Seasonal allergies are one of the most prevalent health issues people suffer with during the spring and the fall when the weather transitions and pollen, ragweed, or other allergic agents become abundant in the air. Seasonal allergies can cause everything from itching to sneezing to fatigue, and even headaches and watery eyes. Sadly, we’re predicted to have the worst allergy season we’ve ever seen this year, thanks to the increase of carbon dioxide in our air that causes pollen levels to rise. Another contributing factor is climate warming, making pollen counts increase even further. Though we can take steps to reduce our contribution to carbon dioxide and climate warming by eating a plant-based diet, what are we supposed to do about the current allergic responses that we have now?
Even if you don’t know what specific allergen you’re reacting to, all seasonal allergies can be reduced through some dietary and lifestyle tips. Give these a try, and let us know if you have a favorite tip to share too!
1. First, Rule Out Any Food Allergies
First, it’s important to make sure you’re not reacting to food allergies from wheat, barley, rye, dairy, soy, gluten, shellfish, nuts, and sesame, which are nine of the most prominent. If you eat these foods regularly and are allergic, you’ll have a reaction all the time, not just in allergy season. However, some people have milder symptoms than others and can find when allergy season peaks, their symptoms are more prominent because the immune system is overwhelmed. It’s also smart to rule out these in case you have a true allergy to these foods and just think it’s the weather causing the problem. So before you head for the meds, first, rule out the big nine allergens (listed above), or get an allergy test to see which foods you might be allergic to. This can prevent reactions all year round, not just those that are worse during allergy season.
2. Rule Out Cross-Reacting Foods
You might not think you’re reacting to food when pollen counts increase, but you might be wrong. Certain foods can actually come from the same plants as many of the most common allergens which causes a cross-reaction. Some examples include: apples, almonds, apricots, wheat, and peppers that are related to Birch trees, while melons, tomatoes and oranges can happen if you have a grass pollen allergy. Ragweed is associated with bananas, celery, and chamomile, while weed pollen is associated with celery, carrots, and sunflower. You can see more cross-reacting foods here. Now, don’t rule out these foods unless necessary, however, if have one of the allergies above and react to these foods, opt for alternative veggies until the pollen season is past. It doesn’t mean you’re allergic to the food, but are reacting due to the high counts of pollen in the air, which these foods are related to. This can increase the immune response factors in your body known as histamines which trigger a reaction because the immune system becomes overpowered.
3. Eat Pineapple
If you haven’t caught on yet, pineapple is one amazing food. It’s one of the most well-known foods to help reduce the allergic response in the body, and since it’s not grown here with pollen plants, it’s not likely to cause a reaction like other tree fruits such as cherries, apples, and pears are. Pineapple is also an anti-inflammatory fruit, which makes it a great fruit to eat when you have allergies since they can cause inflammation. Lastly, it’s one of the best sources of vitamin C, which reduces allergic responses, improves immune health, and detoxifies your body from impurities, including allergenic proteins from foods in the bloodstream. Have a half a cup or a cup a day, either frozen or fresh and see how it works for you!
4. Eat Omega-3’s
Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the best sources of fats you can eat. They’re great for the heart, the brain, and they help reduce allergies due to the way they lower inflammation in the bloodstream. You don’t need fish to get enough either; flax, walnuts, chia, hemp, pumpkin seeds, and acai fruit are all some of the highest plant-based sources. See how to work these into your diet and get all the benefits they have to offer. For instance, if you have a skin reaction associated with allergies, they can also help clear and heal the skin too thanks to their beautifying omega-3 fatty acids.
5. Consume Garlic and/or Turmeric
Garlic is a such a powerful, yet humble food. It certainly deserves the “superfood” status just as much as any fancy product you might find at your local health food store. This one food has been linked to cancer prevention, blood sugar regulation, a healthier heart, and reduces inflammation in all parts of the body, to improve immune health with a small serving per day. Add 1/2 or a whole clove to your day if you can, or try taking a herbal supplement with garlic if you wish. If you don’t like garlic, turmeric is also an anti-inflammatory food with incredible benefits, and may also help lower the allergic response you suffer during pollen season.
6. Eliminate Processed Foods
Processed foods can contain additives and a host of chemicals that might make your allergies worse. They also increase inflammation in the body, which makes your immune system have to work in overdrive. This entire process makes allergies more prevalent in the body, not to mention makes you feel run down and tired. Reducing or eliminating processed foods is a great practice to abide by all year, but especially during allergy season when your immune system needs some good old TLC! See how to transition to a whole foods diet here for some easy tips. It’s also to reduce your exposure to pesticides and try to buy organic, since pesticides can also cause some people to react to a food as well.
7. Exercise at the Best Time of the Day
If you workout outside, be sure not to exercise at what allergy experts call “peak” times, which is when pollen counts are higher. These times are typically between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Be sure to exercise in the early morning (before 9 a.m. is best) or in the evening (after 7 p.m.) so that pollen counts have time to go down. Keep in mind that pollen is still present, but not near as bad between lunch time and early afternoon. It’s also a good idea to remember to avoid exercising outside on days that are particularly warm, which is also when pollen counts are higher. Save your outdoor workouts for cooler days, possibly the day after a good rain (which helps sweep pollen away) for even more success.
8. Consume Selenium-Rich Foods
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation in the body and also helps lower the allergic response one suffers from during allergy season. The best source of all foods is Brazil nuts, which provide over 100 percent of your daily needs in just one nut. Mushrooms and flax are also a good source of selenium, along with baked beans, oatmeal, and spinach. As a bonus, selenium is also great for your skin, hair, nails, and contains anti-cancer benefits, along with blood sugar regulating perks.
9. Get Your Quercetin-Rich Foods In!
Heard of this antioxidant yet? If not, it’s time you listen up — quercetin is commonly sold in supplement, but you can easily just eat more quercetin-rich foods for a more natural option. Quercetin reduces the inflammatory response throughout the body, including those that are caused by an increase in histamine levels when an allergic response occurs. (It also reduces inflammation associated with aging and improves heart health.) Foods such as onions, apples, berries, broccoli, cherries, grapes, capers, and tea are all great sources of this important antioxidant. They’re also good for your liver, which is important for reducing the inflammatory load in your body on an ongoing basis. You would need to regularly consume quercetin-rich foods on a regular basis to see the benefits, but since they’re all some of the most healthy foods out there, there’s no reason not to eat them for extra prevention!
10. Eat Your Healthy Fats
Aside from omega-3’s, healthy fats are important to include in your diet because they’re the best sources of vitamin E found in plant-based foods. Vitamin E helps reduce inflammation and antibodies that can cause allergenic reactions. This even includes skin rashes and dryness associated with allergies if you suffer from those too. To add to the benefits, vitamin E also helps lubricate the many tissues within the body to reduce or eliminate joint pain, prevent watery eyes, and prevent arterial plaque in the arteries associated with inflammation. Healthy fats that include vitamin E include: raw nuts, raw seeds, avocados, coconut, and olives. These fats are also great for your brain, anti-aging, and a powerhouse of antioxidants in so many ways.
So there you have it fellow Green Monsters, we hope these tips will help you get through allergy season a little more easily. If you have your own tip to share, be sure to leave a comment. And, as always, don’t forget to try many of our plant-based recipes, all filled with anti-inflammatory goodies of all kind!
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