The Anti-Allergy Diet, by Victoria Stein
With allergy season right around the corner, we've sought out the foods that
will help ward off those itchy eyes and runny noses. Plus, we share a list of
foods you should skip if you want to stay congestion-free.
Allergies are an immune system's reaction to generally safe substances in the
environment (like ragweed and pollen). When allergens interact with immune
cells in the blood, histamine and other allergic intermediaries are released
into the bloodstream, causing familiar allergic reactions -- namely sneezing,
wheezing, itchy eyes, skin rashes and stuffy congestion. Although no diet can
prevent allergies all together, certain foods can help alleviate symptoms.
Red Wine, Apples and Onions
Quercetin, a flavonoid that helps the body fight against allergic inflammation
by inhibiting the release of histamine, is found in red wine, apples and
onions. You can also get a dose of this ant-allergy antioxidant in berries, red
grapes, black tea, broccoli and citrus fruits.
Grapefruits and Red Peppers
Vitamin C strengthens the immune system and decreases the production of
histamine. Oranges, cantaloupe, papaya, strawberries, dark leafy green
vegetables, and sweet potatoes are also good sources.
Mustard greens are a great source of beta-carotene and vitamins E and C,
which fight inflammation, scavenge for free radicals and help break down
histamine. Sauté mustard greens with olive oil and garlic or use them as you
would any other dark leafy green.
Flaxseed, Walnuts and Salmon
Eating a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids may help alleviate allergies by
reducing inflammatory chemicals in the body. One German study showed that
a high level of omega 3s in subjects' diet or red blood cells was associated
with a decreased risk of hay fever. Other sources of this essential fatty acid
include canola oil, pumpkin seeds, and cold-water fatty fish.
Selenium is an essential mineral that is required in very small amounts. In the
body it is incorporated into proteins to make important antioxidant enzymes
that both strengthen the immune system and increase the effectiveness of
vitamin C. Brazil nuts and tuna are among the best sources.
Green tea is rich in catechin, a polyphenol (antioxidant) that inhibits the
enzyme that converts histidine to histamine. For maximum benefits, use loose
tea leaves instead of tea bags and pair with fruit or vegetables high in vitamin
Hot, spicy foods thin mucous secretions which can help clear nasal passages.
Try adding cayenne pepper, ginger, onion and garlic to your favorite dishes.
Garlic inhibits certain enzymes that generate inflammatory compounds, has a
kick just like cayenne, and is a good source of vitamin C.
Rosemary contains a substance called rosmarinic acid, apolyphenol that is
believed to suppress allergic reactions and inflammation. Try adding
rosemary to roast potatoes, marinades, and tomato sauces.
Tumeric, a member of the ginger family, boasts anti-inflammatory properties. A
central ingredient in curries and other Indian dishes, tumeric can also be
used as a flavor enhancer for fish, meat, vegetable and pasta recipes.
Sunflower seeds help suppress allergic reactions thanks to high levels of
vitamin E and selenium. Vitamin E fights inflammation, and selenium
stimulates immune function (see above).
In addition to choosing a diet rich in the allergy-fighting foods above, try to
avoid pro-inflammatory, cross-reacting, and sensitive foods. Pro-inflammatory
foods increase inflammation, which may aggravate existing allergy symptoms.
High-fat meats, fast food and packaged, baked goods are high in unhealthy
fats (trans fats and saturated fats) and processed meats (hot dogs, sausage,
bacon) contain chemicals called nitrates -- both of which are associated with
increased inflammation. Even naturally occurring saturated fats, such as
those found in meats, dairy and eggs, contain fatty acids called arachidonic
acid, which may exacerbate inflammation in large quantities. Lean meats and
low fat dairy products will not promote inflammation.
In the case of oral allergy syndrome, our bodies mistake a plant protein for
pollen triggering a cross-reaction. People who suffer from ragweed allergies
may experience similar symptoms when they eat certain seeds (sunflower),
fruits (bananas, melon) and vegetables (cucumbers, zucchini), take the herb
Echinacea, or drink chamomile tea. Individuals with grass pollen allergies may
have difficulty eating melons, oranges, peaches, tomatoes and celery. And
pollen from alder trees can cross-react with apples, cherries, peaches, pears,
parsley, celery, almonds and hazelnuts.
To prevent or reduce allergy symptoms, stick with fresh, unprocessed foods
and steer clear of your personal triggers.