin irritations.


Hay Fever Heroes


Live brighter this allergy season with Solaray – Solaray’s QBC-plex and Sinus Wellness are the natural choice to tackle hay fever and other seasonal allergies, so you can live brighter. The blend of quercetin, bromelain and Vitamin C in QBC-plex provides year-round immune system support and quercetin’s anti-inflammatory properties can reduce allergy symptoms. Sinus Wellness combines Vitamin C, Oregon grape and enzymes to boost immune response, improve sinus health and provide antioxidant protection against seasonal allergies. Available from Tree of Life, CLF, The Health Store, Jumla and Independent Irish Health Foods.


Nature’s Defender 

Bee Health Propolis
Tel: 0800 731 6006
E-mail:  [email protected]

Propolis is a natural substance collected by honey bees from buds and trees containing tree resin, essential oils, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Propolis offers an array of benefits for many ailments and allergies and is one of nature’s richest sources of bioflavonoids for immune support. Bee Health guarantees the bioflavonoids present are naturally occurring flavonoids, with no synthetic substances added. This unique natural product is made in the UK and subject to tests for potency and quality.  Available as tablets, capsules, liquids, cream, throat spray and lozenges.


Organic Relief 

WFBM Healthcare
Tel: 01782 528611
E-mail:  [email protected]

The famous German black forest spruce trees are known for there health giving effects on the respiratory tract. Blended with organic herbal extracts and filled with organic forest honey, these certified organic herbal candies bring soothing relief to throats while the vapour released helps clear the nose. 


PureC+™ – Liposomal Vitamin C with Quercetin

Wholesale Health Ltd
Tel: 01606 889905
E-mail:  [email protected]

PureC+™ with Quercetin, from Good Health Naturally, is a high potency liquid liposomal vitamin C product with added quercetin. Contains 1000mg vitamin C and 175mg of C Support (citrus bioflavonoids, quercetin) per serving. Advanced ‘liposome’ technology using phosphatidylcholine ensures faster and superior absorption than capsules, tablets and powders, achieving higher, longer-lasting dosing with no digestive upset. PureC+™ with Quercetin delivers powerful support for immune health, offering a beneficial solution for allergies and hay fever symptoms during the warmer months. Pleasant tasting off the spoon or mixed into liquids for convenience and flexible dosing. Vegan. 180ml (approx 30 servings).