Are you excited about spring but dreading the symptoms that come with your seasonal allergies?
I have some good news: Changes in your diet, natural supplements and even essential oils may provide greater benefits than the medication. Because pollen counts are rising, it will be important to use every possible method to combat allergies in the future.
Figuring out what triggers your allergy symptoms should be the first step. Whether it’s grass, ragweed, cottonwood trees or food, avoiding them is key. They can cause congestion, post-nasal drip, excessive mucus production, sneezing, runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, scratchy throat, exhaustion, irritability, etc.
Clinicians often prescribe decongestants, antihistamines or steroids to treat your symptoms. Unfortunately, they can have side effects like drowsiness, dryness, restlessness, weight gain and upset stomach.
What to eat?
Personalizing how you approach your health is important, so simply avoid any food you’re sensitive to. If you aren’t sure, consider learning about an elimination diet to discover them.
Some foods that are commonly associated with allergies include alcohol, caffeine, conventional dairy, chocolate, peanuts, sugar, wheat, citrus, chocolate, dried fruits, shrimp, gluten and highly processed foods.
People with a ragweed allergy need to pay particular attention to melons, bananas, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, echinacea and chamomile, as they can trigger allergic responses. Additives to preserve food such as sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium sulfite and artificial sweeteners can also contribute to allergies.
But there are some foods you can stock up on for allergy season:
- Hot and spicy foods can thin mucus.
- Local raw honey contains local pollens, which help reduce allergic responses.
- Bone broth (beef/chicken/lamb) can help expel excess nasal mucus, boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.
- Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain that reduces your body’s reaction to seasonal allergens.
- Apple cider vinegar helps to break up mucus and supports lymphatic drainage. Use one tablespoon up to three times daily diluted in water.
- Garlic, onions, ginger, cinnamon and horseradish can help, as can grass-fed meats, free-range poultry and wild-caught fish.
- Fresh organic vegetables, especially swiss chard, cabbage, carrots and greens in general.
- Probiotic-rich foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt (organic/grass fed) and raw cheese.
Other natural solutions
Supplements like vitamin A and Zinc can help, too. Those can be highly personalized, and you should consult with a doctor if you’re on any medications.
And besides food, here are some other natural allergy and lifestyle tips:
- Avoid your allergens: On high pollen days, avoid the outdoors. If you can’t tolerate grass, don’t cut it.
- Evening showers: They remove pollen and dust on skin and hair that could worsen symptoms. Wash bedding regularly
- Neti Pot: Relieves nasal congestion by removing mucus. Once or twice daily to flush your nasal passages.
- Essential Oils: I keep an oil diffuser in my office and love peppermint oil. For allergies, consider menthol, eucalyptus, lavender and peppermint oil. These oils help to open up the nasal passages and lungs. They have many other benefits as well, like improving circulation and relieving stress.
- Stay hydrated: When you’re dehydrated, mucus becomes thicker and harder to expel. So make sure to drink six to eight glasses of water each day.
- Make sure your pets are bathed or wiped down regularly because they also can carry allergens.
- Consider replacing carpets with hard-surfaced flooring.
- Keep doors and windows closed so that pollen and dust are minimized in your home.
Dr. Tony Hampton is a family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group.