When most of us begin sniffling, sneezing, itching and scratching, we reach for the trusty antihistamines. While popping pills provides some relief from the relentless irritation of hayfever and related allergic reactions, the drugs don’t always work, as The Verve and countless medical professionals and healthcare experts would agree. Sometimes you need some backup, and if said reinforcements involve feasting upon delicious foodstuffs then I for one am sold. Here’s the lowdown of the best foods to eat to soothe seasonal sniffles and swelling. Bon appétit.
The paramedic of the fruit world, pineapple is rich in bromelain, a powerful anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is a key factor where allergic reactions are concerned, as pharmacist and co-founder of Victoria Health Shabir Daya explains:
“Inflammation is a biological response by the body’s tissues to harmful stimuli. Inflammation is a protective attempt by your body to remove the detrimental stimuli and to encourage the healing process.”
According to Shabir, the bromelain contained in pineapple is “a protein-digesting enzyme that is used extensively for joint paint in supplement form”. Naturopath Louise Westra also recommends pineapple for its inflammation alleviating properties - she likes to juice it, but she emphasises that it’s essential to “include the core as this is where the majority of the bromelain is found”. Just don’t go mixing up a piña colada, as alcohol “can cause irritation of mucous membranes” according to Margo Marrone, pharmacist, homeopath and founder of The Organic Pharmacy.
I shan’t preach the old ‘apple a day’ mantra but for those susceptible to allergies there really might be something in it. Nutrition coach Karen Cummings-Palmer accounts for the curative powers of the humble pomme:
“Apples are rich in quercetin which protects against allergies by stabilizing the cell membranes of mast cells and basophils, preventing them from releasing the dreaded histamine that makes you sneeze, itch and scratch.”
Antioxidant quercetin is also found in…
Margo Marrone also recommends adding onions to your diet as “they contain MSM, a natural detoxifying sulphur that is excellent for the joints”. Anything that eases joint pain is likely to lower inflammation, which can only be a good thing for allergy sufferers.
Shabir sings berries’ praises on behalf of allergy sufferers:
“All berries are high in antioxidants and some of them, such as goji berries and blueberries, have potent anti-inflammatory properties.” Berries are also rich in vitamin C, a natural anti-histamine.
Again, packed with vitamin C. Karen has a lot of time for these orange powerhouses:
“Sweet potatoes pack a heavy nutritional punch, also rich in skin enhancing vitamin A and extremely well tolerated by almost everyone.”
Popeye was onto something, as is Shabir. “Greens, notably spinach, broccoli and cauliflower, alkalise the body and help to remove inflammatory compounds.”
Nuts and seeds
Make like squirrel nutkin and boost your levels of essential fatty acids to ease inflammation.
Ginger, turmeric and horseradish
These guys all help to clear your airways and reduce congestion, as well as being natural anti-histamines. Nutritionist Eve Kalinik advocates drinking fresh ginger and raw honey tea to bolster your immune system and help you to breathe easy, not to mention stay hydrated.
Get down to the beach and tuck into your sea greens . Shabir applauds them as they “contain fucoidans, a group of anti-inflammatory compounds that are also anti-ageing”. Bonus.
It really is as cool as it claims. Louise prescribes it for it’s cooling qualities, as “allergies and hayfever are usually associated with heat and irritation”.
Now that you have your allergy attacking shopping list, it’s time to consider taking a few common allergy aggravators out of your trolley:
Dairy and wheat
Dairy can be mucus-forming according to Margo, and along with wheat it can often cause inflammation in the body. Karen concurs:
“Dairy and wheat can be major aggravators and whilst few of us have real allergies, many of us develop intolerances . Try pure almond milk or rye flour and don't eat the same thing for breakfast everyday. Sometimes too much of a good thing just get's too much, so mix it up for a healthier and more interesting start to the day”
The sweet stuff is getting a bashing of late , and for good reason according to many nutritionists and healthcare organisations. Karen advises that allergy sufferers should be especially on the alert:
“We all know that refined sugar should not be eaten in excess but as a major cause of inflammation it should be avoided by anyone with allergies. If you crave chocolate make sure it’s dark and enjoy a couple of great quality pieces rather than a bar of processed, sugary confectionary. If biscuits are your thing try whipping up some homemade cookies and sweeten with natural agave nectar”
Because you’re probably in enough pain already.
Step away from the coffee machine. As well as making you jittery, Margo warns that too much caffeine can “interfere with absorption of nutrients”.
It could further irritate your schnoz, as emphasised above, and according to the NHS “alcohol contains histamine, the chemical that sets off allergy symptoms in your body. As well as making you more sensitive to pollen, alcohol also dehydrates you, making your symptoms seem worse”. Go easy on the G&Ts, my fellow allergy-prone friends.
The odd latte, glass of wine or ice cream is unlikely to trigger a sneezing fit, but cutting back could save you a lot of money on Kleenex.