Combat Allergies the Real Food Way

This is a guest blog post by Beth Warren, MS, RD, CDN and was originally posted here.

It’s the sound heard around the country …”Aaaachooo”. Spring is in the air…and sadly, so are pollen, dust and other irritants.

There is one explanation for your teary eyes, pounding headaches and incessant sneezing: it’s allergy season. According to the CDC, 50 million Americans suffer from different types of allergic disorders.

Seasonal allergies, occurring in 40% of the population and mostly during the Fall and Spring, account for more than half of the outpatient allergy office visits.

How can we conquer the symptoms of environmental allergies so we can get outside and enjoy Spring? Well, before grabbing the nearest anti-histamine, consider these foods that may be as effective in decreasing your inflammation:

Beta-Glucan and Vitamin E

At this point, most of us have heard that whole grains are better for our health than refined grains. They have more fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Aside from these great nutrients, whole grains are also high in beta-glucan, a soluble dietary fiber composed of glucose polysaccharides. Beta-Glucan is shown to have a beneficial effect on your immune system by stimulating monocytes, macrophages and natural killer cells. As a result, they initiate an immune response to a wide range of pathogens, including the environmental allergens.

Low exposure of beta-glucans during childhood correlates with increased risk of allergic symptoms, whereas high exposure is associated with reduced risk. Supplementing with beta-glucan at a dose of 15 mg/day for eight weeks significantly reduced serum IgE titers, which releases the histamine that makes you itch, along with symptoms of rhinitis and rhinoconjunctivitis.

We cannot make beta-glucan in our bodies, so here are some quality food sources: mushrooms, seaweed, brewer’s yeast or enjoy a whole grain snack like KIND Healthy Grains Oat & Honey Clusters with Greek yogurt.

Vitamin E: Aside from beta-glucan, whole grains have vitamin E, which acts like an antioxidant in our bodies and may help repair cells damaged by allergies and other illnesses. It also helps decrease the level of IgE titers.

When shopping, be sure to check packages to ensure the first ingredient is “whole grain” versus enriched white or wheat flour or you’ll lose the benefits! Breads listed as “100% whole grain” or snacks like oatmeal are a good source of whole grains.

Seeds, leafy greens and nuts are other great sources of vitamin E. So grab some walnuts to go, or for even more convenience and great taste, a KIND Almond Walnut Macadamia bar.

Quercetin

Onions, garlic and apples are a great source of quercetin, which acts like an antihistamine. Quercetin is a potent, water-soluble flavonoid antioxidant also found in kale, watercress, green tea and black tea.

Flavonoids are naturally occurring polyphenolic compounds in many plants that have an anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory effect. They also trigger cellular pathways leading to the prevention of many conditions including cancers, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disease.

The quercetin inhibits histamine release from mast cells, keeping your allergic reactions at bay. It controls oxidative stress and decreases inflammation.  Quercetin has shown to be just as effective, if not more than, disodium cromoglycate (cromolyn), which is marketed as a mast stabilizer and frequently prescribed for asthma and allergies.

Vitamin C

Citrus has the powerful antioxidant Vitamin C, which aside from its normal health benefit, can help allergy sufferers because it counteracts histamine (the substance that contributes to your wheezing, sneezing and itching).

So mix some nuts and a tasty orange for a great, anti-inflammatory punch. Raw green and red veggies like tomatoes, bell peppers, leafy greens and brussel sprouts are also loaded with vitamin C. Make sure to eat them raw sometimes – otherwise, you’ll cook out the vitamin C benefits!

Omega-3’s

Nothing screams anti-inflammatory more than omega-3 fatty acids. They are your body’s way of decreasing inflammation everywhere. And because your environmental allergies are tied to high inflammation, that triggers your immune system to fight those pesky irritants, you can help minimize symptoms with foods like salmon, sardines, flaxseed, whole grains, nuts, seeds and leafy greens, all high in omega-3’s.

Be sure to eat-up because our bodies do not make omega-3 fats so we need to get them from our food (lucky us!).

Probiotics

Yogurt and kefir both have live cultures, called probiotics, which help improve gut health, the location of 70% of your immune system. Your body produces certain good bacteria, which can help keep the immune system strong and prevent your body from overreacting to allergens.

