It’s that time of year again. The flowers are blooming, the lawn mowers are humming and for many, that means it’s time to reach for the Benedryl to deal with the itchy or watery eyes, a runny nose, or cough and headaches.
However, did you know that what you eat can play a big role in how your body reacts to outdoor allergens as well?
“When it comes to allergies, successfully treating them tends to go much deeper than simply avoiding allergen triggers. With each allergy patient, I first review the connection between your gut health and overall inflammation levels,” explains Dr. Kelsie Lazzell, a functional medicine practitioner at the Center for Holistic Medicine.
Dr. Lazzell explains it like this: Your immune system is designed to fight against anything that is harmful to it. When it only has a few things to attack at once — say the chemicals in the processed food you ate yesterday, the chemicals in your cleaning supplies — it can do so without causing you to experience any symptoms. But when your body has even more things it has to fight off, like the above-mentioned things plus increased ragweed and pollen, then it starts to go into overdrive and you start to experience symptoms such as a runny nose, watery eyes, headache, and more.
How Your Diet Impacts Your Allergies
Dr. Jerry Gore, clinical director at the Center for Holistic Medicine, says one thing that contributes to this overreaction of your immune system during allergy season is food intolerances. Unlike an allergy to peanuts or shellfish, which you notice right away, food intolerances are foods that your body may have a subtler, more delayed response to a few hours or even days after you eat them.
So if your body is mounting an immune response to these foods, as well as fighting off pollens and other environmental allergens, your immune system will go into overdrive, causing your allergy symptoms to be worse.
Some of the most common types of food intolerances are to dairy, gluten, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods, which is why Dr. Gore usually recommends that people who suffer from seasonal allergies avoid eating wheat and dairy during allergy season.
Dr. Lazzell says if you are allergic to ragweed, you may have slight intolerances or sensitivities to foods of the same family, such as melons, bananas, zucchini, cucumbers and sunflower seeds. “Occasional exposure to these foods might not result in the overt allergy symptoms, but eventually exposure to those foods can cause issues. So addressing the diet is essential,” she says.
To help support your immune system during allergy season, Dr. Gore recommends eating foods high in antioxidants, such as yellow, orange, red and green vegetables. And Dr. Lazzell recommends eating foods that can help prevent your immune system from becoming over-activated, such as organic mushrooms, like shiitake; foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon and sardines; and foods high in vitamin C, like bell peppers, kiwi, and citrus.
How Your Liver Health Impacts Your Allergies
Another important factor when addressing allergies is liver health. “The liver helps us detox harmful chemicals and toxins,” Dr. Lazzell explains. “When our liver is not functioning properly due to lack of elimination (i.e. constipation), or it’s overwhelmed due to high demand from consistent alcohol use, medications, or poor diet choices, our body recirculates these offensive toxins in our body, and our immune system has to fight them off, once again causing that overreaction of the immune system.”
How Your Adrenals Impact Your Allergies
Your adrenals are glands that naturally produce a steroid called cortisol, which is essential in helping your immune system function properly. Cortisol fights off inflammation in the body, and when your body is fighting off too many things at once, you end up having more of an allergic reaction to things in your environment. That’s why Dr. Gore says it’s important to support your adrenals during allergy season by reducing your stress and taking supplements such as B-complex, vitamin C, magnesium and Ashwaganda.
Supplements You Can Take to Help Reduce Allergy Symptoms
So now that you know how your diet, liver and adrenals all work together to help your immune system, here are some supplements that Dr. Gore and Dr. Lazzell recommend for supporting your body during allergy season. Remember, for individual dosage recommends, please consult your doctor.
- Natural D-Hist — This supplement from Orthomolecular Products is a targeted blend of flavonoids, antioxidants, proteolytic enzymes and botanicals designed to provide support for seasonal allergy symptoms. It promotes healthy nasal and sinus passages for individuals with elevated histamine and respiratory irritation.
- Quercetin — Quercetin is one of the most powerful natural antihistamines. It is found in many plants, such as onions, garlic, kale and green tea. You can get it by eating these foods or in a supplement form.
- Multivitamin with Vitamin C and Zinc — Dr. Gore says when you’re looking for a multivitamin, make sure to take one that includes vitamin C and zinc, both of which are essential in supporting your immune system.
- Cod Liver Oil — Cod liver oil is high in omega 3 fatty acids, which are helpful in reducing allergy symptoms because of their strong anti-inflammatory effect. Dr. Lazzell recommends taking a quality cod liver oil supplement, dosed to your body weight.
- C+ Biofizz — This supplement from Designs for Health is a powdered form of high-dose vitamin C and bioflavonoids that supports your ability to process and absorb vitamin C in the body. This can help reduce allergies because vitamin C plays a critical role in healthy immune system functioning.
- Nettle leaf — According to WebMd, stinging nettle leaf has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce the symptoms of hay fever, such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. Dr. Lazzell recommends drinking it in tea form three times a day or taking it in a dried form in capsules.
- Sabadilla — May help reduce constant sneezing
- Ambrosia — May help reducing itching eyes, a runny nose or an itchy soft palate in your mouth
For more information on natural ways to manage your seasonal allergies or for more individual advice, please make an appointment with one of our practitioners.