How Diet Can Affect Your Susceptibility To Hay Fever
Typically, when people associate food with allergies, they think of things like peanuts, shellfish, or other foods that can trigger a serious allergic reaction. However, there are other connections between allergies and food besides anaphylactic reactions. Certain foods, known as cross-reactive foods, can be culprits behind an increase in seasonal allergies or worsened symptoms.
Seasonal allergies on their own show up at certain parts of the year. Most people with hay fever, for example, experience their symptoms during the spring and summer months when pollen counts are high. The reason these types of allergies occur is because of the immune system’s overreaction to allergens, leading to symptoms like congestion, sneezing, and itching.
The usual treatment for hay fever is over-the-counter antihistamines designed to stomp out the symptoms. But did you know diet changes can also help to ease the pains of having seasonal allergies? Read on to learn how diet can affect your susceptibility to hay fever.
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen that is typically at its worst between the months of March and September in the Northern Hemisphere. If the weather is warm, windy, and humid, the common symptoms of hay fever typically become worse.
Symptoms of hay fever include:
- Sneezing and coughing
- Blocked sinuses
- Runny nose
- Itchy, red, or watery eyes
- Itchy throat, mouth, nose, and ears
- Loss of smell
- Pain around the temples and the forehead
Those who have asthma may have worsened symptoms such as tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, and wheezing.
What foods prevent hay fever?
There are plenty of foods you can eat to help prevent or lessen the effects of hay fever. They include:
Ginger has long been used as a way to help combat nausea, but it can also be good for the inflammatory issues that can lead to symptoms of hay fever, such as irritation in the eyes and nasal passages. Ginger has been shown to contain powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can lead to a reduced level of inflammation throughout the body. One study found that ginger was able to lessen the amount of pro-inflammatory proteins in the blood, which led to a reduction in allergy symptoms.
Not many people think of bee pollen as edible, but the mixture of enzymes it contains is often used to help treat and cure hay fever. Studies have found that bee pollen can hinder mast cell activation, which in turn prevents an allergic reaction. Getting bee pollen locally can be even more beneficial, because it’s thought that bee pollen containing the local allergen will be more effective for your specific hay fever.
Research has found that consumption of citrus fruits, or other foods high in vitamin C, can help to decrease the symptoms of hay fever by soothing irritation felt in the upper respiratory tract. If you don’t enjoy oranges, grapefruit, or other citrus fruits, there are some alternative foods that are high in vitamin C, such as sweet peppers and berries.
Turmeric has been gaining traction in health-conscious circles because of its proven anti-inflammatory effects. The spice contains curcumin, an ingredient that has been shown to reduce symptoms in people with inflammatory disease. One animal study on the use of turmeric for hay fever found that the spice can lead to a reduction in the allergy response. More studies in humans are needed to confirm turmeric’s effects, but the animal study does show promise.
Tomatoes are great for combatting allergies because they’re high in vitamin C, but that’s not the only reason. They also contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant compound that has been shown to help lower levels of inflammation throughout the body.
Salmon and other oily fish
Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids are also great to add to your diet if you suffer from hay fever. Research has shown that the fatty acids can help to decrease symptoms of allergies because of their ability to reduce inflammation and decrease the narrowing of airways.
Onions are not everyone’s favorite food, but if you have hay fever, you should try to incorporate them into your diet. They contain a bioflavonoid known as quercetin, which has been shown to act as a natural antihistamine and help to reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. Onions also contains other ingredients that have been shown to reduce inflammation and act as antioxidants.
What food can trigger hay fever?
On the opposite end of things, some foods can actually act as triggers for hay fever, making your seasonal allergy symptoms much worse. Depending on what you’re allergic to, those foods may differ. Those who are allergic to ragweed pollen may want to avoid bananas, sunflower seeds, melons, and fennel. Grass pollen allergy sufferers may want to avoid celery and apples, and people with a birch pollen allergy should avoid peaches, almonds, carrots, cherries, kiwis, hazelnuts, and plums.
Not everyone with hay fever will experience an allergic reaction from all of these foods; rather, eating these foods may cause existing hay fever symptoms to worsen. To figure out if any of the aforementioned fruits or vegetables will exacerbate your allergies, you can eat them in a trial-and-error fashion or just avoid them altogether until allergy season is over.
Dealing with hay fever during the warmer months of the year can be uncomfortable, but there are ways to tweak your diet so that you can get the most out of the spring and summer without having to carry around a tissue box, or constantly explain that “I’m not sick, it’s just allergies”!