Foods That Can Take a Bite out of Seasonal Allergies

Foods That Can Take a Bite out of Seasonal Allergies

You’ve probably been plagued at least occasionally by sneezing, runny nose, itchy watery eyes, congestion or some or all of the above in spring and summer. Seasonal allergic reactions are highest when pollen from flowering plants, grass, weeds, trees, and mold take off. The pollen and mold count skyrockets with the explosion of airborne particulates from plant growth and warm, rainy, humid weather, particularly when the wind kicks up.

What actually causes the allergic reaction? It begins in your immune system when a relatively harmless protein is encountered, which causes your body to overreact, producing receptors that attack the allergen, among them histamine. Histamine widens blood vessels in the affected area, causing swelling along with a host of other nasty effects we commonly associate with an allergy attack.

During warm-weather seasons, we breathe in these irritants and our immune system triggers a reaction to fight what our body thinks are harmful invaders. And so the allergy cycle begins. The reaction can be miserable and long-lasting.

The typical treatments are over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines to immediately address the symptoms. When that fails, we might seek help from the medical profession. That help comes in the form of a stronger or different medication or we agree to the allergy “big guns” by succumbing to allergy shots.

Taking action to rid our allergic reactions is a good thing, but shots can get old fast and many preparations have side effects, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Restlessness
  • Fast heart rate
  • Excessive bleeding and bruising

 

Is Food the Answer?

All this has led researchers to question if there might be foods that might lessen or eliminate the annoying or even debilitating effects of allergies as our immune systems go into overdrive. A number of compounds found in nature can offer allergy relief. They do so by supporting our immune system and thereby prevent the allergic reaction from happening. The relief often isn’t as immediate as high-powered drugs or injections, but it does eliminate the safety and side-effect factors.

 

Foods to Treat Allergy

For years now, allergy and food experts have been collecting data and running experiments to determine which foods, if any, can treat seasonal allergies. Here are some of the ones that pop up in literature most often:

  • Raw local honey
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Hot and spicy foods
  • Fresh organic vegetables
  • Pineapple
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Bone broth
  • Probiotic-rich foods
  • Grass-fed meats
  • Free-range poultry

 

How Foods Work on Allergies

Quercetin, an antioxidant has been shown to have anti-allergy properties. Quercetin is found in several plants including onions, capers (very high in quercetin), apples, green tea, berries, cabbage, and cauliflower. How does it work? It stabilizes the membrane of our cells and prevents the release of inflammatory agents like histamine, thereby inhibiting an allergic response. Quercetin’s effectiveness is enhanced when used with vitamin C. In order to strengthen cell membranes quercetin needs time. It may take up to six weeks to notice any effect so you’ll want to take it preventively before allergy season starts and keep taking it throughout the allergy season.

Omega-3 fatty acids. DHA and EPA are two types of healthy substances called omega-3 fatty acids have been found to ease allergy symptoms. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish, in particular. Aside from fatty fish like salmon or tuna, certain tree nuts also contain a fair amount of  omega-3 fatty acids: walnuts and flaxseeds are two of them.

Vitamin C, found in fruits and vegetables is another way to fight allergies. Or you can take it in supplemental form. Flooding your body with vitamin C is good for allergies and other ailments, but be advised it can create diarrhea at the high doses suggested. It’s best to get your C from foods rather than supplements. Fresh oranges, red peppers, and strawberries have high vitamin c content. Broccoli is another one.

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, is also effective in preventing an allergic response. The enzyme helps reduce nasal swelling and it thins mucus, making it easier to breathe. Bromelain also enhances the absorption of quercetin.

Sulfur. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring compound found in all animals, including humans. It’s commonly found in cow’s milk, meat, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. MSM is thought to be a histamine blocker in our nasal passages. MSM also comes in supplement form. If you go the food route getting the right amount of MSM can also mean introducing the very allergens causing your reaction, such as with cow’s milk and certain fruits. So obviously, you’ll want to avoid milk and those fruits.

Green Tea has demonstrated the ability to strongly inhibit the cell activation that releases histamine. Green tea contains antioxidant compounds that perform this role. One such compound called Epigallocetechin gallate (EGCG) has been shown to reduce histamine reactions. EGCG is found in higher concentrations in green tea; not so much in black or white teas.

Probiotics and fermented foods. What do these have in common? Both contribute to good bacteria in the gut. Good gut bacteria enhances our immune response. Some examples in food form are kefir, a fermented milk (a dairy-free form is coconut kefir), yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and naturally fermented sauerkraut.

Turmeric. The spice native to India that’s found in curry and other dishes, turmeric, is considered a powerful bullet against an anti-inflammatory response. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has been shown to increase nasal airflow and pump up the immune response.

Magnesium: Foods rich in magnesium are believed to open up and relax the muscles, decreasing an allergic response. Some sources high in magnesium are cashew nuts, wheat bran, and kelp.

 

 Foods Can Make Your Allergy Worse

Just as certain foods aid the reduction in an allergic response, other foods make them worse. Among the worst foods to eat when you’re suffering from seasonal allergies are:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • chocolate
  • Sugar
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Processed foods (particularly dried fruits, bottled citrus juice, shrimp, and any other highly processed food)
  • Shellfish
  • Melons
  • Wheat
  • Soy

 

What if You’re Not Sure?

What if you suspect a food you’re eating is making your seasonal allergies worse but you’re not sure? Eliminate suspected culprits one at a time by not eating them for a few days to a week. Start with the most likely food, then the next, one at a time. If any of them cause your allergies to kick up, you’ve found the guilty party (or parties). But not to worry; you don’t have to stop eating them forever; just until the season has passed, or at least reduce the amount you eat at one time. Also, allergies can change from year to year and as you age. When next spring rolls around, try again. The problem food may no longer be a problem.

Another tip to keep you symptom-free: start early. Get a head start on allergic flare-ups by changing your diet at the beginning or just before allergy season.