Hayfever: Nothing to Sneeze About!

April 05, 2012

Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, affects up to 30% of all Americans, including up to 40% of children and 10%-30% of adults If you suffer from common outdoor allergens such as tree, grass and weed pollen and mold spores, you know how debilitating it can be!  There's good news, because consensus has grown that changes in the diet over the last decade play a significant role in the development of hay fever and asthma.  In other words, there's a lot you can do to take control over those environmental allergies! It's important to understand how a healthy diet for hay fever can keep your respiratory system strong.  It can help you breathe better by opening up clogged nasal passages, boost your immunity to allergies, and help fight fight against sinus and respiratory infections. It can even help prevent long-term tissue damage! A study of children on the island of Crete was published in the August, 2007 issue of the journal Thorax. This research found that regular consumption of fruits, vegetables and nuts during childhood reduced symptoms of asthma and rhinitis. Researchers believed that diet may explain the relative lack of allergic symptoms in this population.   From childhood on, the bulk of the Crete islanders’ diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, and nuts, all natural foods that are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells from the oxidative damage that causes diseases, and have immune-boosting compounds. Fresh produce contains a wide range of minerals and vitamins that can manage and reduce inflammation, easing hayfever symptoms. Conversely, processed foods may contain multiple chemicals in addition to beneficial nutrients, which could exacerbate your allergies, especially if you already have food sensitivities.  Protect yourself from the debilitating symptoms of hayfever by including these natural foods in your diet:
  • Vitamin C. Food rich in vitamin C may help relieve symptoms during hay fever season. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that strengthens your immune system and has natural antihistamine properties. Antihistamines block the formation of histamines your body produces in response to an allergen --- pollen -- and alleviate your symptoms, which and minimize the need for antihistamine medications. Add Vitamin C to your diet with oranges, grapefruit, broccoli, baked potatoes, red bell peppers and strawberries.
  • Quercetin. A study published in the June 2003 issue of the Journal of Clinical Immunology found that quercetin is almost twice as effective as a popular prescription antihistamine. Quercetin is a flavonoid, a compound found in plant-based foods and that contains antioxidant properties. Quertin is found in many common foods, from onions, berries and apples to broccoli and kale.
  • Nuts. Nuts are a great source of magnesium and vitamin E. Studies show that magnesium helps increase lung function and that vitamin E is reduces the risk of upper respiratory infections. As an antioxidant, Vitamin E protects the body from free radicals, which can cause oxidative tissue damage leading to inflammation, allergies and asthma.
There are also a few specific produce items you should try adding to your diet!  The skins of red grapes are bursting with inflammation-reducing antioxidants and resveratrol, which protect against allergies and wheezing.  Protect mucous membranes with the omega-3, a natural anti-infammatory  found in fish!  Get off to a good start by drinking a cup of hot tea with lemon and honey with breakfast to prevent early morning sneezing from allergies or hay fever. Green, white, and black teas are full of flavonoids and can also boost immunity by increasing the proteins in the body that fight infection. Recently, an important study published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy suggests that good bacteria, or probiotics, may potentially offer a treatment to those who suffer from seasonal hay fever!  This would be a great development and  something we won't have to sneeze about!  

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