How to Combat Seasonal Allergies, According to Experts
Although the arrival of spring is an exciting time of rebirth and regrowth, the new season also brings seasonal allergies for many people. "Anybody can be affected by seasonal allergies from children to adults to elderly," says Lindsay Kluge, a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist. "Although we may be predisposed to seasonal allergies through genetics, it is heavily influenced by our environment," she says. Ahead, find out what foods and lifestyle changes can help boost your immune system and combat seasonal allergies.
Who Is Affected by Seasonal Allergies?
While genetics certainly play a role, Kluge says that people who move around frequently across many different places are more likely to be impacted by seasonal allergies. Allergies can vary based on the environment—including the cleanliness of the air and pollen levels—from city to city and may develop anytime in your life. "It is not uncommon, for example, for someone to move from one area of the world such as a developing country to a more industrialized country and develop allergies for the first time as an adult," says Dr. Jody Tversky, Clinical Director of the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Foods That Help Combat Seasonal Allergies
Daily prevention is the most important way to minimize allergies and boost your immune system because it's much harder to mitigate a problem once it has started. That means it's important to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle year-round, not just as allergy season approaches. Fortunately, Kluge says that there are many ingredients we can consume to prevent seasonal allergies. She recommends incorporating foods into your diet that encourage good circulation, such as ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper, and cayenne. These stimulating and warming ingredients will encourage better flow in your body. A cooling, cleansing tea will also help to open up pathways and minimize seasonal allergies.
Food and Drinks to Avoid
For a healthy and balanced diet, avoid inflammatory foods such as alcohol, processed sugar, artificial sweeteners, and refined carbs, especially during allergy season, says Kluge. "These are a big inflammation trigger and cannot easily be processed by your liver. Our liver is our biggest detoxifying organ internally, so the less strain we put on the liver, the more able it will be to serve us during allergy season," she says.
If you have seasonal allergies, you may also experience a reaction to certain fruits and vegetables. "There is a phenomenon known as pollen food allergy syndrome (PFAS) that occurs in some people who are very allergic to pollens such as trees, grasses, and weeds. These individuals can get a very itchy mouth and throat upon the consumption of foods such as apples, peaches, pears, cherries, carrot, celery, mango, pineapple," says Dr. Tversky. However, individuals with PFAS typically only have symptoms when the food item is fresh. Cooking the fruit or vegetable will likely eliminate the symptoms.
Other Lifestyle Changes to Make
Aside from tweaking your diet, what else can you do to minimize seasonal allergies? "As with most health conditions, starting with a good night's sleep, exercise, modest sun exposure, and a healthy diet is key to overall good health and well-being. There is also strong evidence that these important lifestyle measures help build and maintain a strong immune system," says Dr. Tversky. Wearing a face mask can also help minimize symptoms. Kluge recommends keeping an air purifier with a HEPA filter in your home, which can help circulate clean air, such as the Levoit Air Purifier ($99.99, amazon.com).
If possible, delegate lawn care or gardening to someone who is less prone to severe allergies. If you do spend time outdoors on days when pollen levels are high, take a shower once you return indoors and keep all windows shut.