10 Best (and Worst) Foods to Eat to Relieve Seasonal Allergies
Eat This to Help Relieve Seasonal Allergies
Author: Millennia TEA’s Official Science Steeper - Allison Tannis, MSc RHN
You could ditch those annoying itchy eyes and runny nose by eating foods that relieve seasonal allergies and avoid those that make you feel worse, say scientists. It is impressive what researchers know about why pollen can make you so itchy, and the impressive abilities of certain foods to act as natural remedies for seasonal allergies. Oh, and some foods can make your allergies worse. Achoo! Oh, excuse me. (Looks like we could all use the helpful tips in this blog.) Here’s what to eat to help relieve seasonal allergies.
10 Best Foods to Eat to Help Relieve Seasonal Allergies
- Brazil nuts
- Green Tea Leaves
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
That runny nose, watery and itchy eyes that ails you during the spring, summer, and fall, is thanks to your body’s immune system reacting sensitively to a rather familiar substance, such as tree or grass pollen. After a few exposures, your body senses the pollen as an allergen, and a massive secretion of allergy-related messengers occurs in your cells. One such messenger is histamine.
Histamine is a perfectly normal thing! Your body’s mast cells produce histamine as part of your natural immune response – it’s part of the inflammation process, and causes our capillaries (small blood vessels) to dilate, helping key factors in your immune system to access a part of the body that needs help.
However, in some situations, there is too much histamine floating around your bloodstream. You feel it when your histamine balance is off. It might be itchy or red eyes, postnasal drip, or less commonly discussed symptoms of seasonal allergies, such as headache, sneezing, congestion of the nose, bronchoconstriction, or diarrhea. When your histamine levels get too high, many parts of your body can be affected.
Natural Remedies to Relieve Seasonal Allergies
This might surprise you, but certain foods contain histamine! Eating certain foods could be adding to your seasonal allergy symptoms by increasing the already high levels of histamine in your bloodstream. Luckily, there are also foods that can help make your seasonal allergy symptoms better, including apples, green tea leaves, parsley, and turmeric.
What to Eat to Relieve Seasonal Allergies
From apples to parsley, watercress to turmeric there are many foods to eat to relieve seasonal allergies.
Apple: An apple a day may keep that runny nose away, suggests results from a randomized, double-blind study in which apple peel nutrients were effective at alleviating persistent allergic rhinitis. The nutrient that’s helpful is quercetin, which is also found in onions, broccoli, berries, dill, and green tea leaves.
Parsley: Don’t leave that green garnish on your plate - parsley might be one of the best things to eat to relieve seasonal allergies. Parsley prevents histamine from being released from mast cells in your body. Less histamine being released by your mast cells means your closer to that point of histamine balance where your allergy symptoms lessen, or better yet, get better. Sprinkle parsley on your roasted vegetables, or make a sauce with it, like chimichurri or, pesto. Parsley works for breakfast: it is delicious in a frittata, or a smoothie with green apple, green tea, and pear.
Watercress: Watercress may not be the most commonly consumed leafy green, but when it’s fresh in the spring, it’s worth adding to your menu, according to researchers: in a study, watercress inhibited 60% of all histamines released from mast cells.
Turmeric: contains curcumin, a well-known anti-inflammatory, which is able to help reduce mast cell activation.
Brazil nuts: One of the richest plant-based sources of selenium, Brazil nuts are a good food to eat to help relieve seasonal allergies, according to laboratory studies that found selenium helps reduce the amount of histamine in mast cells.
Green tea leaves: Two natural compounds in green tea help relieve seasonal allergies, including EGCG and quercetin. Fresh tea leaves are potent sources of EGCG and quercetin. Delicious when added to smoothies, soups, or salad dressings.
What Can I Drink to Relieve Seasonal Allergies?
According to researchers, green tea leaves might be the best thing you could drink (or eat) to relieve seasonal allergies. A major compound in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), targets histamine-producing cells, greatly altering their behaviour to help you feel better. How does it do this? EGCG can prevent an enzyme that makes histamine, called histidine decarboxylase, according to researchers. (Science is so cool!)