These natural ways to combat allergies help boost your immune system and lessen the severity of symptoms. Combining your foods, and rotating your meals and snacks, ensures the different components can work synergistically and may further enhance the anti-inflammatory benefits. So, keep your plate palette colorful with fresh whole grains, fruits and vegetables, get creative with on-the-go snack options like KIND bars and all-natural fruit leathers and start enjoying Spring!

Beth Warren, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and a certified dietitian-nutritionist with a masters of science degree in Nutrition. She runs a private practice in Brooklyn, NY where she works as a freelance writer, consultant of businesses and counsels adult and pediatric clients with various medical conditions and weight management.

 

 

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Lehne G, Haneberg B, Gaustad P, et al. Oral administration of a new soluble branched beta-1,3-D-glucan is well tolerated and can lead to increased salivary concentrations of immunoglobulin A in healthy volunteers. Clin Exp Immunol 2006;143:65-9.

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Get Fooducated

  • Shannon

    “Healthy Grains Oat and Honey Clusters with Greek Yogurt” is NOT a real food. I’m surprised.

    • Beth

      Happy to clarify I was referencing a type of granola with a separate side of real Greek yogurt! Sorry for the confusion!

  • Beth warren

    Happy to clarify I was referencing a type of granola with a separate side of real Greek yogurt! Sorry for the confusion!

  • Caty

    Do KIND bars sponsor this site now? Eat real food from scratch not processed food and you’ll be fine. A wide variety of fresh meats, fruit and veg and nuts and maybe some occasional aged cheese :)

    • Beth Warren

      Hi Caty,

      Thanks for your comment. No, I don’t take sponsorships. Ideally, we all eat fresh, daily. But I always give option to those who don’t have that ability everyday and need that packaged food to grab on the go. All the foods you mentioned have some sort of processing happening in today’s food industry regardless. I focus on avoiding HIGHLY processed foods. KIND is widely available and one I frequently recommend…larabar is another.

  • Connie

    Transparency please – would like to know if there are financial ties to products listed in blog. KIND bars also have chicory root (inulin), which causes GI distress in susceptible individuals.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      None. KIND and LARABar have short ingredient lists: mostly nuts and dried fruit.

      • Kory Seder

        LARABar is on my list to avoid. They apparently used to be a solid brand but have since sold out (new owners) and are now connected with Monsanto and likely contain GMO ingredients. I choose to avoid them.

        • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

          Actually, LARABar are GMO free. See this: http://www.larabar.com/gmo-labeling

          They are owned by General Mills, but run under a separate company called Small Planet Foods.

  • Michael Legge

    Possibly all accurate information, but who knows? When one makes a statement it would be reasonable to highlight the source of the information. Otherwise it is just an opinion and unverifiable, even (Heaven forbid) wrong. You are writing as a “Master of Science” is this asking too much? Evidence in science should rule! Just being grumpy.

  • Deb

    Disappointing this was lased with advertisement even though the author said she is not sponsoring the snack bar. I, too, have a MS in nutrition and I was disappointed to read this type of “nutrition” advise. I’m not saying the bar is bad, rather complaining that nutrition advise couldn’t be written unbiased. Bad writing in my opinion.

    • Kory Seder

      I was thinking the same thing. Everyone sells out. Great tips if you ignore everything else that doesn’t reference the brand she’s pushing.

  • Zia Bossenmeyer

    Such ‘Negative Nancy’s’ commenting below. I think it’s good advice, although I eat really healthy and a lot of what’s mentioned above and I still have really bad allergies. I am suffering today even, which is why I was interested in reading the article.

    Man…Kind bar makes a healthy snack and it’s perfect for on the go…I seriously doubt all you clowns are eating 100% raw, so get off your high horse and stop being so “ehhh don’t tell me about healthy things you can put in your purse, which are great when you’re on the go and need a snack. Ehhhh….woah is me, I think they’re advertising at me…Ehh i’m a little baby”.

  • Sharon Bird

    Would this help seasonal dermatitis too?

    • Beth

      Hi Sharon,

      The chemical properties mentioned all are anti-inflammatory agents and immune boosters that combat inflammation. In that case, it should help and because its real food sources isn’t likely to hurt :)

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  • Bell Cruz

    The title really should say “seasonal allergies” because there’s a great deal of difference between seasonal allergies and food allergies. Trying to combat food allergies with certain foods is just silly. And unlike the sniffles and sneezes of seasonal allergies, food allergies are often deadly.