When you think of food and allergies, you may think of keeping certain foods out of your diet to avoid an adverse reaction. But the connection between seasonal allergies and food is limited to a few groups of foods known as cross-reactive foods. Reactions to cross-reactive foods may be experienced by those with birch, ragweed, or mugwort seasonal allergies.
Aside from those groups of foods, seasonal allergies, also called hay fever or allergic rhinitis, only occur during certain parts of the year — usually the spring or summer. They develop when the immune system overreacts to allergens, like plant pollen, which results in lots of congestion, sneezing, and itching.
While treatment usually involves over-the-counter medicines, lifestyle changes may also help ease your springtime woes. Adding certain foods to your diet could actually help relieve symptoms like the nose-dripping and eye-watering. From reducing inflammation to boosting the immune system, there are a number of dietary choices that may help mitigate the miseries of seasonal allergies.
Here’s a list of foods to try.
Many of the unpleasant allergy symptoms come from inflammatory issues, like swelling and irritation in the nasal passages, eyes, and throat. Ginger can help reduce these symptoms naturally.
For thousands of years, ginger has been used as a natural remedy for a number of health problems, like nausea and joint pain. It’s also been
There doesn’t appear to be a difference in the anti-inflammatory capacity of fresh ginger versus dried. Add either variety to stir fries, curries, baked goods, or try making ginger tea.
2. Bee pollen
Bee pollen isn’t just food for bees — it’s edible for humans, too! This mixture of enzymes, nectar, honey, flower pollen, and wax is often sold as a curative for hay fever.
What kind of bee pollen is best, and how do you eat it? “There is some evidence to support the consumption of local bee pollen to help build your body's resistance to the pollen that you are allergic to,” says Stephanie Van’t Zelfden, a registered dietitian who helps clients manage allergies. “It is important that the honey be local so that the same local pollen your body is allergic to is contained in the bee pollen.” If possible, look for bee pollen at your local farmer’s market.
Bee pollen comes in small pellets, with a flavor some describe as bittersweet or nutty. Creative ways to eat it include sprinkling some on yogurt or cereal, or blending it into a smoothie.
3. Citrus fruits
While it’s an old wives’ tale that vitamin C prevents the common cold, it may help shorten the duration of a cold as well as offer benefits for allergy sufferers. Eating foods high in vitamin C has been shown to
So during allergy season, feel free to load up on high-vitamin C citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, sweet peppers, and berries.
Turmeric is well-known as an anti-inflammatory powerhouse for a good reason. Its active ingredient, curcumin, has been linked to reduced symptoms of many inflammation-driven diseases, and could help minimize the swelling and irritation caused by allergic rhinitis.
Although turmeric’s effects on seasonal allergies haven’t been studied extensively in humans, animal studies are promising. One showed that treating mice with turmeric
Turmeric can be taken in pills, tinctures, or teas — or, of course, eaten in foods. Whether you take turmeric as a supplement or use it in your cooking, be sure to choose a product with black pepper or piperine, or pair turmeric with black pepper in your recipe. Black pepper increases the bioavailability of curcumin by up to 2,000 percent.
Though citrus tends to get all the glory when it comes to vitamin C, tomatoes are another excellent source of this essential nutrient. One medium-size tomato contains about 26 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin C.
Additionally, tomatoes contain lycopene, another antioxidant compound that helps quell
6. Salmon and other oily fish
Could a fish a day keep the sneezing away? There’s some evidence that the omega-3 fatty acids from fish could bolster your allergy resistance and even improve asthma.
The American Heart Association and
Onions are an excellent natural source of quercetin, a bioflavonoid you may have seen sold on its own as a dietary supplement.
Raw red onions have the highest concentration of quercetin, followed by white onions and scallions. Cooking reduces the quercetin content of onions, so for maximum impact, eat onions raw. You might try them in salads, in dips (like guacamole), or as sandwich toppings. Onions are also prebiotic-rich foods which nourish healthy gut bacteria and further support immunity and health.
The blooming and flowering of springtime can be a beautiful thing. These foods aren’t meant to replace any treatment for seasonal allergies, but they can help as part of your overall lifestyle. Making the dietary additions above may allow you to reduce inflammation and allergic response to savor the season, rather than sneeze your way through it.
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a nutritionist, freelance health writer, and food blogger. She lives with her husband and three children in Mesa, Arizona. Find her sharing down-to-earth health and nutrition info and (mostly) healthy recipes at A Love Letter to Food.