Spring has sprung! Birds are chirping, the flowers are getting ready to bloom, the grass is turning green, the trees have buds… and for nearly 20 million of us, the arrival of spring also brings with it seasonal allergies. That means itchy, watery eyes, scratchy throat, sneezing, mucus buildup, and nasal congestion.
Believe it or not, the food you eat actually plays a significant role in the intensity of your seasonal allergy symptoms. The right foods can lessen symptoms, or the wrong foods can actually make them worse.
Let’s take a look at how specific cross-related allergens found in everyday foods can affect seasonal allergies. Before we do that, let's take a basic look at what seasonal allergies are and what actually causes them.
Understanding Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies are allergies to specific airborne substances, like pollen and mold spores, that only appear during specific times of the year—like spring and summer.
Seasonal allergies have also been referred to as hay fever for generations, but the term hay fever is a bit misleading. While the pollen and grasses that make up hay are present in the summer and do cause allergies, they do not cause fever and they are not the only airborne substances contributing to seasonal allergies.
The pollen and mold spores causing seasonal allergies actually vary by season, and are different depending on where you live.
Foods That Make Seasonal Allergies Worse
As we swing into the Spring allergy season, you should be aware that the foods you are eating can actually make your seasonal allergies worse. This condition is known as Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), or pollen-food allergy syndrome, and is caused by cross-reacting allergens found in pollen and raw fruits, vegetables, and some tree nuts.
OAS is so prevalent that the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology estimates that nearly 75% of people experiencing seasonal allergies are also affected by OAS.
Food Triggering Seasonal Allergies
Although not everyone with seasonal allergies experiences OAS, they often do have allergies to birch, ragweed, and grass pollens. The following foods are commonly associated with these allergens:
- Birch pollen: apples, almonds, carrots, celery, cherries, hazelnuts, kiwi, peaches, pears, and plums;
- Grass pollen: celery, melons, oranges, peaches, tomatoes;
- Ragweed pollen: bananas, cucumbers, melons, sunflower seeds, zucchini
When these foods are eaten in their raw form, your immune system tends to recognize them as an allergen similar to the pollen it is related to and reacts by causing an allergic response to the food.
Seasonal Allergies and Inflammation
Seasonal allergies can wreak absolute havoc on our bodies. The most commonly reported allergy symptoms, including itchy, watery eyes, congestion, irritated nasal and air passages, and even muscle and joint pain, all develop as a result of unchecked inflammation caused by our own immune system’s attempt to protect the body from stimuli that is perceived to be harmful. Over time this chronic inflammation, often originally from other sources but fueled by allergies, can really affect your health.
Foods To Assist with Seasonal Allergies
In most cases, if you are experiencing more intense seasonal allergies after eating the foods mentioned earlier, it is best to avoid them altogether. While that may not be the answer you were hoping to hear, it’s not the end of the world! There are several simple, tasty, and natural ways to change your eating habits to ease the discomfort associated with seasonal allergies! Here are just a few:
Get your Spicy Food Fix! Cayenne pepper, cinnamon, garlic, and ginger are healthy, delicious ways to thin out mucus, support your immune system, and provide all-natural decongestant support.
Eat the Rainbow! During allergy season, look for fresh, organic, colorful vegetables, including purple cabbage, beets, and dark, leafy greens—especially Swiss chard which is loaded with quercetin, a natural compound that reduces inflammation and can ease the symptoms of seasonal allergies.
Add a Daily Dose of High Quality Curcumin. Seasonal allergies contribute to increased levels of inflammation throughout your body. Curcumin is the active healing compound from the turmeric root and has demonstrated many important health benefits, including providing defense against free radical damage, which can lead to inflammation throughout the body.
Eat a spoonful of Raw, Local Honey each day. Made with the very pollen that causes your seasonal allergies, eating a daily dose of raw local honey has been shown to help you become less sensitive to the same pollens that cause you discomfort. For best results, experts recommend honey collected within a 100-mile radius of where you live to relieve watery eyes, nasal congestion, and other symptoms associated with seasonal allergies.
Load up on your Kombucha, Kimchi and Sauerkraut! Time and time again, probiotic-rich foods have been shown to support gut health and strengthen your immune system, including how your body responds to allergens. Also, consider a probiotic gut health supplement.
Stay Hydrated! Proper hydration thins out mucus and relieves symptoms caused by allergies. Studies also continue to demonstrate that your body responds to dehydration by producing higher histamine levels, making your allergies worse. In addition to drinking enough water each day, bone broth, vegetable broth, and apple cider vinegar have been shown to break up mucus, reduce inflammation, and support your immune health.
Don’t Let Seasonal Allergies Slow You Down
It’s estimated that nearly 30% of the population suffers from the itchy, watery eyes, scratchy throat, sneezing, mucus buildup, and nasal congestion caused by seasonal allergies. In addition, the cross-allergens found in several of the foods we eat on a daily basis, including apples, carrots, almonds, and even cucumbers can contribute to Oral Allergy Syndrome, or an allergic reaction to specific components found in several popular fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to minimize the effects OAS has on seasonal allergies, including: eating spicy foods, adding raw, local honey to your diet, and staying hydrated. Additionally, supplementing daily with the powerful Smarter Curcumin as well as getting daily probiotic support with Smarter Gut Health can help promote total wellness.
We know that April showers bring May flowers, and even though May flowers bring seasonal allergies, make this the year you they don’t slow you down!