Though you may manage to ward off cold and flu season in the fall and winter and live an active, healthy lifestyle year-round, seasonal allergies can manage to knock you off your feet just as quickly as any other illness. Spring and summer typically come with a host of allergens like pollen, grass, and outdoor molds, and you may find yourself incapacitated by itchy, watery eyes, a stuffy nose, and respiratory issues.
While your go-to remedy may be over-the-counter allergy meds and antihistamines that can leave you drowsy and still feeling under-the-weather, medication may not be the only way to fight the yearly allergy battle. There’s no cure for allergies as of now, and while your doctor can help establish a regimen to fight your symptoms, a diet rich in the following five foods has also been known to aid in allergy relief.
1. Fatty fish
Because seasonal allergies cause inflammation in the nose and throat region (thus causing discomfort), it’s vital to reduce this inflammatory response, and this can be done by consuming more omega-3 fatty acids. Medical Daily explains that most Americans have a diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which can ultimately aid in creating systematic inflammation. Omega-3s do the exact opposite — they combat the inflammatory response, which can calm down allergic reactions brought on by pollen and mold.
Salmon and albacore tuna are two fish that are high in omega-3s, so be sure to eat 6-ounce servings twice a week to see a noticeable difference in your allergies. Dr. William Sears, author of the book The Omega-3 Effect, tells TIME that fatty fish can even assist in treating dermatitis, bronchitis, and asthma. If you are asthmatic and you deal with seasonal allergies, consuming fish can ultimately help clear your airways and help you breathe easy.
You’ve heard the old adage about an apple a day, but what you may not realize is that actually eating an apple a day can contribute greatly to seasonal allergy relief. Dr. Oz explains that the peel of the apple is rich in a flavonoid known as quercetin, which works as both an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine. Allergies occur when cells release histamine, which is a natural compound that can cause itching and flushing to occur as well as an increase in mucus production. Researchers have found that quercetin prevents the immune cells from releasing histamine, thus reducing allergy symptoms. For this reason, apples are also great for reducing asthmatic symptoms as well.
Good news if you’re not the biggest fan of this particular fruit, as apples are not the only food that contains quercetin. Dark berries, tomatoes, and citrus fruits all have significant amounts of quercetin in them as well, or, if you want to make your shopping list easy, go for fruits and veggies with a red, green, or purple pigment. This coloration is associated with quercetin content, which means you should feel free to have that glass of red wine with dinner, too.
3. Tree nuts and seeds
It’s not just omega-3s that can give you the powerful allergy-fighting boost your immune system needs — you should also look for foods that are high in antioxidants to fight your springtime allergy takeover. Tree nuts and seeds such as walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and butternuts are all great choices for upping your omega-3 and antioxidant intake, and their nutritional value soars above that of the traditional peanut.
According to TIME, studies prove that those who follow a Mediterranean diet high in fish, olive oil, fresh produce, and nuts, were less likely to develop allergy symptoms over time — this is mostly due to the higher intake of both omega-3s and antioxidants. Flaxseeds also contain selenium, which is a mineral that can help control an allergic response if you were to have one, and walnuts contain vitamin E, which boosts immunity and protects against free radicals. The benefits are numerous among the nut and seed family, so choosing this food group for a midday snack is the perfect way to go.
Whether you’re going for the sweet flavor of bell peppers or the spice of chili peppers, one fact remains — they are a food incredibly high in vitamin C, which can help treat your seasonal allergies. Though you may think of citrus fruits as being the kings of vitamin C, a cup of chopped red bell pepper holds three times as much vitamin C as a single orange. And, if you aren’t a fan of peppers, then other foods high in vitamin C like dark, leafy greens or kiwifruit will also be beneficial in treating your symptoms.
Everyday Health explains that vitamin C works to alleviate allergies because it is a natural anti-histamine that reduces swelling and inflammation — and, unlike over-the-counter products, eating an extra helping of veggies that are rich in this vitamin will not give you any unwanted side effects. Vitamin C is also great for boosting the immune system, which is helpful when you’re experiencing wheezing, sneezing, and itching. It’s always best to get your vitamins from fresh produce as well — while you can take between 500 to 1000 milligrams of vitamin C supplements to reduce your symptoms, you will feel the greatest relief from absorbing this vitamin via food. While chili peppers are not as high in vitamin C as the bells, The Huffington Post explains that they do come with the added benefit of capsaicin, which helps reduce nasal congestion.
5. Green tea
If you’re a tea lover, there’s good news for you — Science Daily writes that new evidence suggests drinking green tea can help provide relief from even your worst allergy symptoms. Researchers in Japan have found a compound in green tea that blocks the key cell receptor that creates an allergic response — this compound, abbreviated to EGCG, appears to be the most potent anti-allergenic compound yet found in this particular tea. While tea has been widely considered for years to be a reasonable natural remedy for many ailments including seasonal allergy symptoms, this compound in particular shows much promise.
EGCG, or methylated epigallocatechin gallate, is a powerful antioxidant found in tea, and it is found in its highest concentrations in green tea than other processed teas. Current research regarding EGCG’s benefits has been done on rodents, though researchers are now beginning to see how the compound may combat allergic reactions in humans as well. This compound isn’t the only thing in green tea that’s beneficial for allergy sufferers, however; tea also contains flavonoids that reduce inflammation, and it can provide a boost to your immune system. Bottom Line Inc. suggests drinking your tea in the morning with lemon and honey so that your cilia, or tiny hairs in your nose that work to sweep pollen, dust, and other irritants away, are stirred.