Achoo! Gesundheit! When you suffer from allergies, your body launches an immune response against an irritant — pollen, grass, mold — triggering itchy, watery eyes, congestion, a runny nose and general misery. Here are three foods to help keep the wheezing and sneezing under control, plus your allergy questions answered.
These little green trees are rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that’s been found to fight airway inflammation, helping allergy and asthma suffers stay wheeze-free, research shows. One University of California, Los Angeles, study suggests you only need to chow down on 100 to 200 grams — about one cup — of the super-veggie per day.
Serve up this sneeze-fighting fish tonight. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA in salmon act as antioxidants and prevent your body from releasing histamines, chemicals that cells pump out during an immune response causing allergic reactions, notes a study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Other omega-3-rich fish to try: mackerel, sardines and tuna.
The flavonoid quercetin, found in citrus like oranges and lemons, may help thwart symptoms like sneezing, runny nose and congestion, reports a Japanese study. Quercetin seems to help blunt the expression of the genes that control the histamine response. Apples and red wine are two other quercetin-rich foods.
Should I skip sugar, gluten or dairy if I have seasonal allergies?
Giving up sugar, gluten or dairy for seasonal allergies is unnecessary, says Clifford Bassett, M.D., founder and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. The theory is that sugar, gluten and dairy can cause inflammation, which is an immune response. Since allergies are an immune system overreaction, these foods have your immune system on high alert already so your body could be more prone to overreacting to allergens like pollen. So, theoretically, cutting out inflammatory foods will lessen symptoms. The problem? “There’s no scientific evidence to support this theory,” says Bassett.
Will disinfecting everything protect me from allergies?
Actually, a house that’s too clean could put your kids at an increased risk for allergies. For instance, kids of families who washed dishes by hand were 43 percent less likely to suffer from eczema, asthma and allergies than those whose parents used a dishwasher, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. Hand washing removes fewer germs than the dishwasher, and increased exposure to microbes may have a protective effect, helping to shore up children’s developing immune systems, researchers say.
Do certain foods exacerbate my allergies?
There is a link between seasonal and food allergies. It’s called oral allergy syndrome (OAS). When you eat certain foods, your body thinks you’re also consuming pollen. “Over half of people who have seasonal pollen allergies may experience ‘oral allergy’ symptoms that include tingling, itchiness and/or mild swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue and throat after eating certain foods,” says Bassett. Here’s a look at the foods that may cause OAS. (If you really love these foods, cooking can destroy the problematic proteins, alleviating this effect. Peeling sometimes helps too.)
Allergy: Birch pollen
Watch out for: Almonds, apples, carrots, celery, cherries, coriander, fennel, hazelnuts, kiwis, peaches, parsley, pears, plums
Allergy: Grass pollen
Watch out for: Celery, melons, oranges, peaches, tomatoes
Watch out for: Bananas, chamomile tea, cucumbers, dandelion greens, echinacea, melons, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, zucchini
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)
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Erin O’Donnell is a freelance health and science writer, parent, and graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Walks by Lake Michigan make her happy.