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.
Common Allergy Symptoms
Allergy symptoms make you feel simply awful. Congestion, post-nasal drip, itchy eyes and sneezing wear your body down. While the severity of symptoms of allergic rhinitis vary widely from season to season, chances are if you have seasonal allergies, the symptoms impact your day-to-day life.
Researchers are at odds as to why seasonal allergy symptoms have worsened over the past 30 years but agree that allergies to pollen, mold and some foods are growing exponentially. According to the “Quest Diagnostics Health Trends Allergy Report,” overall rates of allergy sensitivities have increased nearly 6 percent in just four years, and ragweed allergies have grown 15 percent. (6)
Many hay fever symptoms are similar to those of a common cold or sinus infection, but colds and sinus infections come and go much more quickly than seasonal allergies. Allergy symptoms don’t go away until the pollen is dormant.
Someone suffering from seasonal allergies faces the same challenges, season after season. When the allergen is pollen, mold or another airborne substance, the symptoms typically manifest in the lungs, nose and eyes. Food allergies, on the other hand, most commonly affect the mouth, stomach and may cause skin rashes.
Common seasonal allergy symptoms include:
- Post-nasal drip
- Excess mucus production
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Scratchy throat
- Tickle/irritation in the ears
- Decreased concentration and focus
- Decreased decision-making
- Exhaustion and sleep disorders
- Mood swings
- Low blood pressure
- Middle ear infections
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 provenTrusted Source to contain antioxidative, anti-inflammatory phytochemical compounds. Now, experts are exploring how these compounds may be useful for combating seasonal allergies. In a 2016 animal studyTrusted Source, ginger suppressed the production of pro-inflammatory proteins in the blood of mice, which led to reduced allergy symptoms.
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.
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 decrease allergic rhinitisTrusted Source, the irritation of the upper respiratory tract caused by pollen from blooming plants.
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 reduced their allergic responseTrusted Source.
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 systemic Trusted Source inflammation. Lycopene is more easily absorbed in the body when it’s cooked, so choose canned or cooked tomatoes for an extra boost.
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.
A German study from 2005 Trusted Source found that the more eicosapentaenoic (EPA) fatty acid people had in their bloodstream, the less their risk of allergic sensitivity or hay fever.
Another more recent studyTrusted Source showed that fatty acids helped decrease the narrowing of airways that occurs in asthma and some cases of seasonal allergies. These benefits likely come from omega-3s’ anti-inflammatory properties.
Onions are an excellent natural source of quercetin, a bioflavonoid you may have seen sold on its own as a dietary supplement.
Some research Trusted Source suggests that quercetin acts as a natural antihistamine, reducing the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Since onions also contain a number of other anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, you can’t go wrong including them in your diet during allergy season. (You just might want to freshen your breath afterward.)
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 research is mixed on whether local honey helps you head off allergies. “If you take small doses of the honey early in the season,” Rosen says, “you may develop a tolerance toward pollen in your area.” One study found that people who ate birch pollen honey had fewer symptoms of birch pollen allergy than those who ate regular honey. It’s not a sure thing, but see if it works for you.
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.
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