We are wrapping up National Nutrition month with food tips to help you manage your seasonal allergy symptoms.
We spoke with Dr. Annie Chern, a primary care physician, faculty member at Stanford Health Care Family Medicine Residency Program, and Tivic medical advisory board member, to get her insights and advice on this.
Could dietary changes help control seasonal allergies? If so, how?
Seasonal allergies are a manifestation of an inflammatory response – with contributions from genetic factors like family history, exposures, etc. Therefore, adopting an anti-inflammatory diet could boost the immune system and help to reduce allergy symptoms.
There are also studies that show how an anti-inflammatory diet can protect against the development of asthma in children. Asthma is in the same family of conditions as seasonal allergies and eczema, so it follows that adopting an anti-inflammatory diet would be helpful.
Which foods would you recommend to help fight seasonal allergies?
The anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from marine sources, nuts, vegetable and seed fiber, legumes, whole grains, lean protein, spices, and minimizes ultra-processed foods.
In general terms, this means increasing the consumption of green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts like almonds and walnuts, salmon, and other oily fish, while decreasing refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, packaged foods) and red meat.
Are there certain vitamins or minerals that can help ease allergy symptoms?
There are also studies suggesting that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with the development of asthma. According to the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, “Vitamin D is known to modulate cellular immunity and to be important for proper lung development, both in utero and postnatally. Insufficient vitamin D may therefore predispose towards asthma by a greater risk of respiratory infections, abnormal inflammatory/allergic responses or impaired lung development.”
Dr. Chern adds, “Patients predisposed to seasonal allergies, asthma, and other associated conditions should try to ensure they have adequate levels of Vitamin D. Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D (fatty fish like salmon, swordfish, tuna, cod liver oil, egg yolks, beef liver) but some foods are fortified with it (fortified orange juice, milk products, and cereals). The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D for adults is 600 IU – 800 IU (international units) / day.”
There is also some evidence that certain herbs can help alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms, and Dr. Chern offers these suggestions:
- Thyme has been known to have antitussive (cough) properties so is often used for congestion, cough, and asthma symptoms.
- Butterbur – can be used for allergies and asthma. The Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine says, “Petasin, a natural compound found in the butterbur plant, inhibits leukotriene synthesis and histamine release.” It’s important to keep in mind that all parts of the plant contain a harmful component called pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are highly toxic (especially to the liver), so you must look for “pyrrolizidine alkaloid-free”
- Ginseng – in one study, fermented red ginseng resulted in significant improvement in nasal congestion and allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies) quality of life scores when compared to placebo.
- Chamomile – chamomile contains flavonoids that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Some people have found success using steeped, chilled chamomile tea bags on their eyes (while closed!) to soothe itchy, irritated eyes. Note that the eyes are a sensitive area, so watch out for skin reactions or allergies – you may want to test it out on another area before you try this.
For many patients, diet alone may not successfully control their allergy symptoms, and may also need to supplement their regimen with their medications and/or other treatment methods.
If you’re sensitive to medications, consider using ClearUP – a clinically proven, drug-free bioelectronic sinus device that provides rapid relief of sinus pain, sinus headache, and congestion from allergies. It’s a non-invasive form of treatment that uses safe neuromodulation to help patients breathe better.
10 Foods That May Curb Seasonal Allergies (WebMD)
Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet (DrWeil.com)
These 7 Foods Might Help Alleviate Seasonal Allergy Symptoms (Healthline)