More than 45 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. Dietary factors impact the course of seasonal allergies. Indeed, your diet can make your allergy symptoms worse or better. So what changes can you make to help your symptoms?
Eat at Least 2 Servings of Omega-3 Rich Foods Daily
A deficiency of these special fatty acids increases the risk of allergies. Walnuts, chia seeds, spinach, soybeans, and ground flaxseed are good vegetarian sources of essential anti-inflammatory alpha linolenic acid. We do not recommend the consumption of fish for omega-3 fats. Why? Fish is a common food allergy. Because of a process known as bio-magnification, fish are known to accumulate toxins and pesticides. Evidence shows pesticides disrupt the balance of the immune system so essential in the prevention of allergies and autoimmune diseases.1 Fish are especially known to contain pesticides. The highly toxic dioxins are another environmental polluter which accumulate in fish and can cause damage to the immune system.
Emphasize Foods Containing LOX Inhibitors
LOX enzymes are involved in the production of pro-inflammatory leukotrienes which are key contributors to allergies and asthma. Please note: arachidonic fatty acid is the precursor of leukotrienes. Inhibitors reduce their formation. Fortunately, a wide variety of plant foods contain LOX inhibitors. Anthocyanins, the phytochemicals that compose the purple, red, and blue pigments in foods, are natural LOX inhibitors. Certain phytochemicals from pomegranates, garlic, onions, sesamin from sesame seeds, and resveratrol in red grapes and blueberries, inhibit both leukotrienes and another pro-inflammatory enzyme called COX-2.
Avoid Dietary Bloopers
Reduce consumption of omega-6 fats (including corn, safflower, sunflower, or peanut oils). Excessive use of these fats, as opposed to omega-3 ones, tends to increase inflammation in the body. One study found positive associations between hay fever and arachidonic acid.2 Sources for arachidonic fatty acids include meat, eggs, and fish. Seriously limit sugar; it shifts body chemistry toward inflammation.
Probiotics & Prebiotics May Help
A NIH study showed that a lack of diversity of the gut microflora is linked to seasonal and nut allergies.3
There is early evidence that probiotics may help allergies in some cases.4 Further investigation is warranted, but it might be worth a try. Include prebiotic rich foods in your diet such as Jerusalem artichokes, dandelions greens, asparagus, onions, garlic, bananas, organically grown oats, barley, apples, and flaxseed. Prebiotics are a type of food that feed friendly bacteria in your gut and also produce anti-inflammatory compounds.
When Good Foods Aggravate Seasonal Allergies
Sometimes even good food can intensify seasonal allergies. According to Dr. Joseph Leija, “Those with grass allergies should avoid melon, tomatoes, and oranges. Ragweed allergies are also linked with allergies to bananas, cantaloupe, cucumber, zucchini, and chamomile tea. The spring allergy count in the Midwest is high in birch and oak, which usually triggers reactions to carrots, celery, almonds, apples, peaches, and pears in those with sensitive systems.”5 We would be amiss if we did not mention that food allergies can give not only gastrointestinal symptoms but can also impact the respiratory system. So, if you have respiratory symptoms during the entire year, food allergies are a possibility that should be explored.
Rosemary, Sage, and Basil
The rosmarinic acid in each of these common herbs reduces inflammation in the sinuses and lungs. Unlike antihistamines, rosemarinic acid suppresses pro-inflammatory responses and decreases the activation of immuno-responder cells that promote swelling and other symptoms of allergy- induced inflammation.6,7 However, pregnant or lactating women should not use medicinal amounts of rosemary or sage. If you are taking any medications, be sure to check with your pharmacist before using herbs in medicinal amounts so as to avoid any potential adverse drug-herb interactions.
Quercetin is a naturally occurring flavonol, or flavonoid. It is the yellowish antioxidant pigment found in apples, berries, tomatoes, and onions and is an effective mast cell inhibitor. Mast cells produce histamine, the molecule released in response to a person coming into contact with allergens. Additionally, quercetin helps to balance the immune system and inhibits several pro-inflammatory compounds involved in asthma and allergic rhinitis .8Vitamin C and pine bark also contain natural antihistamine agents.9 Unlike many pharmaceutical drugs, these naturally occurring substances will not cause drowsiness. Unless otherwise directed, take quercetin supplements with meals for better absorption.
