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Can the Right Foods Help You Beat Your Seasonal Allergies?

It happens every year—as the seasons shift from winter to spring, your allergy symptoms kick in—your nose runs, your eyes itch and your throat gets scratchy. Could what you eat help keep your allergy symptoms away?

There’s no magic cure, but Puneet Shroff, MD, an allergist at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, said there are some changes you can make and foods you can eat or avoid that show promise in reining in your symptoms.

Take a look at your overall diet

Dr. Shroff said that a balanced, anti-inflammatory diet with minimal processed and fatty foods can help support your immune system, your overall health, and your ability to fight allergies.

With an anti-inflammatory diet, you center your meals around green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, certain fruits, tomatoes and olive oil. The Mediterranean diet includes a lot of anti-inflammatory foods.

Omega-3 fatty acids are part of an anti-inflammatory diet and there’s no harm in getting omega-3 fatty acids through fish or grains, Dr. Shroff said. But some people believe that these fats can fight allergies. “We don’t really know the exact role of omega-3 fatty acids in treating allergies. There may be some benefit in lessening the risk of allergies over time, but that data isn’t as clear cut as we would like it to be.”

Certain foods show promise

Dr. Shroff said there are some foods that could help reduce your allergy symptoms:

  • Onions and apples contain quercetin, which has antihistamine properties and might help people with allergies. Dr. Shroff shared, “Perhaps some servings of apples and onions a day may keep the allergist away!”
  • Citrus fruits provide vitamin C, which can support your immune system.
  • Ginger may have anti-inflammatory properties, and if your allergies are causing nasal drainage or a sore throat, ginger tea may help relieve symptoms.
  • Honey can soothe sore throats and coughs, and local honey could help boost your immune support against local allergens, since the honey contains low amounts of the pollen that causes your allergies. Young children shouldn’t eat honey though, and people with diabetes need to be careful because it’s high in sugar.

Don’t rule out categories of food

One thing Dr. Shroff doesn’t recommend for seasonal allergies: eliminating entire food groups. Some people think you should avoid dairy, for example. And it’s true that dairy can make some people produce more mucus.

“It’s reasonable to consider if dairy foods have an effect on you,” he said. But he points out that dairy, especially yogurt, has a lot of positive health benefits, so he doesn’t recommend giving up dairy foods without considering it carefully.

Other ways you can clear up your symptoms

If changing your diet helps control your sniffles and sneezes, great. If not, over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal sprays also prevent allergy symptoms for a lot of people, so don’t rule them out. And if they aren’t bringing you relief, or you’re developing sinus infections or bronchitis, see an allergist.

An allergist can prescribe stronger medications and can also run tests to pinpoint the exact environmental allergens that are causing your symptoms. “Just knowing what your triggers are can be really valuable, because you can get better about your strategies as to how to avoid them,” Dr. Shroff said. “Especially as the seasons change you have a better idea of what to expect and how to prepare your body for it whether through natural remedies, medications or both.”

The bottom line

A healthy overall diet centered around anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce your allergy symptoms, and certain individual foods could be helpful as well. If you need help controlling your allergies, connect with a Banner Health physician.

For more ammunition in the fight against seasonal allergies, check out:

Allergy and Immunology Nutrition