It’s spring, the time of year that can mean misery for millions of allergy sufferers. As pollen counts rise, the “season of renewal” renews only a long list of uncomfortable symptoms. Adding to the unhappiness, chronic allergies to airborne irritants like pollen and dust can lead to serious sinus infections. Those sinus problems can not only be extremely painful, but dangerous, because they hide so close to the brain.
In a recent article about food allergies and sensitivities, I discussed how certain sensitivities to foods can cause symptoms similar to seasonal allergies: upper respiratory problems, headaches, brain fog and lethargy. Indeed, the links between digestive imbalances and allergic symptoms have been clearly outlined in the emerging field of gut-immune research.
An unhealthy digestive system, caused by a diet of inflammation-inducing foods, exposure to toxins and other factors that deeply affect immunity, can lead to specific immune imbalances. Those, in turn, can cause a number of allergy discomforts. Immunity and digestive health are very closely linked. While researchers have nicknamed the digestive tract “the second brain” because of its vast neurological activity, they also may start referring to it as “the other immune system.” Much of our immunity is produced and active in the digestive tract.
So it makes sense that the first place we look to address seasonal allergies is our digestive system. And with the right foods and supplements, we can do just that. Research shows that a number of nutrient-dense foods can help regulate immunity, control chronic inflammation, reduce hyper-reactivity and soothe irritated mucosal tissues to help relieve allergies and restore balance to the system as a whole.
Flavonoids are powerful phytonutrients (plant chemicals) that offer a number of important immune benefits, particularly against allergies but also against cancer, viruses and other assaults against health. Quercetin is perhaps the most important flavonoid for allergies. Quercetin has been shown to help control and regulate the release of histamine, a primary chemical produced by the body during allergic reactions.
Some of the top foods containing quercetin include:
- Red onion
- Red wine
Mushrooms are some of the most remarkable therapeutic foods shown to offer support against allergies. Both culinary mushrooms such as crimini, as well as medicinal mushrooms, are rich sources of phytonutrients, including selenium and vitamin D, which support immunity, fight inflammation and reduce allergy reactions. Furthermore, medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, maitake and many others help to modulate and train the immune system to function optimally, neither overreacting to potential allergens, nor underreacting to real pathological threats. For more information about how mushrooms can benefit immunity, download a copy of my free immune wellness guide here.
A diet high in healthy omega-3 oils, from sources such as wild salmon, flax, hemp seed, grass-fed meat, sardines and other cold water fish, is shown to reduce risks of allergies. Omega-3 fatty acids have powerful anti-inflammatory properties as well as immune and cardiovascular benefits.
Leafy And Cruciferous Vegetables
Many people experience relief from allergies by following a comprehensive seasonalcleanse and detox program including a nutrient-dense, detoxifying diet. That’s in part because a seasonal cleanse eliminates inflammation-inducing foods from the diet, helps heal the digestive system and restores balance to the immune system. Dark leafy greens such as collards, kale, dandelion, mustard, chard, parsley and cilantro are all excellent detoxifiers that reduce inflammation and offer antioxidant support. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage help reduce inflammation, detoxify the body and scavenge free radicals.
Vitamin C Foods
Vitamin C has long been respected as an essential vitamin with a number of critical health benefits, including immune support, powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and protection against allergic reactions, because of its antihistamine abilities. Foods high in vitamin C include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Citrus fruit
Foods High In Magnesium, Selenium And Zinc
Magnesium, selenium and zinc can offer long-term support against allergies by promoting healthy immune activity to combat allergic reactions, reduce inflammation and repair tissue.
Sunflower seeds and Brazil nuts are good sources of selenium and magnesium, while pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate are high in zinc.
If you choose to supplement with these minerals, be sure to choose food-based sources for optimal absorption.
Other effective therapies include mind-body relaxation exercises like meditation and yoga, as well as acupuncture, which is shown to be effective against allergies such as hay fever. Rather than stocking up on prescription and over-the-counter drugs to suppress allergic reactions, we can address seasonal allergies with holistic approaches and treat some of the imbalances that lie at the root of these difficult problems. In the process, we also increase our overall health and vitality, allowing us to make the most of the beautiful spring and summer seasons.