Fight allergies with food

It’s coming into that season again, when spring’s fresh airborne pollen causes sniffly noses and watering eyes.

But before you head to the pharmacy for a quick-fix, consider preventative action using nature’s super foods to fight allergies before they start. And when all else fails, nature also provides some natural remedies that are gentle on wee immune systems.

How can foods fight allergies?
When allergens—pollen, grasses, dust mites or moulds—find their way into your nose, your body goes into attack mode if it’s hypersensitive, or allergic. Immune cells release histamines, the chemicals responsible for most of your allergy symptoms. These kick-start inflammation that’s intended to keep the allergens from travelling into the body.

The inflammation makes sinuses and nasal passages swell and eyes itch. Histamines also stimulate the nasal passages to release fluids, resulting in a runny nose and itchy throat, and cause sneezing; another attempt to send the allergens packing. Many of the foods that may help fight allergies work by reducing inflammation or calming the immune system. Here are a few to try:

1)    Salmon and other fatty fish
Make fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel your first line of dietary defence against allergies. They contain generous amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which help minimise inflammation, a direct cause of most allergy symptoms. Several studies suggest that kids who start eating fish early in life may even be less likely to have allergies later.

Aim for one or two servings of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel per week.

2)    Garlic
Yes – garlic is a bit smelly. But in the case of hay fever, it supports the immune system with its rich store of antioxidants. Researchers have identified a link between a higher intake of certain antioxidants and a lower incidence of hay fever.

3)    Onion
Much like garlic, we sometimes steer away from onions because of their potency. But this humble bulb packs a hefty dose of quercetin, an antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation and may help prevent the release of histamine. Other good sources of quercetin are apples with skin, berries, red grapes and black tea.

4)    Yogurt with live cultures
The live beneficial bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented products like kefir help stimulate the body to produce certain white blood cells and antibodies as well as various growth factors that are important for keeping the body from overreacting to allergens.

An Italian study found that when volunteers who regularly had bouts of hay fever ate two cups (500 ml) of yogurt daily for four months, they had half the histamine levels in their blood and fewer hay fever symptoms than those who drank the same amount of skim milk daily.

5)    Almonds, wheat germ, leafy greens
In one German study of 1700 adults with and without hay fever, those who ate foods rich in vitamin E (the equivalent of 10 to 13 ml per day) had a 30 percent lower incidence of hay fever than those who ate diets low in the vitamin.

Good sources of vitamin E include leafy greens, whole grains, nuts and avocados.

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