For an estimated 25 million Americans, the “beauty” of springtime just means sneezing, itchy eyes, runny noses, and scratchy throats. Spring allergies are typically associated with trees, grass, and weed pollen; airborne pollen can cause hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis.
For allergy sufferers, it can be a bit more difficult to enjoy this weather when they experience cold-like symptoms and feel drowsy due to allergy medications.
In This Article:
Why Do I Get Allergies?
Allergies are the body’s reaction to particles that are foreign (allergens). When the body first encounters an allergen, the plasma cells release immunoglobulin E (IgE), which is an antibody specific to that allergen.
IgE will attach itself to the surface of mast cells, which are numerous in surface tissues, such as the skin and nasal mucous membranes; this is where mediation of inflammatory responses occurs. The mast cells then release chemical mediators, such as histamine.
When your body encounters a specific allergen for the second time, within minutes, the mast cells activate and release a powerful dose of histamine, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins; this will trigger the cascade of symptoms that you see so many times with allergies.
Why a Healthy Diet Can Be Better Than Medicine
Generally, when allergy season approaches and the sniffles and sore eyes begin to set in, we automatically resort to medication. It is unfortunate that there really is no cure for allergies, but there are ways you can create a strong defense against them.
Mike Tringale, former vice president of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, states that the best way to manage your allergies is to consult your doctor and get the best treatment you can. He also states that before you even think about medications, it is critical that you have a healthy diet in place well before allergy season approaches.
Studies have shown that having a diet high in antioxidants and omega-3 can keep seasonal allergies at bay or even reduce suffering. In 2007, a study found that children from the Greek island of Crete who participated in a Mediterranean diet, which included fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, and nuts, were astoundingly less likely to develop allergy or asthma symptoms.
As we know, allergies naturally cause inflammation, so finding foods that decrease inflammation is a good start.
Food Cures: Natural Allergy Relief Remedies
What if the cure for allergies, or at least their management, is simply your diet, and depends on what you eat and put into your body? An anti-inflammatory diet is ideal, since it can help reduce your levels of inflammation and allergy symptoms. These are nutrient-dense, whole foods that help repair the immune system so it can fight common allergies from your environment.
While science has not confirmed that any foods cure allergies, some may help ease your symptoms. The Mediterranean diet, in particular, is an anti-inflammatory diet that is high in fish, olive oil, nuts, vegetables, and fruits while low in red meat. That being said, there are many other allergy-fighting foods you should include in your diet.
Read on for more details on what anti-inflammatory food remedies are best for natural allergy relief.
1. Garlic and Onions
Garlic and onions are Allium vegetables with bioactive sulfur-containing compounds that have antihistaminic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-allergic properties. As a result, your allergy symptoms don’t stand a chance.
Although some people prefer to take garlic supplements due to the pungent smell of fresh garlic, nothing beats the effectiveness of raw garlic when it comes to treating allergies.
Lemons are a great natural remedy for allergies due to their immune-boosting antioxidant properties, especially the vitamin C content. Lemons are loaded with antioxidants that benefit skin health, fight inflammation, and strengthen the immune system. Drink lemon water throughout the day to help manage springtime allergies.
3. Fatty Fish and Foods Rich in Omega-3
Fatty fish and other seafood are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Omega-3 may help reduce system-wide inflammation in the body, especially due to allergy symptoms like skin rashes and hay fever.
Fatty fish high in omega-3 include Atlantic mackerel, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, anchovies, herring, and white fish. Other omega-3 rich foods include egg yolks, avocado, hemp seeds, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
4. Nuts and Seeds
Studies have shown that magnesium deficiency can increase inflammation-causing histamine levels. Many nuts and seeds are loaded with magnesium, including pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, chia seeds, almonds, and walnuts. Nuts and seeds are also rich in omega-3, fiber, and antioxidants, such as vitamin E and selenium.
5. Probiotic Foods
All allergies can be connected to impaired digestion since more than 70% of your immune system is located in your gut. This is likely why probiotic foods have such a great effect on the reduction of seasonal allergy symptoms. Probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei are associated with reduced seasonal hay fever symptoms. Some examples of probiotic foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, miso, and kombucha.
6. Green Leafy Vegetables
It is no secret that green leafy vegetables are good for your health. When you eat your greens, you are getting an essential combination of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants that work to reduce inflammation, fight allergies, and aid in detoxification.
What leafy greens should you have on your plate? Make room for spinach, romaine, arugula, collard greens, watercress, dandelion greens, and mustard greens.
7. Local Raw Honey
Local raw honey is an ancient natural remedy that is not only delicious, but it could also help control your seasonal allergies when you take a tablespoon daily in the spring. It may help your body build a tolerance to the local pollen that triggers your sinus problems.
One 2011 study examined how pre-seasonal use of birch pollen honey had affected those with birch pollen allergies. The results found that patients taking honey had 60% fewer total symptoms, and 70% fewer days with severe symptoms.
The bee pollen in honey is thought to prevent allergies and boost immunity. The enzymes in honey also support your immune system.
8. Foods High in Quercetin
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid antioxidant found in many plant-based foods, especially cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli, as well as onions, shallots, garlic, citrus fruits, green tea, berries, bell peppers, parsley, and apples.
One 2010 study found that quercetin effectively lowers allergy symptoms since it calms the airways, and may even help control peanut allergies. It has been suggested that quercetin is best as a long-term natural remedy because it may take several months before its effects start to work. That is why experts recommend that people prone to seasonal allergies begin eating quercetin-rich foods a couple months before spring arrives.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is also used in the treatment of seasonal allergies. The good bacteria in apple cider vinegar are known to support healthy lymphatic drainage and promote immunity, which may help control allergy symptoms such as sneezing and nasal congestion.
