- Niki Randolph MS, CISSN
Ah-Choo! - Sounds like Spring
Spring is undoubtedly in the air. Pollen from weeds, grass, blooming trees, and flowers can put a damper on the season if you’re one of the 20 million people experiencing seasonal allergies (aka hay fever or allergic rhinitis).
Runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing, dry cough, and fatigue from lack of sleep due to post-nasal drip make it difficult to enjoy this beautiful time of year. Unlike the common cold or a sinus infection, symptoms of seasonal allergies come on quickly, last much longer, and tend to occur at similar times each year. Unfortunately, they don’t end until pollen is dormant.
One of the easiest ways to avoid seasonal allergies is to avoid allergy triggers by staying inside, keeping windows/doors closed on dry and windy days, and keeping indoor air clean. But the long anticipation of warmer weather and sunlit evenings screams for us to come outside and play!
Some of the most popular allergy relief options include over-the-counter antihistamines, nasal sprays, and decongestants. But did you know that there are foods, dietary and herbal supplements that may also help keep symptoms at bay? Below is a short list of ideas to consider.
8 Food-Related Allergy Relief Options
1. Local raw honey - Honey is rich in polyphenols and flavonoids that exert potent anti-inflammatory activity. Consuming a small amount of local raw honey each day, early in the season, may help relieve allergy symptoms because it contains the very pollen you may be allergic to. Exposure to the pollen found in the local area may help build a tolerance and therefore minimize its allergenic effects. This proved to be true for patients with diagnosed birch pollen allergy. After consuming birch pollen honey daily, from November to March, the study participants reported significantly better control of their symptoms from April to May compared to the control group. However, symptom control was only marginally better than participants that consumed regular honey.
2. Pineapple - Pineapple not only contains high levels of vitamin C but also contains bromelain which is an enzyme that may help reduce inflammation, swelling, and excess fluid trapped in tissue.
3. Onions/peppers/berries/parsley/swiss chard – Foods that contain high levels of quercetin may help reduce allergic reactions by inhibiting the release of histamine from mast cells which play a critical role in immune system function.
4. Salmon/tuna/mackerel – The protective effects of consuming cold-water fatty fish may be attributed to the abundance of omega-3 fatty acids known for their powerful anti-inflammatory activity.
5. Probiotics – A large body of research shows the importance of healthy gut bacteria on immune system function. Probiotics support and bolster healthy gut bacteria which may help prevent allergic reactions.
6. Vitamin D – Like probiotics, vitamin D plays an important role in healthy immune function. Some research suggests that it may help prevent allergic reactions via complex immune-regulatory mechanisms involving different cells of the immune system.
7. Stinging Nettle – Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a well-known medicinal plant that grows in temperate regions of the world including the United States, Canada, and Europe. It demonstrates anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties that may help reduce allergic reactions but study results are inconsistent and variable.
8. Essential oils – Peppermint, lavender, lemon, and eucalyptus are a few essential oils that may help relieve seasonal allergy symptoms. They contain a variety of anti-inflammatory constituents that can help relieve nasal congestion and promote easy breathing. Essential oils can be used aromatically via direct inhalation (from the palms of your hands) or by aerial dispersion using a diffuser.
When it comes to dietary supplements, there are seemingly endless proprietary blends. It’s best to seek guidance from a qualified professional before starting a new supplement and always be aware that dietary and herbal supplements can interact with prescribed medication.
A food-first approach to managing seasonal allergy symptoms with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables loaded with phytonutrients can go a long way in helping balance immune function.
How do you manage your seasonal allergies?
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