Why is Green Tea Good for Seasonal Allergies?
Beyond the impressive anti-histamine effects of EGCG, green tea also contains quercetin which can also play a role in helping to relieve seasonal allergies. Quercetin is a flavonoid, a naturally occurring plant compound found in good amounts in tea leaves, apples, onions, and shallots, as well as in lesser amounts in broccoli, grapes, berries, and dill. (Of note, studies show green tea that isn’t fermented has a higher content of quercetin).
A Natural Anti-histamine: Quercetin in Green Tea
Best known for its antioxidant abilities, quercetin has some epic abilities to crush pesky free radicals that wreak havoc on the body. But, the reason you want more quercetin in your diet is it can help relieve seasonal allergies. Quercetin can inhibit histamine release, the chemical that’s telling your nose to drip. Perhaps what makes quercetin among the best nutrients for allergy sufferers to eat more of, is its additional anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating abilities. In geeky terms, quercetin helps to decrease cytokines (messengers that promote inflammation) and reduces the IgE antibody formation that happens in allergic reactions.
The Worst Thing to Drink for Seasonal Allergies
There’s an enzyme involved in breaking down histamine in the body, called diamine oxidase (DAO). Some drinks make it harder for that enzyme to do its job, such as alcohol, black tea, herba mate tea, red wine, and energy drinks. These are the worst things to put in your glass if you are struggling with seasonal allergies.
What Foods to Avoid if You Have Seasonal Allergies
Certain foods actually contain histamine. If you can avoid the following foods it may help relieve seasonal allergies by ensuring the foods you are eating aren’t adding to the already overwhelming bombardment of histamine your body is dealing with.
10 Worst Foods to Eat if You Have Seasonal Allergies
Got allergy symptoms? Here’s what you want to avoid eating, to help make you feel better:
- Smoked meats
- Mature cheeses
Plant-based foods with significant histamine include eggplant, spinach, and tomato, according to research. If you are looking for natural ways to relieve seasonal allergies then consider skipping out on these foods for a few days.
Chickpeas, vinegar, fish, papaya, strawberries, pineapple, nuts, chocolate, smoked meats, crustaceans, pork, mature cheeses, foods with preservatives, and peanuts are found on some lists of high-histamine foods. In addition, you may want to consider avoiding lemons or other citrus fruits – researchers note a possible link between people with seasonal allergies to some pollens, may also have some form of reaction to citrus fruits.
As for donuts, sugary foods, along with caffeine and alcohol, are inflammatory foods which means they put stress on your immune system that is already working on overdrive. Give your immune system a break and skip these pro-inflammatory foods while your seasonal allergies are bothering you.
Histamine and histamine intolerance. Am J Clin Nutr 2007 May; 85(5):1185-1196.
Targeting of histamine producing cells by EGCG: a green dart against inflammation? J Physiol Biochem 2010 Sep; 66(3): 265-70.
Quercetin and its anti-allergic immune response. Molecules 2016 May; 21(5): 623.
Determination of flavonol glycosides in green tea, oolong tea and black tea by UHPLC compared to HPLC. Food Chem 2015 Sep 15;183:30-5.
Curcumin inhibits protease-activated receptor-2 and -4-mediated mast cell activation. Clin Chim Acta. 2003;338(1-2):135-141.
Constituents in watercress: inhibitors of histamine release from RBL-2H3 cells induced by antigen stimulation. Biol Pharm Bull. 1999;22(12):1319-1326.
Biogenic amines in plant-origin foods: are they frequently underestimated in low-histamine diets? Foods 2018 Dec; 7(12): 205.
Citrus allergy from pollen to clinical symptoms. PLoS One 2013; 8(1): e53680.
Influence of selenium on mast cell mediator release. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2013;154(2):299-303.
Also in Blog
What you eat has a profound impact on your health and the planet. It’s well known that is it healthy to eat plants, but what does the research say about the health impacts of our plant-eating ways? Or, how our choices to eat more plants are impacting the environment? Explore the fascinating science behind the plants we eat, discover some unusual plants you can eat, and ways to eat more sustainably.