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Allergy Season- Eating for Success

Spring time is upon us… the yellow-green pollen is now covering… everything! If you’re like most of Virginia Beach residents, you’re probably experiencing the morning sneezes, the watery eyes, or that frustrating tickle that sits in the back of your throat. Besides loading up on allergy meds, is there anything you can do to help battle the annoying symptoms of allergies? There is! Your food choices can impact the severity of your symptoms. It all comes down to inflammation.

When the body encounters a foreign substance, like pollen, and the body finds it offensive, the immune system turns on. If you’re prone to allergies, the body overreacts when exposed resulting in those pesky allergy symptoms. It is normal for inflammation to increase when the immune system is engaged. White blood cells are mobilized, histamine is released, and the body tries to attack the allergens. As a result, mucosal surfaces on the inside of the nose, throat, around the eyes and into the lungs become stimulated and swollen. For some people this can be a very minor reaction, while for others the reaction can be much worse, even debilitating. Nutritionally speaking, an anti-inflammatory diet can be a helpful tool to lessening allergy symptoms, or at least prevent them from being worse!

An anti-inflammatory menu
1. Apples, onions, berries, cabbage, and broccoli contain a flavonoid called Quercetin. Quercetin reduces inflammation. Luckily, those foods often contain other anti-inflammatory properties like anti-oxidants.
2. Oranges, red peppers, and strawberries contain high levels of Vitamin C, which is thought to help control allergy symptoms due to its anti-oxidant properties. Other citrus fruits, like grapefruit, are also good options.
3. Wild Caught Fish- Mackerel, salmon, trout, tuna, and bluefish are all great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA and EPA, that are naturally anti-inflammatory and have anti-allergic properties that can actually decrease the allergic reaction.
4. Tree nuts- Walnuts, almonds, and flax seeds are examples of tree nuts that also contain Omega-3 fatty acids. Flax seeds also contain selenium, which also has some anti-allergic properties.
5. Tea, especially green tea, contains anti-histamine properties. You can help prevent morning sneezing by starting your day with some hot tea!
6. Fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut are great for intestinal health and have natural anti-inflammatory properties as well. With 70-80% of your immune system residing in your gut, it’s important to keep the inflammation down.

Other food for thought
Local honey has been shown to help with seasonal allergies. If you eat local honey early in the season, your body will be exposed to the local pollen. Similar to allergy shots, it is thought that over time you will become less sensitive to the pollen and, therefore, your allergy symptoms will reduce. Check out this link for farms in our area that may carry local honey!