Photo Credit: P. Burns/getty images
To get the scoop on whether certain foods may alleviate common seasonal allergy symptoms, I consulted Dr. Rashmi Gulati, medical director of Patients Medical in New York City.
Cheryl Sternman Rule: Can you share with us 3 to 5 everyday foods that help to ease the symptoms of hay fever and other common seasonal allergies?
Dr. Rashmi Gulati: Kale or Swiss chard (rainbow or red) – Leafy greens are great for cleansing and detoxifying your liver and your whole body! The chlorophyll in leafy greens has been found to accelerate the removal of waste in the body, eliminates bacteria in the colon, and eats up heavy metals.
Bananas – Contain magnesium. Researchers at Giessen University in Germany found that three bananas contain enough magnesium – 180 mg – to quell a hay fever attack. (Other foods rich in magnesium are kidney beans, soybeans, almonds, lima beans, brown rice, molasses and peas. Magnesium can also be taken in supplement form.)
Yogurt – Eat yogurt or any soured products three times a week. A study conducted at the University of California- Davis found that eating yogurt every day significantly reduced the incidence of hay fever attacks, especially those triggered by grass pollens. The friendly bacteria in the yogurt (if it is real yogurt) helps support the immune and digestive systems.
Pineapple or Papaya - Bromelain, which is found in pineapples, has been found to help suppress coughs and loosen mucus. Bromelain also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
Garlic - The allium family includes onions, garlic, chives, leeks, and shallots. Garlic, in particular, contains allicin, which is anti-bacterial, so it’s like nature’s antibiotic. It is also an anti-inflammatory with flavanoids and sulfur.
CSR: Do these remedies work for everyone?
RG: Not everything works for everyone. If the allergies’ root cause includes general inflammation, then most of the anti-inflammatory foods would be helpful. Even if the symptoms are not eliminated, it will help reduce inflammation.
CSR: Are there certain foods that tend to exacerbate seasonal allergies, and should be avoided?
RG: Things that are highly processed and refined are not helpful for those who are already experiencing a stuffy nose, watery eyes, sneezing or coughing. Anything with many ingredients on the label will most likely have chemicals, additives, preservatives, sweeteners or be highly processed. High carbohydrate, high fat foods will also exacerbate symptoms. Dairy, especially low quality dairy, can cause mucus in some people and also disrupt their digestion.
CSR: Can you debunk one myth or old wives' tale about food and allergies?
RG: Some people believe that you cannot develop an allergy as an adult. I see cases very frequently where an adult becomes sensitive to something that they weren’t sensitive to before. If they have changed physical locations (especially regionally) they may encounter pollens and molds that they had never experienced before. Pregnant women may develop sensitivities to things that they were not due to shifts in their hormones. Even those people whose immune systems are challenged may be affected by environmental and food allergies because their body is compromised. Conversely, if someone was bothered by seasonal allergies their whole life, then changed their eating habits, eliminating foods that create an inflammatory response in their system, they may find that seasonal allergies are no longer troublesome.