How do you use apple cider vinegar for allergies? Drink a glass of water with some lemon juice and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar every morning.
Turmeric has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties, particularly curcumin.
Curcumin is the active component in turmeric, which is reportedly able to block the release of histamine and therefore prevent the development of allergy symptoms. Some studies suggest that curcumin can control both asthma and allergies.
Turmeric makes a great addition to eggs, soups, smoothies, and nut milks.
Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds like shogaol, gingerol, paradol, and zingerone. Research shows that ginger may inhibit the synthesis of certain inflammatory markers.
One study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry in 2016 found that ginger would prevent or alleviate hay fever symptoms. Ginger decreased the severity of sneezing and nasal rubbing, and suppressed the secretion of specific IgE antibodies responsible for seasonal allergies.
Ginger is a perfect addition to smoothies, soups, juices, and rice dishes.
Rosemary contains rosmarinic acid, which is a plant polyphenol that appears to be able to alleviate allergy symptoms by suppressing IgE antibodies and inflammation caused by leukocytes. Rosemary is often used to flavor meat, fish, potatoes, and tomato sauces.
13. Foods High in Bromelain
Bromelain is an enzyme found in certain foods like pineapple and papaya. As a result, these foods may be able to treat allergies and asthma.
A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2013 found that bromelain reduces allergic sensitization and stops the development of other inflammatory responses that affect your airways. This suggests that bromelain foods could reduce allergic symptoms like trouble breathing, congestion, and a stuffy or runny nose.
14. Green Tea
Green tea is loaded with flavonoid antioxidants and other protective compounds like quercetin, linoleic acid, aginenin, catechins, carotenoids, and trace minerals like zinc and magnesium. As a result, green tea consumption may help improve immune function and skin health, and reduce allergies.
Drink up to four cups of green tea daily. To make green tea, use a teaspoon of green tea leaves and let it steep. However, it won’t take long. If you leave it longer than two to three minutes, the tea will release tannins that make it taste bitter.
Other teas take about three to five minutes.
15. Fruits and Foods High in Vitamin C
Vitamin C is believed to boost immunity, fight inflammation, and treat allergies. Some of the top vitamin C fruits include kiwi, guava, oranges, papaya, strawberries, pineapple, grapefruit, mango, and lemons. Other vitamin C foods include bell peppers, black currants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, parsley, kale, and cauliflower.
Foods That Aggravate Allergy Symptoms
There are also foods that trigger allergy symptoms such as itching, sneezing, and a sore throat. What foods make allergies worse? It is best to avoid foods that cause inflammation, including fried and processed foods, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, and refined flours. You will also want to avoid any food allergies or sensitivities you may have, which may include foods like dairy, gluten, wheat, peanuts, corn, soy, citrus, or tomatoes.
Let’s take a more detailed look at what foods cause inflammation and should therefore be avoided at all costs during allergy season.
1. Dairy Products
Conventional and pasteurized dairy products contain a protein called casein, which increases mucus production and acts like an immune system irritant when allergies are present in the body.
Dairy consumption has long been associated with asthma and increased respiratory tract mucus production. Even when you don’t have a true allergy to milk or other dairy products, removing them from your diet can greatly improve allergy symptoms such as breathing difficulty or skin rashes.
2. Processed and Chemical Foods
Conventional meats and processed foods can also trigger a severe allergy response. Processed foods contain preservatives and artificial colors and flavors, which can aggravate your seasonal allergy symptoms. Conventional meats often contain hormones and antibiotics, which increase inflammation and wreck havoc on your immune and digestive systems.
3. Wheat and Gluten
Wheat and gluten are among the most common food allergies and sensitivities. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, kamut, couscous, barley, rye, semolina, and spelt. Gluten is known to trigger an immune response and allergic reaction. As a result, gluten sensitivity or intolerance may also exacerbate your seasonal allergies.
Sugar is also among the foods that make allergies worse. Sugary products like soda, cookies, pastries, and baked goods can suppress your immune system, and lead to your allergy symptoms.
In processed foods, sugar can also hide in the form of fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, anhydrous dextrose, malt syrup, lactose, maltose, and high-fructose corn syrup.
What Happens If My Allergy Symptoms Are Untreated?
Allergy symptoms are actually very similar to symptoms associated with the common cold, so it is vital that you monitor your symptoms. Below are the most common symptoms of an allergic reaction:
- Itching of the mouth, nose, throat, and eyes
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Tearing eyes
- Dark circles under the eyes
If your symptoms last for two weeks or more, it can be considered allergic rhinitis, also known as inflammation of the nasal membranes. The condition may not be life-threatening, but complications can impair your quality of life in many ways.
In most cases, untreated allergic rhinitis will lead to acute chronic sinusitis, apnea, sleep disturbance, and dental problems. You could even end up with an overbite, which is caused by excessive breathing through the mouth.
Your ear can become damaged as well if allergic rhinitis is left untreated; an infection can develop in the middle of the ear, leading to Eustachian tube dysfunction (dulled hearing). You can also develop asthma, which is more of a long-term effect.
It may help to get an allergy test done to determine what exactly you’re allergic to. This will make it easier to determine the most suitable remedies, with regards to your diet. And remember to always consult your doctor before adding or removing certain foods from your diet.
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