Dietary Modifications to Reduce Seasonal Allergies

Spring is such an exciting time of year: it gets warmer outside, the plants all burst forth with their leaves and flowers, and everyone gets outside for hiking, cook outs and sports. For many people spring also means annoying allergy symptoms.   Many people come into my office taking one or two anti-histamine medications, yet are still struggling with some symptoms. They are surprised to learn that a few changes to their diet can actually reduce (and usually even eliminate) their allergy symptoms and eliminate their need for any medications at all.

The first dietary change to make if you suffer from seasonal allergies is to remove dairy. Dairy actually increases mucous production in many people, and can be irritating to the GI system, where the majority of our immune system resides. Even people who do not have an allergy to milk will benefit from removing dairy from their diet. Not only does it help with environmental allergies, but asthma and skin conditions such as acne and eczema as well.   Unfortunately lactose-free versions will not help since it is the milk protein casein that is causing the immune reaction.   If you cannot imagine life without cheese, goat and sheep cheese may be better choices, as they have a different protein composition.

The second change is to add fermented foods. As I mentioned before, the majority of your immune system resides in your gut, so having a healthy gut is important for healthy immune function. Dairy-free fermented foods are sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, some pickles, and kombucha. The fermentation process produces probiotics, and though you may be on one already, adding in these foods will help.

Local honey is a great food to add to your diet, but do so in moderation as it is still sugar. You’ll want raw honey from bees that live around you, and so are pollinating plants that you are being exposed to. The theory behind honey for seasonal allergies is homeopathic: you are introducing a minute amount of the allergen into your system, so that your body learns it is not a problem and does not mount an immune response.

Stinging nettles are the best under-utilized herb for allergies. The leaves reduce histamine production as well as inhibit mast cell activation and pro-inflammatory pathways. You can make tea with the leaves, eat them in soups or take as a supplement. Be sure to wear gloves when handling raw nettles as they do sting, as their name suggests. Cooking removes the stinging properties and make them a naturally iron rich anti-histamine.

Quercitin is a flavanoid (anti-oxidant) that stabilizes mast cells, thereby reducing inflammation.   It has been shown to help specifically with seasonal allergies and respiratory inflammation. Quercitin is found primarily in fresh fruits and vegetables, so increasing your intake of these will help with allergy symptoms. Apples, peppers, tea, capers and parsley are a few of the foods with the highest content of quercitin. You can also benefit taking it in a more concentrated supplement form.

The essential oils peppermint, lavender and lemon can be mixed together to improve respiratory function. Using equal parts of each, you can diffuse them in a room as you’re sleeping to aid troubled breathing, or rub them onto a part of your body with thinner skin, such as the bottoms of your feet.

These small changes and supplements can alleviate allergies naturally so you can enjoy playing outside this spring. Always check with your health care provider before starting any new supplements.

-Lara Lattman

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