Making a few changes in your daily menu may boost your immunity and help reduce your symptoms during allergy season. Add lots of foods with antioxidants to your grocery list and skip those that are known to launch a combined pollen-food attack.
Grocery list 101
•Fruits and vegetables (especially dark, leafy ones) are rich in antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, which support the body’s ability to resist and heal from infection.
•Fish, nuts and seeds provide valuable nutrients, including zinc, which play an important role in the immune system. They also are good sources of essential fatty acids which may reduce inflammation and production of phlegm.
•Whole grains provide more vitamins, minerals, nutrients, fiber and antioxidants than refined grains. Individuals who ate more whole grains and passed on processed and fatty foods produced less phlegm, according to studies.
•Dairy products thicken phlegm which irritates your throat. The exception might be yogurt because it provides healthy bacteria that can strengthen the immune system.
•Skip the sweets. Sugar reduces the effectiveness of your immune response.
•Junk food puts stress on your immune system. A study found that those who ate a lot of sugar, refined carbs and foods high in sodium (A.K.A. junk food) had more phlegm.
Foods that conspire with pollens
Some fresh fruits and veggies are known to conspire with pollens and make your allergy symptoms worse. It’s called Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), an itching, tingling, burning or swelling of the lips, tongue, throat or mouth which results from a cross reaction between the protein in certain raw foods and plant pollens
Basically, OAS works like this. You eat something like a bowl of strawberries or a ripe tomato, just plucked from your garden. Your immune system recognizes a similarity between pollens in the air and what you’ve just eaten and produces an allergic reaction, kind of a combined pollen-food attack.
In most cases, reactions are mild and occur within minutes of eating the offending food, and last a few seconds or minutes. Other symptoms may include watery and itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing. Approximately nine percent of individuals have more severe symptoms, including gastrointestinal problems (nausea, diarrhea) or skin allergies (contact dermatitis, hives, itching). About two percent may experience anaphylaxis, a life-threatening response.
Cross reactions are more likely with the following food and plant combinations:
•Grasses: tomatoes, potatoes, peaches, melon, oranges, celery.
•Ragweed: melons, bananas, cucumbers, zucchini, dandelion, chamomile tea.
•Birch: potatoes, carrots, celery, parsnips, peppers, cherries, apple, pears, plums, peaches, kiwi, apricots, fennel, parsley, coriander, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts.
•Alder: celery, pears, apples, cherries, peaches, parsley, almonds, hazelnuts.
•Mugwort (a weed): celery, carrots, various spices, apples, kiwis, fennel, peanuts, sunflower.
•Any of the above may react with: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, other berries, citrus, grapes, mango, figs, peanuts, pineapple, pomegranate, watermelon.
The treatment is simple. Eat your fruits and veggies cooked instead of fresh or leave them off your menu while specific plants/trees are pollinating.