Seasonal allergies such as hay fever (also known as allergic rhinitis) only occur during certain parts of the year – usually the spring or summer. They develop when the immune system overreacts to allergens, like grass or weed pollen, which can result in lots of congestion, sneezing and itching. While treatment usually involves over the counter medicines such as antihistamines, lifestyle changes may also ease symptoms. Including certain foods in your diet could help to relieve symptoms by reducing inflammation and boosting the immune system.
The good news? Many of these foods are likely to be in your kitchen, offering a fun and delicious way of kicking seasonal discomfort to the curb.
Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain which can soothe the irritation and inflammation which contributes to itchy eyes and a runny nose. Pineapple is delicious as a snack on its own or in a meal, like this pineapple, ginger and beef stir-fry, where it has the added bonus of tenderising the meat.
Or why not switch your usual breakfast smoothie for this pineapple and kale one instead?
This deeply pigmented green leafy vegetable is rich in carotenoids; pigments which fight inflammation and inhibit the release of histamine – the cause of allergy symptoms like itchy eyes and a runny nose. Eating kale with a source of fat, such as olive oil or avocado, increases the absorption of these carotenoids.
3. Red onion
Red onions provide a high concentration of the flavonoid quercetin – a powerful natural antihistamine. Responsible for the deep red colour in onions, it helps to calm down the cells that react to allergens in the air such as pollen and dust mites. Quercetin can also be found in apples, berries and broccoli.
The omega-3 fats found in oily fish like salmon can help to reduce inflammation in the body, easing common allergy symptoms such as puffy eyes and an itchy throat. Other great sources of omega-3 fats include mackerel, sardines, walnuts, hempseeds and algae. Studies suggest that histamine levels can increase once a fish has been caught, so it’s important to buy the freshest fish possible and either use or freeze straightaway.
Why not try our thai salmon for dinner tonight?
When thinking about allergies, supporting your body’s immune system is key in helping to minimise symptoms. Kefir is a probiotic-rich drink that can support a strong immune system by maintaining the balance of beneficial bacteria that live in your gut.
6. Local honey
Local unprocessed honey contains small amounts of pollen from the surrounding area. There’s a belief that ingesting little quantities of local pollen during off-season months might prime the immune system to cope better during high-pollen months. While there’s little research available to prove this theory, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting its effectiveness. If you’re a honey lover, there’s no harm in switching to a local one and seeing how you feel. However, it’s worth noting that most honey will contain pollen from flowers, so if grass and/or weed pollen’s the issue, this may not work for you.
For an indulgent weekend breakfast, try our homemade crumpets with ricotta, berries and thyme honey.
As an antioxidant-rich prebiotic, garlic is incredibly nutritious. Not only does it soothe inflammation, it’s been shown to inhibit histamine release from mast cells, which may reduce the severity of your symptoms.
Check out some of our favourite garlic recipes to get your fix.
Used for thousands of years as a natural anti-inflammatory, ginger is another food that inhibits the release of histamine from certain cells. Simply adding slices of fresh ginger to tea or water is a great way to regularly enjoy this spice, however, just like garlic and onions, it can be part of a base for many savoury dishes.
This golden spice is well known for its vibrant colour and savoury flavour, while its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make it a great addition to any diet. A study found that curcumin – the active ingredient in turmeric – inhibited activation of the cells which release histamine in the body. Additionally, a pilot study showed that patients with hay fever saw reductions in symptoms after just two months of turmeric supplementation. While further research is still required, it can’t hurt to add a little more of the yellow stuff to your diet during pollen season.
Berries (especially the dark varieties) are not only rich in antioxidants, but contain a boat load of vitamin C which assists with DAO synthesis – an enzyme that assists in keeping the histamine in our bodies at a tolerable level (i.e. below that which might start to spark symptoms like watery eyes and an itchy throat). Many varieties such as blueberries, cranberries and raspberries also contain the natural antihistamine quercetin – helping to keep symptoms of runny nose, watery eyes and hives at bay.
Try our homemade muesli with oats, dates & berries to start your day off well.
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