It’s allergy season — these foods can help ward off a host of allergens

Eating fewer inflammatory foods has health benefits that include helping protect against allergies.

SHARE It’s allergy season — these foods can help ward off a host of allergens
Find relief from allergy symptoms in health-protecting foods such as bell peppers, citrus fruit and broccoli.

Find relief from allergy symptoms in health-protecting foods such as bell peppers, citrus fruit and broccoli.

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Warm weather and beautiful blooms means heightened allergies for a growing number of people.

Whatever the allergen — pollens, pet dander, dust — symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, congestion and itchy, watery eyes affect about one billion people worldwide. Finding relief isn’t easy, but small, simple changes to your eating habits might help ease symptoms.

Eating fewer inflammatory foods — processed foods often laden with sugar, refined grains and preservatives — and replacing them with anti-inflammatory whole, mostly plant-based foods has health benefits that include helping protect against allergies.

These foods contain the powerful plant compound quercetin, known for anti-allergic properties. This antioxidant-rich flavonoid might boost the immune system into action by inhibiting histamine release and acting as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Research supports its efficacy in reducing many causes of allergic symptoms, with no significant side effects.

Plant extract of quercetin is the main ingredient of many potential anti-allergic drugs and products. Onions are the most studied quercetin-containing food, but this compound also is in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cabbage, and apples, berries, citrus, grapes and wine.

Choosing foods high in vitamin C can help reduce the severity of allergic reactions. An antioxidant and an antihistamine, this vitamin supports the immune system and helps protect cells against damage from harmful free radicals. Research has shown vitamin C can decrease inflammation, swelling and other symptoms of allergic reaction. Studies show that vitamin C seems to be most effective against upper respiratory allergy symptoms caused by allergens like pollen, mold or pet dander.

Vitamin C-rich foods include oranges, grapefruit, lemons, bell peppers, strawberries, Brussels sprouts and potatoes.

Probiotics — a mixture of live bacteria and yeast that live in the body to help keep us healthy — also can have beneficial effects on allergy symptoms. Probiotics might help stimulate the immune system to improve the body’s defenses and reduce allergic inflammation.

According to a recent review of studies, probiotics can reduce the degree of suffering and duration of allergy symptoms without side effects that often accompany allergy medications.

Probiotics are in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, sourdough, miso, kefir, kombucha and kimchi.

A growing body of evidence supports the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids in helping with chronic inflammatory diseases, including reducing the severity of allergy symptoms.

Sources include cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and tuna, nuts and seeds like walnuts and flaxseed and oils made from them and some other oils, including canola oil, soybean oil and cod liver oil.

Environmental Nutrition is an independent newsletter written by experts on health and eating well.

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