Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nutrition for Allergies

Seasonal allergies can be extremely uncomfortable and disruptive to everyday life.

Picture of a woman's face lying on grass
Grass face

Runny nose, congestion, sneezing and itchy red eyes are common symptoms. And these symptoms are usually treated with over-the-counter or prescription drugs that can have undesirable side effects like drowsiness.

A diet that focuses on foods that are anti-inflammatory is useful in alleviating the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Histamine, produced during an allergic reaction, causes the symptoms of allergies by stimulating the inflammatory response of the immune system. By eating an anti-inflammatory diet, this response may be lessened and the severity of symptoms decreased.

The cornerstones of an anti-inflammatory diet are:

  • Minimize consumption of processed and refined foods. Instead eat more fresh whole foods, especially fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Minimize consumption of animal protein (beef, pork, chicken, dairy products), except fish.
  • Avoid trans fat and refined vegetable oils; instead, use expeller-pressed extra virgin olive oil or canola oil.

In addition, there are several specific nutrients that are known to be anti-inflammatory. Quercetin is a phytonutrient (plant-based chemical) that is found in onions, apples, citrus fruits and berries. Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes and red peppers, has an anti-histamine effect. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and are found in cold-water oily fish such as salmon, as well as in walnuts and flaxseeds.

Make small changes toward an anti-inflammatory diet by incorporating some of these foods, and you may soon begin to enjoy, rather than dread, the change in seasons.

- Carol White, MS, dietetic intern, and Debra A. Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University

 

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