While spring is a welcome change from the drudgery of winter, it comes with its own challenges for many: allergies. Sneezing, runny noses and watery eyes are not only annoying, they can be extremely disruptive to one's daily life and can go on for months.
So what causes these irritating symptoms? When an allergen like pollen enters the body, your immune system may see it as an invader, and releases histamines into the bloodstream to try to eliminate them. This leads to the unpleasant symptoms.
It's estimated that 20-30% of Canadians suffer from seasonal allergies. While there is a genetic component to why one is affected by allergies, the number of allergy sufferers has been increasing, which is thought to be because of climate change, a culture of excessive hygiene and inflammatory diets, which includes excess processed sugar, processed foods and unhealthy fats.
Since it's difficult to avoid exposure to pollen, certain foods can help to decrease symptoms of allergies. A study done in Crete, Greece, found that children suffer less from allergies due to the Mediterranean diet, which is heavy on anti-inflammatory foods, and includes items such as fruits and vegetables, bread and cereals (primarily whole grain) and legumes and nuts. Olive oil serves as the principal source of fat.
So if you're sick of the sniffles, try focusing on food. Here's what to eat and what to avoid to help keep those allergy symptoms at bay:
Fruits and Vegetables
-Antioxidants reduce symptoms, so look for foods rich in these. Kids with asthma had lesser symptoms when eating tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, green beans, and zucchini.
-To help reduce a stuffy and runny nose, try foods with the antioxidant quercetin; it's found in onions, garlic, apples with skin, berries, red grapes, cauliflower, cabbage and black tea.
-Fruits and veggies high in vitamins C and E, such as spinach, strawberries, broccoli, and tomatoes can help reduce swelling in your airways.
-Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids - salmon, sardines, tuna, fish oil supplements - might lower your chances of getting allergies in the first place especially at an early age - even a serving once a week can lead to 80% less hayfever.
-We know that probiotics are great to have in our diet for digestive reasons, but they can also help with allergies. Probiotics keep your gut healthy, and that's where immune cells are, which in turn fight allergens.
-Choose yogurt with live bacteria and kefir. Two cups of yogurt daily led to half histamine levels than those who drank milk.
-Foods rich in vitamin E and magnesium help to boost the immune system and can result in 30% less hay fever.
-Choose items like: nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit and dark chocolate.
Avoid foods that are naturally high in histamines, such as:
• Alcohol - beer and wine, especially red wine
• Certain dairy products: milk and aged cheeses can thicken mucus
• Spicy foods - like cayenne, hot peppers and hot sauce - release histamines.
• Pickled or fermented foods- natural occurring histamines during fermentation
• Smoked and processed meats
• Artificial colours
Adding in healthy, symptom-reducing foods while trying a simple elimination diet of symptom-increasing foods is an easy and natural way to help combat incessant allergies. Try eliminating one food for about 2 weeks and see if your symptoms lessen and even disappear. It may take a few weeks to find the culprit, but definitely time well spent. Here's to a sneeze-free spring!
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