Alleviate Seasonal Allergies with Food
Six Nutrients to Reduce Symptoms of Hay Fever
Now that spring has finally sprung, many of us are itching to get outside and enjoy nature. Unfortunately, for the one in six Canadians that suffer from seasonal allergies – also known as hay fever – all that itching to get outside can make them just plain itchy when the pollen counts are high.
Most allergy-related articles talk about the things you have to avoid to lessen allergy symptoms, but I’m going to take a different approach today and talk about the things you should add to help lessen allergy symptoms.
Seasonal allergy sufferers shouldn’t have to resign themselves to spending the warmer months with chronically runny noses or relying on over-the-counter allergy medications. Adding wholesome, unprocessed foods with these beneficial nutrients will help you get through allergy season with fewer sniffles.
Those unpleasant allergy symptoms – runny noses, itchy skin, watery eyes – are all caused by inflammation, so it makes sense to have more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in your diet to help keep allergic inflammation in check.
Fresh, wild coldwater fish like salmon, sardines and anchovies are your best bet for getting omega-3s because they contain the DHA and EPA forms of these beneficial fats that can be used directly by the human body. Vegetarians can find another form of omega-3s, ALA, in flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. But keep in mind that the conversion rate from ALA to EPA and DHA can be as low as 0.5%-5%. Try the Baked Lemon Pepper Salmon with “Cream” Sauce from my new book, Joyous Health: Eat and Live Well Without Dieting, for a delicious entrée chock full of good fats.
Toss those OTC allergy medications in favour of brightly coloured fruits and veggies because vitamin C is nature’s antihistamine! Histamine is the chemical in the body that causes the inflammation that results in allergy symptoms. Vitamin C not only prevents histamine from being released in the first place, but it also decreases your nasal passages’ sensitivity to histamine and helps the body detoxify the histamine that’s already there.
You can get vitamin C from a whole host of fruits and vegetables, but some of the best sources are bell peppers, parsley, broccoli, cauliflower and kale. Keep in mind that vitamin C is very sensitive to heat, water and light, so the best way to make sure that you’re getting the most vitamin C is to enjoy some of your fruits and vegetables raw. Smoothies and juices are a great way to get a wide variety of raw fruits and veggies in one go. Next time you’re out enjoying nature, take a smoothie along with you and sip away to keep allergies at bay!
Flavonoids like quercetin work synergistically with vitamin C to make it even more potent. They’re also anti-inflammatory in their own right. Like vitamin C, quercetin helps quell allergy symptoms by acting as an antihistamine, and of all the flavonoids, studies have shown that quercetin is the best one for fighting allergic responses.
Quercetin-rich foods include capers, cilantro, apples, onions, parsley and green tea. Check out the Clean Beauty Smoothie from my book for a quercetin-rich, detoxifying drink.
Your gut is home to over 100 trillion beneficial bacteria that help with everything from synthesizing vitamins to protecting against viruses and bad bacteria. In fact, over 70% of your immune system is located in your gut! These good bugs help train your immune system to identify harmful pathogens and stop it from overreacting to antigens that may, if the immune system gets confused, result in an allergic reaction. We need to make sure that we have enough of the good guys on board so they don’t get overworked and make mistakes that cause allergic reactions. When your body is already in allergy-mode because of a food allergy, you’re much more likely to see an increase in seasonal allergy symptoms as well, so lessening your total allergic load will help with seasonal allergies, as well as food-related ones.
You can give the colonies of good bacteria in your gut a boost by eating fermented foods like kimchi, tempeh, miso, kombucha, kefir and Genuine Health’s Whole Body Nutrition, a fermented green supplement you can add to your next smoothie or simply add to water. Be sure to try Amy’s Tempeh Chili recipe from my book for a delicious, gut-friendly take on a classic comfort food.
Fat-soluble vitamin D helps modulate immune system responses. It helps your immune cells produce more microbe-fighting proteins while at the same time tempering those inflammatory responses that can trigger allergy symptoms.
You can get vitamin D in coldwater fish like salmon and sardines, as well as eggs, but one of the best ways to get vitamin D is to make your own by getting some sunshine on your skin.
Wishing a joyous, sniffle-free spring to you all. Let’s use these nutrients to make “allergy season” a thing of the past!