It is pollen season and so many of us struggle to keep our allergies at bay with over-the-counter meds. What if I told you that you can eat certain foods to help fight your allergies? Consider putting aside the nasal spray and instead, revamping your grocery list.
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This year was a fairly unique allergy season. According to experts, the rise in overall temperatures earlier in the fall and winter caused trees and plants to start producing pollen sooner than in typical cycles, so while allergies may not be more intense this year, we have had pollens in the environment for a longer period of time.
This has been so bothersome that, according to recent reports, a staggering 34% of allergy suffers are opting to stay indoors. Additionally, over half of allergy suffers are reportedly taking antihistamines; 46% take oral drugs like Claritin-D or decongestants, 35% use nasal sprays, and 30% use eye drops.
Foods as Allergy Medicine
Doctors warn that overuse of certain nasal sprays can cause dependency and other reports suggest that high doses of Benadryl, commonly used to treat allergies, can lead to severe health issues. The list of warnings goes on. But what if we could make small changes in our diet that could impact how our body responds to allergens, and lessen the reaction and our discomfort?
The studies mentioned below show specific compounds and its quantities in foods can reliably reduce histamine reactions. Here are foods that have been shown to contain these anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties to help alleviate pesky allergy symptoms.
The first compound is Quercetin. It is a flavonoid best known for its antihistamine properties.
Histamine is a naturally occurring compound involved in various physiological processes and is also released during allergic reactions.
Some individuals may experience histamine intolerance or sensitivity, where they have difficulty breaking down histamine an excessive response to it. These reactions lead to symptoms such as headaches, nasal congestion, skin rashes, digestive issues, and more.
Anti-histamine foods are low in histamine content or have properties that can help regulate histamine levels in your body to minimize histamine-related symptoms.
Quercetin is found primarily in apples, onions, berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables.
It has been shown to inhibit the release of histamine from immune cells, such as mast cells and basophils, which may help reduce histamine-induced allergic responses.
Another major component of quercetin is its anti-inflammatory properties. Quercitin inhibits various inflammatory pathways and mediators, including those involved in histamine release.
By reducing inflammation, quercetin may indirectly contribute to a decrease in histamine reactions.
It also possesses potent antioxidant properties, which can help neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can promote inflammation and potentially exacerbate histamine-related symptoms (like sneezing, coughing, runny nose, swollen eyes, etc.).
Ever heard of Bromelain? Well, we promise you it is not a word you’ll soon forget, as it might just be your best friend next allergy season.
Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes found in pineapple stems. Yes, pineapple stems. Really the only way to naturally get bromelain is through fresh pineapple juice. However, bromelain supplements can provide concentrated doses of the enzyme.
Bromelain is another great anti-inflammatory compound. It can help reduce the production of pro-inflammatory substances like cytokines and prostaglandins, which are involved in allergic reactions.
It can also help the reduction of mucus and nasal congestion caused by irritants. Bromelain may help thin and break down mucus, making it easier to clear the airways and reduce congestion.
Bromelain can also help reduce a hyper-immune response and help reduce hypersensitivity to allergens as it regulates the brain’s signaling pathways.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, has various properties that may help combat allergies. While it may not directly target histamine reactions like quercetin, vitamin C can support overall immune function and have indirect effects on allergic responses.
Citrus fruits are dense in potent antioxidants that help neutralize harmful free radicals. By reducing oxidative stress, vitamin C can help alleviate inflammation, which is often associated with annoying allergy symptoms.
It also plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system as it enhances the function of immune cells, such as neutrophils and natural killer cells. These are involved in the body’s defense against allergens. A well-functioning immune system can better manage allergic responses.
Vitamin C has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties which can inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory substances and restraining inflammatory pathways.
By reducing inflammation, vitamin C may help alleviate allergic symptoms caused by inflammation, such as joint and muscle aches.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
We hear all about “good fats” as they relate to hormone production and regulation of critical bodily functions, but these powerful nutrients can fight histamine-related allergy symptoms and help reduce inflammation caused by allergy irritation.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are great options to incorporate into a diet with varied protein sources!
While omega 3s can positively impact immune response and inflammation, they are unique in that they help to modulate lipid mediators. This means that omega 3s have the ability to alter their synthesis, breakdown, or interaction with cellular receptors. This modulation can have effects on the overall inflammatory response, immune regulation, and resolution of inflammation.
Omega 3s can also be converted into specialized pro-resolving lipid mediators, such as resolvins and protectins, which have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects. This directly helps to regulate immune responses and dampen histamine-related allergic reactions.
Grocery Store Cheat Sheet
Here is a helpful guide to sneak in these recommended nutrients into your diet! While this list is not exhaustive, it is a good jumping off point to help you this allergy season. Try to purchase these fresh and unprocessed foods as much as possible.
The Bottom Line
Foods are powerful mechanisms for health. If you eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins, you can at least feel better while you are struggling against with pollen. This growing body of research suggests that incorporating these foods into your diet can help combat histamine reactions and inflammation, and hopefully provide a bit of comfort during this elongated prolonged allergy season.