The herb, stinging nettle, contains a naturally occurring antihistamine and studies suggest that it can be moderately effective in reducing allergic symptoms.10 It is generally regarded as safe. However, since the fresh plant can irritate the skin, pick nettles with caution and/or protection, or better yet, get it in capsule form. Nigella sativa seed fixed oil (black seed oil) has anti-histamine effects and can modulate immune responses. It can inhibit the inflammation of sinuses and respiratory airways, microbial infections, and help patients suffering from clinical symptoms of sinusitis such as coryza or nasal congestion.11
Is Your Vitamin D Adequate?
Vitamin D is an important immune-regulator and a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Be sure you are not deficient in this essential vitamin. The main vitamin D metabolite, calcitriol, suppresses development of the Th-1 cells. Th-1 cells are a type of helper T-lymphocytes. When they become overactive, they play a key role in allergy development. Evidence indicates that vitamin D deficiency may play a major role in the development of allergies.(9, 10)12,13 Sunlight exposure is a precursor to vitamin D synthesis in the body. When weather permits, daily exposure on the skin without sunscreen application is most valuable. The amount of time needed depends on skin color and the intensity of the sun. One caveat: Since vitamin D insufficiency is common in North America and Western Europe, and if you have allergies, have your vitamin D level checked. It is a simple blood test. Although a deficiency in vitamin D needs to be corrected, vitamin D supplementation does not cure seasonal allergies, but it may possibly help reduce some allergic reactions.
Nothing to Sneeze at
Seasonal and other common allergies can contribute to chronic coughing, ear infections, inflammation of the esophagus, deficient sleep, intensified asthma symptoms, and possible increased risk for stroke. If these suggestions and natural remedies do not provide significant relief, we would recommend seeing an allergist or ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is helpful and is educational. It is not the author’s or authors’ or Wildwood Health Institute’s intent to substitute the blog article for diagnosis, counseling, or treatment by a qualified health professional.
Copyright through December 2023. All rights reserved by Wildwood Sanitarium, Inc.
- Mokarizadeh, A. A comprehensive review of pesticides and the immune dysregulation: mechanisms, evidence and consequences. Toxicol Mech Methods. 2015 Mar 11:1-21.
- Kompauer I. Association of fatty acids in serum phospholipids with hay fever, specific and total immunoglobulin E. Br J Nutr. 2005 Apr;93(4):529-35.
- Xing Hua. Allergy Associations with the Adult Fecal Microbiota: Analysis of the American Gut Project. January 1, 2016. Vol. 3, pages 172-179. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/ebiom/article/PIIS2352-3964(15)30221-8/fulltext
- Ouwehand AC.Specific probiotics alleviate allergic rhinitis during the birch pollen season. World J Gastroenterol. 2009 Jul 14; 15(26):3261-8.
- Loyola University Health System. “Spring allergies linked to specific food allergies, says specialist.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 April 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140407164836.htm
- Hall, E.J., Herbal cures from your kitchen. The Journal of Health and Healing, 27:2.
- Lutaczer, D., et al, Effects of volatile constituents of a rosemary extract on allergic airway inflammation related to house dust mite allergens in mice. Int J Mol Med, 16(2):315-319, 2005.
- Mlcek J. Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response. Molecules. 2016 May 12;21(5):623. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27187333
- Maupin, S., Find Relief from Allergies. Bastyr Center for Natural Health, bastyrcenter.org.
- Mittman, P.Randomized, double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica dioica in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Med, 56(1):44-7, 1990.
- Mahboubi M. Natural therapeutic approach of Nigella sativa (Black seed) fixed oil in management of Sinusitis. Integr Med Res. 2018 Mar;7(1):2732. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29629288/
- Arnedo-Pena A. Sunny hours and variations in the prevalence of asthma in schoolchildren according to the International Study of Asthma and Allergies (ISAAC) Phase III in Spain. Int J Biometeorol. 2011 May; 55(3):423-34.
- Wist, M., The Vitamin D Slant on Allergies. Pediatr Allergy Immunol, 2006.