The Role of Diet in Allergy Season: Foods That Can Help or Hurt
Allergy season is never a pleasant time for anyone. It is a time when the body denies some of the things we take for granted, such as pollen or dust mites, as part of its immune system response. This overreaction often leads to symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, or itchy eyes, among others. While medication can help treat the symptoms, adjusting one’s diet might help fight allergies, alleviate the symptoms, and make the body more immune to the environmental insults.
In this article, we shall explore the role of diets in allergy season, foods that could help or hurt, and the science behind it all.
Foods That Can Help
1. Anti-inflammatory foods – Studies suggest that foods with anti-inflammatory properties might help reduce the severity of allergy symptoms by calming the immune system’s response. Such foods include omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, nuts such as walnuts, and flaxseed. Quercetin is a flavonoid found in apples, berries, and onions, among others, that might also help reduce the inflammation.
2. Spices and herbs – Many herbs and popular spices have anti-inflammatory properties that the body might use to alleviate allergy symptoms. Ginger, turmeric, and fenugreek are spices that have been traditionally used in many cultures to soothe inflammation. Fenugreek seeds are rich in antioxidants, while turmeric contains curcumin, which can help reduce inflammation by blocking inflammatory pathways.
3. Vitamin C rich foods – Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation and fight free radicals in the body. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, kiwis, berries, tomatoes, and bell peppers, among others. Vitamin C’s anti-histamine properties can also reduce histamine release in the body, which is responsible for allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, or itching.
4. Fermented Foods – Fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut contain beneficial bacteria that support gut health. A healthy gut might help lower the body’s production of histamine, thereby reducing allergy symptoms. Fermented foods have also been shown to help the immune system by balancing the microbial population in the body.
5. Raw honey – Raw honey contains bee pollen, which researchers suggest could have immunomodulatory effects on the body’s immune system. Consuming local and raw honey could help the body adapt to the local environment, thereby reducing the severity of seasonal allergies. A tablespoon of raw honey mixed with warm water, cinnamon, and lemon is an excellent remedy for sore throat often associated with allergic reactions.
Foods That Can Hurt
1. Dairy Products – Dairy products can stimulate mucus production in the nose, mouth, and lungs, thereby worsening allergy symptoms. Many people are also intolerant to lactose, which can exacerbate digestion problems, leading to gas and bloating.
2. Processed Foods – Many processed foods contain high amounts of sugar, salt, and preservatives that might trigger an inflammatory response in the body. As such, it is advisable to eat whole foods as much as possible, avoiding processed snacks, candies, or sugary drinks.
3. Alcohol – Alcohol can cause histamine release in the body, leading to increased allergic reactions. Beer and wine contain high amounts of histamines, making it challenging for allergic people to tolerate them.
4. Gluten – Gluten has been shown to increase inflammation in the body, leading to inflammatory disorders such as celiac disease or autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. Gluten can increase the body’s inflammatory response, exacerbating allergic symptoms.
5. Red meat – Red meat contains high amounts of arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that riles up the inflammatory response. As such, those with allergies should limit their intake of red meat or look for leaner cuts that contain less fat.
While adjusting one’s diet can’t cure allergies, incorporating anti-inflammatory foods and avoiding inflammatory foods might alleviate the symptoms and make the immune system more robust. The science behind the connections between diets and allergies is still nascent, but research is ongoing. However, it is safe to assume that healthy diets consisting of whole foods, fermented products, raw honey, and anti-inflammatory herbs and spices might help the body become adaptive to the local environment, reducing the severity of allergy symptoms.