What to Eat to Treat Allergies
Allergies affect the nervous, glandular, digestive/detoxification, and respiratory immune centers.
If you’re sneezing and wheezing, put down the tissues and pick up your soup spoon or salad fork. A Caesar salad or cream of mushroom soup is nothing to sneeze at if you’re trying to kick-start your immune response, manage your pollen and food-elevated histamine levels, or soothe irritated membranes, nerves, or mood. Other soup and salad ingredients on the immunity A-list: decongesting ginger, peppers, onions, and fresh herbs and spices.
Food allergy, which may be the leading cause of all undiagnosed symptoms, was first noted by Hippocrates, who linked milk with gastric upset. Of course, it’s possible to be allergic to almost anything we breathe, eat, drink, or touch (sight and hearing are exempt senses). Allergies to pollen, pork, peanuts, or perfume can affect any part of the body, producing mildly irritating symptoms such as sneezing or more severe autoimmune disorders such as arthritis or celiac disease. Thirty-seven million Americans also have sinusitis, and untreated, it can lead to asthma. (Some naturopathic doctors believe that all inhalation allergies actually arise from food allergies.)
The culprits are countless—your genetic inheritance (there’s a 67 percent chance you’ll be allergic if both of your parents were) and, some believe, environmental toxins, for example. Others theorize that allergies are the result of accumulated toxins, including heavy metals, in the body.
Overconsumption of a limited number of foods and ingredients (especially the top six offender foods: corn, soy, milk, citrus, eggs, and wheat) are also problematic. If you have a wheat sensitivity, an allergy to wheat, or full-blown celiac disease (gluten intolerance), you may experience anything from headaches and sinus congestion to bloating, itching, and depression with every slice of toast or soup-borne crouton.
Allergens enter the body through the mucous membranes of the nose and are absorbed by the intestinal tract through the skin. The integrity of your immune system is key. A malfunctioning immune system and unchecked stress can trigger allergies. Allergies (including asthma) can even develop as a side effect of Candidiasis (yeast infection), which can itself develop in response to a lengthy regimen of steroids or antibiotics.
Antibiotics can also increase your body’s sensitivity to common allergens, so use them conservatively and only when absolutely necessary. Various combinations of the above factors—stress plus asthma, for example, or yeast infection and food allergy, or asthma plus an antibiotics regimen—make any allergic profile all the more confounding.
What to Eat
Don’t short yourself on the essentials. Allergies can appear early or late in life as a result of nutritional deficiencies, especially a shortage of essential fatty acids (such as the omega-3s found in flax, hemp, and sea vegetables), which weakens the immune system. What you see or feel isn’t necessarily what you’ve got. An allergy to apples, for example, may really be a reaction to the pesticide residues on the apple or to the processing involved in turning apples into applesauce, rather than a reaction to the apple itself. Test it out when in doubt. Or better yet, stick to organic produce to protect yourself.
Nutritional self-defense can begin with any omega-3-rich food. In German studies, people who consumed the most omega-3-rich foods had the lowest rates of hay fever. Keep nonanimal source foods such as flaxseed, walnuts, hempseed oil, soy foods, and sea greens in the kitchen, and have two or more daily. If you eat fish, wild salmon is another good source.
Soups, salads, juices supplying fresh fruits (including citrus, if tolerated), fresh vegetables (especially carrots, celery, beets, and cucumber), as well as seeds and nuts and low-fat proteins stimulate antibody production. Carrots, celery, dill, parsley, and fennel, all members of the carrot family, are low- to no-allergen foods. Note that ragweed sufferers may be sensitive to bananas, cucumbers, melons, zucchini, sunflower seeds, and chamomile tea (cooking sometimes reduces the effect of the offending allergen). Garlic, ginger, cayenne, and onions stimulate production of IGA, an antibody in the gastrointestinal tract that can prevent absorption of allergens.
Natural Antihistamines. Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine. Vitamin C source foods are EMS for both environmental as well as food allergies. h~is means eating citrus, broccoli, kiwi, cabbage, sea vegetables, and also foods rich in beta-carotene and vitamin A to strengthen mucous membranes. Drink ginger broth or ginger tea (it also settles the stomach) and up your intake of pungent foods to clear nasal passages. Foods that contain the bioflavonoid quercetin—apples, onions (sweet ones like Vidalia onions can be eaten raw like apples), and bananas—can diminish the inflammation that causes sinus pain and congestion. Nutritional yeast, mushrooms, oats, and barley all contain small amounts of beta-glucan, a polysaccharide that can activate a powerful immune response. For a higher dose, add a beta-glucan supplement.
Bioflavonoids found in rosehip and green teas, red wine, and most fruits prevent the release of histamine, while zinc (found in whole grains, pumpkin seeds, and legumes) boosts immunity. Adding herbs, which produce fewer or no allergic reactions, can boost that healing power. Rosemary helps with sinusitis and asthma, especially coupled with other culinary herbs like basil or marjoram.