Yep, here we are in the midst of another spring allergy season. As much as we love watching the world wake up and break out in color and song at the end of each winter, for so many people, those vibrant scenes come with a trade-off in wellness.
And make no mistake: It’s May now, but as many people can tell you firsthand, this season of discomfort can continue well into summer.
We all know what an allergy is: evidence of a sort of misunderstanding within the body. It’s a case of misidentification in which an innocuous substance sets off alarms and the body reacts as if the substance is a dire threat, pulling out all stops to fend it off.
When that body is yours, you can feel as if you’re in the middle of a battleground. Itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion, headaches, irritation of the throat and mouth, a persistent runny nose…and those are just the most common seasonal allergy complaints. It’s enough to exhaust both energy and patience.
Let’s look beyond those (admittedly miserable) symptoms and get down to what’s going on in the body: an immune response that results (in part) in inflammation. That’s right, inflammation, the same condition that in recent years has been discovered as common to a plethora of uncomfortable and even dangerous physical disorders.
Researchers have begun to amass quite a lot on information about what fuels inflammation, including that associated with allergies—and what can help put out that fire. I’d like to share some of it with you today. Got your tissues handy?
- Don’t invite inflammation or allergies by serving their favorite foods.
What you eat during allergy season is important. Some foods certainly will further irritate your body. They include
- Sugar. Reducing your intake of sugar will reduce your risk of almost every major disorder. And as it turns out, the inflammation that comes with allergies is no exception to that “sugar responsive” rule. Refined sugars—table sugar, cane syrup, corn syrup, etc.—are the biggest culprits, as they are so very common in both restaurant items and packaged foods. But don’t forget that less processed sweeteners like honey and maple syrup are, in fact, also sugars. Now more than ever, you’d be wise to be conscious of how much and how often you take in sugar, in any form.
- Gluten, especially that found in wheat. Gluten is a trigger of many kinds of inflammation.
- Dairy. Traditional wisdom holds that dairy stimulates the body’s production of mucus—and if you’re already sniffly, that’s an unwelcome effect. Many allergy sufferers swear they have less difficulty when they avoid milk products. But in fact, we know now that dairy is also a gut irritant that in turn induces—you guessed it—inflammation in other parts of the body as well.
- Cross-reactive foods: Although they are delicious and in every other way healthful, certain foods contain plant compounds that are similar to the proteins in grass, weed, and tree pollen. If you’re allergic to birch, for example, apples can put your body on alert. Pears, peaches, cherries, celery, and chamomile are also among the good-for-you things that, unfortunately, you probably should avoid during allergy season.
- Pack plenty of these foods instead.
I’ve said before, and I truly believe, we should look to food as medicine. Just as certain foods can trigger inflammation or set off allergic reactions, others soothe those effects in the body. These natural and delicious reaction-reducers include:
- Green tea: Served hot or cold, this brew is refreshing without delivering the high-caffeine jolt that coffee does. And according to at least one recent study, it may actually have anti-allergenic effects.
- Fermented foods: Foods that pack active cultures help to restore balance by restocking the microorganisms that work in your digestive system. This is a good thing for many conditions linked to “leaky gut.” If you have allergies, it’s doubly important to have a healthy microbiome working for you. Yogurt isn’t an option while you’re avoiding dairy, but you’ll also find gut-healthy cultures in a nearly limitless assortment of fermented vegetables. (A daily probiotic supplement may do the job as well.)
- Colorful produce: Many deeply or brightly colored fruits and vegetables are very high in antioxidants, which fight inflammation of any kind. Blackberries, red grapes, peas, blueberries, broccoli, strawberries, carrots, beets, and dark leafy greens are just a few heavy-hitters.
- …and especially flavonoid-rich produce: Flavonoids pack a number of health benefits, but one in particular, quercetin, blocks histamine, the cell-secreted substance that sparks allergic reactions. Add garlic, green peppers, capers, and other quercetin-rich foods to get maximum benefits.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: This healthful fat is naturally anti-inflammatory, too! It’s found in large quantities in wild salmon, herring, mackerel, tofu, and edamame.
- Look to the East for additional relief.
Traditional Chinese Medicine revolves around the philosophy that a healthy, comfortable body is one that’s in balance. Acupuncture is a method of restoring that balance by opening energy pathways—meridians—that have become blocked by excesses or deficiencies.
Acupuncture has a long history of relieving pain and reducing upset, two effects that often come with severe allergies. And particularly if your symptoms are centered around congestion—like sinus pressure or a runny nose—acupuncture may offer direct symptom relief as well.
Again, remember, there’s a connection between inflammation and allergies—and acupuncture effectively relieves inflammation.
- Keep them out!
Limiting the allergens in your environment, wherever possible, is a positive, proactive solution. You can take small, easy steps to stop those allergens: Keep your windows closed—and don’t forget the windows in your car, too. Vacuum carpets and launder bedding frequently, and let someone else do the yard work.
Then when you come home from work or excursions, don’t track in irritants. Leave your shoes at the door. Likewise, change your clothes and take a quick shower to rinse away any invaders—and don’t forget your hair.
I know allergies can have a big impact on your sense of vitality, but if you’re mindful of what’s going on in your body and in your wider environment, you can find relief. Need help getting there? I’m here for you—contact me. I would be pleased to help you narrow down the specific solutions that will work to bring you back to comfortable, happy living—even during allergy season!