Do you suffer from seasonal allergies? It’s time to suffer no more.
When I was a kid, the Back-To-School Season was always the dreaded Allergy Season, too. I relied on Reactin and other allergy medications to relieve my red, itchy eyes, sinus congestion, and incessant sneezing.
But now I know better. In this post I’ll share my tips for relieving these symptoms naturally. First, though, let’s talk about food – because in order to seriously kick your seasonal annoyances to the curb, you’ve gotta look at your plate.
First and most importantly, ask yourself: are there foods I consume on a regular basis that are provoking an inflammatory response in my body?
The only way to answer this question is to do your own self-experimentation. While there are some foods that are troublesome for most people, ultimately everyone is different. You could start by simply eliminating wheat, sugar, and dairy for one month and see how you feel. Be sure to re-introduce them one at a time, so you can take notes about how each one affects you. Consider consulting with a nutritionist for some help with this process.
The truth is, you can take all the supplements you want to help relieve your symptoms, but there’s not much long-term benefit in doing so. If you want to get to the root cause of your allergies and actually reduce or eradicate symptoms altogether, you must look at your diet.
Changing up your eating habits is a process, though. It can take some time. It doesn’t always happen easily or quickly. So while you’re working on that, here’s a list of helpful nutrients to consider for allergy relief (and their food sources, of course):
Also known as the “good guys”, these beneficial bacteria play a key role in the health of our immune system. It’s when the “bad guys” get out of control that we experience inflammation throughout the body, and this frequently manifests as allergies. Taking probiotics daily strengthens the immune system and thus moderates inflammatory responses. Look for a supplement with at least 10 billion active cells. Depending on the severity of your situation and what other health conditions are present, you may want to go higher than that – best to do some research and consult with a nutritionist, naturopath, etc.
Food sources: Traditionally fermented cabbage (aka sauerkraut, kimchi) and other fermented vegetables such as carrots, beets, etc. Kefir, water kefir, kombucha. Pickles, when prepared traditionally using water and salt, not vinegar.
Making your own sauerkraut and kombucha is easy – check out this great e-course called Fearless Fermentation, by fellow nutritionist Sarah Ramsden.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
These guys have potent anti-inflammatory effects (I bet you knew that by now), and generally speaking they’re good to take on a regular basis due to their positive effects on multiple areas/systems in the body. Most people take anywhere from 2-4g per day. When looking at supplements, do your research and choose the cleanest product you can find – one that’s free of soy, dairy, wheat, sweeteners, and artificial ingredients. I always recommend fish oil from small fish such as sardines, anchovies, mackerel – not only are they less contaminated but they they are way higher in EPA and DHA than say, salmon oil. (Eat the salmon instead!)
I personally like fermented cod liver oil, because not only does it have EPA and DHA, it also contains vitamins A and D.
Food sources: Fish. Especially those small fish I mentioned above. Sure, you can eat walnuts or flax, but know that these plant-based sources need to be converted into EPA and DHA in the body, and that process can be blocked by a number of factors. The fatty acids in fish don’t have to go through this conversion process and thus tend to be much better utilized and absorbed.
Ah, the lovely vitamin C. Its benefits are too numerous to list here (I’ll probably write a whole post about it another time), so for now, just know that it’s a natural anti-histamine. When allergy season rolls around, you’ll want to supplement with at least 6g per day, or to bowel tolerance – meaning, if you experience diarrhea/loose stool, dial it back and take 75% of the dose that had you running to the bathroom. The easiest way to facilitate this, of course, is to use a powdered supplement rather than capsules. Be sure to take vitamin C in divided doses throughout the day. Other than standard vitamin C powder/capsules, you could also consider camu camu or ascerola berry supplements.
Food sources: Fresh vegetables and fruit. Note that vitamin C is one of the least stable vitamins and is easily lost during cooking.
Quercetin is a flavonoid (a plant pigment) found throughout nature and in lots of foods we eat. It’s been shown to reduce the release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals in the body. It can be particularly helpful for respiratory symptoms and nasal congestion. Most supplements suggest at least 1000mg per day.
Food sources: Capers, onions, apples. Eat lots of fresh produce.
Bromelain is an enzyme that comes from pineapple. It helps break down protein complexes in the blood that cause systemic (whole body) inflammation. Bromelain reduces inflammation and also enhances the absorption of quercetin. Many quercetin supplements also include bromelain for this reason.
Food sources: Pineapple.
Stinging nettle leaf is a great herb with all kinds of wonderful properties! It strengthens and supports the whole body, and is gentle enough that anyone can use it (safe during pregnancy). It’s an overall tonic for the body, high in many nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, potassium, and iron, and with regards to allergies, it’s been said to reduce inflammation in the sinuses. Brew a big pot of tea – the longer it steeps, the better – and drink daily.
Food source: Your garden! (Or a friend’s garden.) You can also go to a herbal store/dispensary, or get some prepared tea bags from a health food store.
Last but definitely not least: never underestimate the importance of drinking lots of clean water. Water is what will help you absorb these nutrients and transfer them to all the right places. Water is the simplest way to detoxify on a regular basis, and when your system is overloaded and extra sensitive during allergy season, you may want to up your intake.
Food source: Your own tap, and depending where you live you may opt to use a filter (I live in Toronto and I sure do). There are lots of water filter options, but that’s a subject for a whole other post!
Remember that you’re not doomed to suffer with sneezing, itchy red eyes, and sinus pain year after year. It is absolutely possible to get to the bottom of your allergies, and implement dietary changes that will get your overcharged immune system under control, reducing the inflammatory response.
Until next time, here’s to your good health and happiness, friends.
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