Best Foods for Natural Hay Fever Relief: From Garlic to Turmeric
This section of HealWithFood.org's Guide to Combating Allergic Rhinitis provides an extensive list of good foods for people who suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or perennial allergic rhinitis. You may already be familiar with some of these natural remedies for hay fever (such as the superfoods garlic and turmeric), while other foods included in this list of the best foods for allergic rhinitis relief may not be part of your regular diet.
A study conducted by Japanese researchers found apple polyphenols to be highly effective at reducing symptoms associated with persistent allergic rhinitis. The scientists divided the 15 to 65 year old patients, all of which suffered from moderate or severe persistent allergic rhinitis, into three groups: those who received no apple polyphenols (control group), those who were administered a low dose of apple polyphenols, and those who were treated with a high dose of apple polyphenols. The study participants in both apple polyphenol groups experienced improvements in nasal discharge and sneezing attacks. The researchers also found reduced nasal swelling in the apple polyphenol groups.
Quercetin is one of the key polyphenols present in apples; in fact, apples are one of the best food sources of quercetin. Quercetin has been shown to effectively protect against allergic reactions, including those associated with allergic rhinitis. Quercetin works its protective magic by stabilizing the cell membranes of mast cells and basophils, thereby preventing them from releasing histamine.
Note: Some people with hay fever cross-react with certain foods. The most common symptoms are swelling, itching, and tingling in the mouth. Hay fever patients at the highest risk of developing an oral allergy to apples include those who are sensitive to mugwort, timothy, or birch pollen. Cooking apples helps reduce the likelihood of an allergic reaction.
If you looking for a food that can help fight a stuffy nose associated with allergic rhinitis, try horseradish. When horseradish root is cut or grated, enzymes start breaking down sinigrin, a chemical compound naturally present in horseradish. Sinigrin is broken down into allyl isothiocyanate, a pungent compound that facilitates drainage of the nasal mucous membranes and sinuses. Note that if you don't mix cut or grated horseradish root with vinegar or eat it immediately, it will darken and lose its pungency.
Rosehips, the fruits of the rose plant, are loaded with powerful nutrients. They are one of the best natural sources of proanthocyanidins, phytochemicals that inhibit enzymes that produce histamine and can thus help bring relief from the distressing symptoms of hay fever. In addition, rosehips are packed with vitamin C. They are also a relatively good source of vitamin E. Rosehips, which have a tangy taste similar to cranberries, can be eaten fresh or used in jams and pies. In some countries, like Sweden, they are also used in soups and stews. Note: before consuming rosehips, the outer fleshy part of each orb must be removed because of the fine hairs they contain.
#4: Sunflower Seeds
If you read at the nutrition facts label on a bag of sunflower seeds, you'll find out that these nutty tasting seeds are very high in calories and fat. But that should not be a reason to shy away from them! Although it is true that sunflower seeds are rich in calories and fat, consuming these little seeds in moderation can offer great health benefits, especially for people with hay fever. Not only are sunflower seeds among the seeds and nuts that are least likely to cause allergic reactions, they are also packed with nutrients that help prevent allergic reactions caused by other substances. Sunflower seeds are loaded with vitamin E, but they are also a good source of selenium, with one cup providing more than a third of the recommended daily intake for this important allergic rhinitis fighting mineral.
Rosemary provides a concentrated source of rosmarinic acid, a natural polyphenol that has been shown to suppress allergic reactions. Rosmarinic acid works it magic by suppressing allergic immunoglobulin responses and inflammation caused by white blood cells. Rosemary can be used to flavor roast meats, fish, and sauces, but also some fruits such as oranges.
#6: Dandelion Greens
If you can develop a liking for their bitter taste, these unsung nutritional stars will reward you with a truckload of nutrients that help combat allergic rhinitis. Dandelion leaves are a very good source of vitamin C and a fairly good source of vitamin E. Fresh dandelion greens can be used in salads or they can be used as a basis for herbal infusions. If you cannot get used to their strong flavor, dandelion supplements are also available in many health stores.
Turmeric, a root plant in the ginger family, has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries. It is known to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, and it may be effective at preventing and alleviating allergic reactions in some people. Turmeric is a key ingredient in Indian style curries, but it can also be used to flavor many seafood, rice, meat, vegetable, and pasta dishes.
Related Reading: 10 Health Benefits of the Turmeric Root.
Garlic has shown it to be effective at preventing and treating a wide range of ailments and diseases, including cardiovascular problems, cancer, and high blood pressure. But eating garlic on a daily basis may also help treat allergic rhinitis. The beneficial effects of garlic on allergic rhinitis are partially due to garlic's ability to inhibit the activity of certain enzymes that generate inflammatory prostaglandins and thromboxanes. Additionally, garlic — especially fresh garlic — contains a fair amount of vitamin C. It is also a good source of selenium, with one cup of raw garlic providing almost 30% of the recommended daily intake for an average adult.
#9: Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are one of the oldest vegetables known to man. They are also one of the most nutritious vegetables and a great addition to your diet if you suffer from allergic rhinitis as they are one of the foods that are least likely to cause allergic reactions (that is also why they are often recommended as a safe first food for babies). What's more, sweet potatoes boast vitamin C as well as unique root proteins which appear to have significant antioxidant properties.
Provided that you're not allergic to the Linaceae or Linum plant families, flaxseeds can offer you great health benefits. Linum usitatissimum, which means 'most useful', is the botanical name for flaxseeds and an apt description of the power of these little nutrient powerhouses. Flaxseeds have been used to treat and prevent many common ailments and diseases, including cancer, constipation, heart disease, and joint pain. They may also help prevent and alleviate symptoms associated with hay fever and perennial allergic rhinitis due to their high concentration of selenium. One cup of flaxseeds provides more than 60% of the recommended daily intake for this important anti-rhinitis mineral. Furthermore, ground flaxseeds, as well as flaxseed oil, are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. A high intake of omega-3s has been associated with a decreased risk of allergic rhinitis.
Provided that you are not allergic to fish, anchovies are an excellent food to add to your diet. They are very high in selenium, with a mere ounce of anchovies containing about 28% of the recommended daily intake for selenium. What's more, anchovies are an excellent source of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to reduce allergic reactions in susceptible people. In addition, anchovies contain only low levels of mercury compared to many other fish.
Research suggests that mushrooms may help alleviate allergic reactions such as symptoms associated with hay fever. The beneficial effects of mushrooms may be linked to their high selenium content. One cup of crimini mushrooms, for example, provides almost a third of the recommended daily intake for selenium. The anti-allergy effects of selenium are based on its role in the antioxidant system of the body.
#13: Mustard Greens
Chock-full of antioxidants and nutrients, mustard greens with their pleasant, peppery flavor can make an excellent addition to your diet if you suffer from hay fever or perennial allergic rhinitis. In addition to being one of the best sources of beta-carotene, they provide a good amount of vitamin C and vitamin E. The nutrients in mustard greens can scavenge free radicals, fight inflammation, and help break down histamine. Fresh mustard greens are available in the produce section of your local supermarket throughout the year.