During the spring and summer months, seasonal allergies can wreak havoc on your ability to do the things you love the most. Even something as simple as sitting out on your deck can turn into a miserable experience, ruined by coughing, sneezing, and wheezing.
While allergy medication and inhalers can alleviate symptoms, wouldn’t it be great if there were a more natural way to get some relief?
The good news is that your diet plays a big role in your body’s response to allergies. We’ve compiled this list of foods that can hurt (and help) you deal with seasonal allergies.
It may be helpful to understand what happens in your body when you experience a seasonal allergy. The most important thing to know is that allergies are caused when your immune system reacts to a foreign object, called an allergen. Some common seasonal allergens include:
You probably know that allergy medications are referred to as antihistamines. A histamine is a substance your body releases when it identifies an allergen as harmful. For example, if you inhaled tree pollen, the mast cells in your nose would release histamines. The result is inflammation, which may cause you to get a stuffy or itchy nose, or to sneeze.
The inflammation caused by histamines is, at least in theory, a good thing. Inflammation is an important part of the body’s immune response. When an area becomes inflamed, your body marshals its forces to combat the inflammation.
Now that you understand how allergies work, let’s talk about the foods that can make them worse than they already are. You probably won’t be surprised to see a list of the “usual suspects” when it comes to unhealthy or harmful foods.
Moderate alcohol consumption isn’t dangerous, but there is some evidence to suggest that heavy drinking may exacerbate allergy symptoms. For some people who drink wine, the reaction to sulfites – which are highly inflammatory — may mimic the reaction to seasonal allergens.
Even if alcohol isn’t making allergies work, there’s certainly evidence that the after-effects of heavy drinking can be like allergy symptoms. They include impaired breathing, congestion, and headache. If you drink at the same time you are experiencing allergy symptoms, you may wind up feeling worse than you would have if you hadn’t lifted a glass.
If you’ve been following this site, you already know that sugar – particularly refined sugar – is one of the worst things you can put in your body. It can be safe in moderation but eating too much can cause a host of health problems.
Sugar causes inflammation. Since allergies also cause inflammation, it’s not difficult to see the problem. Eating a diet that’s high in sugar will cause symptoms that mimic allergy symptoms, meaning that you’ll feel worse than you would if you were affected by allergies alone.
Like sugar and alcohol, most processed foods cause an inflammatory response in your body. That’s because they include high amounts of sugar, saturated fat, and Omega-6 fatty acid. They may also contain other inflammatory substances such as MSG.
Your best bet is to avoid highly processed foods and stick to whole, natural foods as the basis if your diet. That way, you won’t be adding more inflammation to the mix.
Peanuts are a common allergen, but even if you aren’t allergic to them, they can worsen your allergy symptoms. Why?
It turns out that peanuts – and other foods including bananas, tree nuts, cumin, and coriander – contain substances akin to the allergens in ragweed. If you’re allergic to ragweed, you may want to eliminate these foods from your diet temporarily to see if your symptoms improve.
Other Foods to Avoid
In addition to the foods we have already mentioned, you may want to consider eliminating – or at least, reducing your consumption of other foods:
We suggest experimenting with cutting foods out of your diet to see how their removal impacts your symptoms.
Now it’s time for the good news! It turns out that there are many foods you can add to your diet that can help, in one way or another, to alleviate your seasonal allergy symptoms and provide some relief.
Foods Rich in Quercetin
Quercetin is a flavonoid found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Studies have shown that quercetin has a stabilizing effect on mast cells and may reduce the release of histamines.
Foods and other items that are rich in quercetin include:
Adding foods rich in quercetin to your diet may help to minimize your seasonal allergy symptoms.
Foods Rich in Magnesium
Magnesium is an important mineral that has been proven to have a beneficial effect on lung health. Adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet may help to strengthen your lungs and improve your body’s ability to cope with allergies.
Here are some foods that are high in magnesium:
Consider adding some of these foods to your diet if you have seasonal allergies. Or you could take a magnesium supplement if you prefer.
Foods Rich in Vitamin C
You probably already know that Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system. Eating foods rich in Vitamin C can help to reduce allergy symptoms.
Here are some foods that are rich in Vitamin C:
Keep in mind that other antioxidant vitamins can have a similar effect, including Vitamins A and E.
Local Raw Honey
One food item that gets a lot of attention when it comes to combatting seasonal allergies is local honey. The reason is that bees collect pollen to make honey and in theory, consuming small amounts of pollen may reduce your allergy symptoms.
We would say that the question of whether honey can help with your allergy symptoms depends on what you’re allergic to. Bees collect pollen from flowers, mostly. If you have a clover allergy, for example, then you might very well benefit from eating clover honey.
However, if your allergies are to things like tree pollen or ragweed, the impact you’ll feel from eating raw local honey is likely to be minimal.
While the results on local honey are mixed, there is quite a bit of research to support the idea that adding bee pollen to your diet can be beneficial when it comes to reducing allergy symptoms.
For example, this study found that bee pollen has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Bee pollen may be sprinkled on food, added to smoothies, or taken as a nutritional supplement.
When food is very spicy, we sometimes say things like, “It cleared my sinuses!” It turns out, that’s not just an expression.
Eating spicy foods can help open your nasal passages, clear your head, and eliminate excess mucous. While a good hit of chiles or spicy mustard won’t get rid of your allergies, it can certainly provide some much-needed relief.
We’ve written a lot about ginger because it has proven health benefits that make it a welcome addition to any diet.
One study found that mice with allergies who were given a diet that included 2% ginger experienced a reduction of both sneezing and nasal rubbing as a result.
We love ginger for its versatility. It can be eaten raw, candied, or pickled, added to foods or on its own. It also makes a delicious herbal tea and can be used as an ingredient in salad dressings and marinades.
Other Foods to Alleviate Allergy Symptoms
In addition to the foods we’ve already listed, there are other foods that may be beneficial to you if you suffer from seasonal allergies. They include:
Any of these foods may offer some relief. We recommend trying them and paying attention to how they affect your body and your allergy symptoms.
Season allergies aren’t fun, but careful management of your diet can help to alleviate the symptoms and minimize the amount of time you spend sneezing and reaching for the tissue box. Dietary changes, while helpful, are not a substitute for advice from a doctor.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you should make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.