For millions of Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies to pollen and mold, climate change is bringing an earlier, longer, and overall worse allergy season. According to Climate Central, plants are leafing and blooming earlier, and the growing season is lasting longer across the U.S. But experts say that what you eat — and don’t eat — can help mitigate the miserable symptoms that accompany seasonal allergies.
The New York Post says that a study published in Nature Communications found that pollen allergy season could start up to 40 days earlier and last 19 days longer by the year 2100, with the annual pollen count jumping anywhere from 40% to 200% above baseline.
Bryce Wylde, a leading health expert in functional medicine, says that pollen, dust and dander are just some of the things that trigger immune cells, called mast cells, to release the chemical histamine.
“Histamine’s job is to get rid of bothersome allergens,” Wylde says. “But in doing so, histamines often cause their own havoc because they are associated with common allergy symptoms. That’s why many people reach for antihistamines this time of year.”
Wylde says that taming the sneezing, runny nose, scratchy throat, or itchy water eyes that plague so many people during allergy season often requires a combination of strategies. Some homeopathic preparations like Similasan Allergy Eye Relief are safe to use without any rebound effect and can help activate your body’s own defense mechanisms to address the underlying problem.
“Changing your diet can be a big help,” says the best-selling author, who adds certain foods can calm your symptoms. Here are some tips:
• Eat like our ancestors did. Allergies are a modern-day phenomenon. “Dial back your intake of sugar and processed foods in favor of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy nuts and seeds, organic grass-fed beef, and organic chicken,” says Wylde. Foods high in plant sterols, flavanols, and other plant-based compounds can be an allergy sufferer’s best allies. There is some research that the quercetin in foods like apples and onions help stabilize mast cells before they start releasing histamines.
• Avoid foods that contain high levels of histamines. “Some people are surprised to learn that many otherwise healthy foods may aggravate seasonal allergies,” notes Wylde. Avoid fermented and pickled foods, aged cheese, eggplant, avocado, tomatoes, olives, beans, citrus and dried fruits, processed meats and alcohol.
• Beware of foods that may cause cross reactivity. Some foods contain proteins like the ones found in pollen and eating them could make your symptoms worse. If you are allergic to tree pollen, you may have a cross reactivity to apples, plums, carrots, celery, and potatoes along with other foods and spices. If your allergy stems from grass pollen, avoid melons, oranges, tomatoes, and peanuts. Those who suffer from ragweed allergy in the fall can get itchy mouths and an upset gastrointestinal tract from eating bananas, melons, zucchini, and cucumbers.
“Although the list of foods to avoid looks extensive, you still can eat these otherwise healthy foods by stewing the vegetables or preparing the fruit in a warm compote, which helps break down the proteins, so they are less likely to trigger an allergic response,” says Wylde.
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