Seasonal Allergies and Nutrition
Your eyes are itchy and you’ve sneezed about 100 times this morning. You look in the mirror to find that your eyes are almost swollen shut. Infection? No, it can’t be. You have the same symptoms every year. What you’re experiencing is the manifestation of seasonal allergies.
What are seasonal allergies? How common are they?
Seasonal allergies, sometimes called “hay fever” or allergic rhinitis, are symptoms that happen during certain times of the year. Usually triggered by outdoor mold and pollen (tree, grass or weed) the immune system sees these allergens as invaders and works hard at getting them out of your body. By releasing histamine into the bloodstream, to defend against these so-called invaders, your body responds with leaky eyes and a leaky nose. Around the end of summer and early autumn, ragweed seems to be the most common culprit. Since it grows pretty much everywhere, it’s a hard one to avoid if you have allergies. Climate may also play a big factor in how you respond to allergic triggers.
- Tree, grass and ragweed pollen thrive during cool nights and warm days
- Mold grows quickly in heat and high humidity
- Pollen levels tend to peak in the morning
- When the day is windy and warm, pollen counts spike
Unfortunately, you can’t avoid allergies. If you are prone to them, allergens are everywhere. In fact, more than 50 million Americans have allergic symptoms on a yearly basis. And allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States.
Why can seasonal or pollen allergies come and go year-to-year?
Even if you’ve never had allergy symptoms, you can develop them at any age. However, they tend to develop by the time a child is 10 years old and peak in the early twenties, with symptoms disappearing later in adulthood.
Allergies are generally a sign of an overactive immune system. This means that your immune system is on constant alert for invaders such as bacteria or other pathogens. They can also be triggered by your environment, diet and current health status. When you’re body is under stress through various internal and external toxins, it has a difficult time managing everything. Chaos can set in. This sounds extreme but for someone with seasonal allergies, their body feels like it’s in chaos.
There is a hypothesis that our over-hygienic lifestyle has contributed to our sensitivity to allergens. Our immune system has not been primed enough to recognize what is a threat and what isn’t, causing it to become too sensitive to its environment. In fact, it’s interesting to note that children from third world countries generally show no signs of allergies.
Is there a cure?
Technically speaking, no. However, there are many changes you can make to your lifestyle, along with certain nutrients to add, that can greatly reduce (if not eliminate) allergic responses. When you visit your doctor, they will most likely recommend different options for you to lessen your symptoms. The most common of which would be an over-the-counter antihistamine. Eye drops, nasal sprays and also corticosteroids are the top recommendations from your MD to reduce symptoms. It’s normal. Doctors are trained to reduce the inflammation in the body, often without seeking for the underlying cause. This is like having a nail stuck in your foot and treating your symptoms with Aspirin, instead of removing the nail.
But what if we told you that there was another way?
Allergies are a symptom of a runaway immune system. And your immune system is your best defense line against invaders. However, when your immune system is oversensitive, it becomes confused and, in this case, your eyes, nose and throat become the victims of an unneeded attack.
The first thing you need to do is to start cleaning your internal house. Lower your toxicity by eating clean, adding detoxifying foods to your diet, removing food allergies and healing your gut.
1. Eat Clean
If your budget can allow, aim to eat foods that are organic and local. Organic foods are mandated to have natural (or no) pesticides, reducing your toxic load. Their nutrient count is often higher and the produce that is grown locally tend to be more nutritious for your specific health. Meaning, they provide the nutrition that a body in your area would generally need. Also pay attention to what you put on your skin and what you inhale. Your skin is your largest organ and many beauty products are full of toxic ingredients. That hairspray you use in the morning? Or the fumes from your neighbors ladling car? They add to your toxic load. When your toxic load is too high, your immune system can’t keep up. This can cause systemic symptoms such as allergic responses or hypersensitivity to your environment.
2. Add Detoxifying Foods
Speaking of lungs and skin, you have a few more detoxifying organs that could use your attention. Your liver, colon, kidneys and lymphatic system are also vital in keeping your toxic load to a minimum. You can support these detoxifying systems through lifestyle and nutrition.
5 foods that support your liver:
5 Foods that support your kidneys:
Plenty of water
5 Foods that support your colon:
Eliminate added sugar
Dark Leafy Greens
Flax seeds (can be ground)
Fermented foods – kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh
5 Foods to support your lymphatic system:
Seeds: pumpkin, chia, hemp and Flax
Spices: turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, black pepper
5 Food to support your lungs:
Onions and garlic
5 Food to support your skin:
Want to be more specific?
- Eat foods rich in zinc. Top choice? Oysters. But if you’re not into these delicacies, you can also add pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, cashews, mushrooms and spinach to your diet.
- Eat foods rich in omega 3s. Salmon, walnuts, chia, flax and hemp seeds, tuna, sardines and egg yolks.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin D. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, eggs and mushrooms.
- Take probiotics.
3. Remove Food Allergies
It is possible that you have a food sensitivity and you don’t even know it. Often, when it’s not a full-blown food allergy, symptoms can be more subtle or show up much after you have ingested the food. Start tracking your food intake and try removing the top allergens from your diet for 28 days. These are: dairy, eggs, fish, seafood, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy. After the 28 days, start to re-incorporate these foods, one at a time and 72 hours apart. Start with one portion and take note of any symptoms you may experience. Runny nose, headache, lethargy, gas – just to name a few.
What steps can I take in my nutrition to limit the severity of my allergies?
One of the best antioxidants to shield, and possibly cure you, from bad allergies is quercetin. Quercetin has been shown through studies to act as a natural antihistamine. Found in most fruits in veggies, it is most abundant in onions and apple peels. You can also enrich your diet with quercetin by eating more berries, red grapes, broccoli, leafy greens and tomatoes. If eating a nutrient-dense whole food diet, you can easily consume up to 500 mg per day of this potent antioxidant. Not only will this help inhibit anti-inflammatory mediators and prevent the release of histamine, quercetin can lower overall inflammation, fight cancer and support your heart health.
Should any foods be avoided?
Of course, sugar is the enemy to your immune system. Aim to eliminate add sugar from your diet and get your fructose from whole and low GI fruits like berries. Processed foods are never a great idea when your body feels like it’s under attack. When you eat “nutrient-void” foods, your body needs to leach nutrients from your stores to stay healthy.
Are there any special remedies that can help?
There are a few things you can try when you have a seasonal allergy coming on. Firstly, try rinsing out your sinuses with a saline solution. Some people use neti pots with great success. You can also use a blend of essential oils to calm the nervous system and open up your sinuses. Take a few drops of lemon, lavender and peppermint essential oil and rub the oil between the palm of your hands. Inhale deeply.
And lastly, add more turmeric to your recipes. The curcumin in the spice acts as a decongestant and can reduce allergy symptoms. We recommend you have some turmeric root on hand and add it to smoothies or try a delicious turmeric milk.