Summer is here at last. The sun is out, the flowers are in bloom, the fields are full of crops – and the air is rife with pollen and other allergens. If you are among the 16 million people in the UK who suffer from seasonal allergies, you’ll know that there’s a downside to the beautiful weather.
When we talk about food and allergies, we tend to think of specific foods such as peanuts that trigger an allergic reaction. However, there are some foods that can counter the effects of seasonal allergies by, for example, reducing inflammation or boosting the immune system. So before you reach for the over-the-counter medication, why not give them a try?
Many of us were told when growing up that plenty of Vitamin C helps fight off the common cold. The truth is a little more complex, but researchers have found that foods high in Vitamin C decrease irritation of the upper respiratory tract. In other words, they can ease that tickly throat and runny nose. Traditional citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits are great sources of Vitamin C, as are berries and sweet peppers.
This might come as a surprise, but tomatoes are also rich in Vitamin C. They are particularly worth considering as a weapon against seasonal allergies, as they also contain lycopene. This is an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation. It is easiest to absorb when the tomatoes are cooked.
Fighting fire with fire? It might sound strange, but studies have shown that consuming bee pollen can boost your body’s resistance and reduce allergic reactions. However, it has to be the same pollen as the one that’s troubling you, so look out for it on sale at local farm shops and the like. It is typically sold in pellet form, and makes a great addition to yoghurt or can be sprinkled over salad.
Omega 3 fatty acids bring a host of wellness benefits, and that’s why you tend to encounter salmon on almost any list of healthy foods! Several studies have been undertaken over the past 20 years, and they point to fatty acids reducing the severity of hay fever symptoms, by both reducing sensitivity and decreasing the narrowing of airways.
If preparing onions is enough to reduce you to tears, you might be dubious about them helping ease your allergy symptoms. However, they are a fabulous source of quercetin, which is a flavonoid you might have seen marketed in supplement form as a natural antihistamine. Eat them raw for the best effect and note that red onions have a higher concentration of quercetin than white.
Here’s another of those traditional remedies that has been passed down through the generations and has now been found to have clinically provable therapeutic benefits. Ginger is another great source of antioxidants and it contains specific compounds that can suppress the body’s production of inflammatory proteins. Fresh or dried, the effect is the same, so you could try anything from a Chinese-style stir fry to experimenting with your own ginger flapjack recipe – do let us know how you get on!