By Elizabeth McMillan, CNS, LDN
Fall can be a miserable time for those who suffer from allergies. As nighttime temperatures begin to decline, ragweed begins to release its pollen. Ragweed is among the most common of allergy irritants. Fall allergy sufferers may also experience allergies due to mold and dust mites. When the body encounters an allergen, the immune system releases histamine to counteract the allergen. This can lead to a plethora of symptoms, including watery, swollen or red eyes (conjunctivitis), sneezing, rash, headache, runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes, coughing, fatigue, congestion and dark circles under the eyes.
Nasal congestion occurs when the blood vessels in the nasal tissues become inflamed. This often results in excess mucus production. Besides environmental allergens, there are several foods that can increase inflammation and cause further nasal congestion when you are suffering from allergies. For instance, dairy products contain a mucus-forming agent called casein. Casein is glue-like and can increase nasal congestion and mucus production. Refined white sugars can also cause inflammation in the body, leading to an increase in mucus production. Red meats are known to cause excess mucus production which can cause nasal congestion, while high intakes of salt can lead to edema in the body, including the nasal passages. Finally, peanuts are known to cause a lot of excess mucus because of the mold that naturally grows on them. It is best to avoid these foods.
The good news is that there are also some foods that can decrease nasal congestion. Antioxidant-rich foods such as celery, lettuce, turnips, kohlrabi, asparagus, radishes, papayas and turnips not only help to improve the immune system, but also help decrease mucus production.
Omega-3 fatty acids offer anti-inflammatory properties which can help relieve many allergy symptoms. Great sources of omega-3 fatty acids include pumpkin, fatty fish and bean of the varieties Auki, kidney and pintos. Wild blue-green algae such as spirulina also helps, which is high in protein and minerals. These algae help to improve immunity in allergy sufferers and can be added to smoothies or on top of salads and oatmeal.
Another natural remedy is white pepper because it contains capsaicin that helps to thin mucus and decrease nasal congestion in allergy sufferers. Apple cider vinegar is loaded with antioxidants and helps remove toxins from the body. Local honey can help one become less sensitive to the pollens found in your area. This is especially beneficial to those who suffer from fall allergies to ragweed and other types of pollen that naturally occurs in the fall.
Lastly, essential oils such as lemon, peppermint and lavender help unclog sinuses and drain the lymphatic system. These essential oils also provide naturally occurring antihistamines to lower the symptoms of fall allergies.
There are also few natural remedies including vitamins, enzymes, herbs and bioflavonoids that help improve allergy symptoms. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and antihistamine that provides immune enhancing nutrients an allergy sufferer needs. Taking a daily dose of vitamin C can help decrease inflammation and nasal drainage.
A bioflavonoid called quercetin is also very beneficial for allergy suffers. Taking quercetin in conjunction with vitamin C can further enhance the effectiveness of vitamin C. Quercetin helps to stabilize the membranes of mast cells and prevents the release of histamine. Bromelain is a bioflavonoid found in pineapple and contains natural enzymes that can help reduce nasal swelling and thin mucus. It also enhances the body’s ability to absorb quercetin. The amino acid N-Acetyl L-Cysteine helps to reduce the viscosity of mucus in an allergy sufferer. Finally, the herb stinging nettle works as an effective antihistamine and helps lower inflammation caused by allergic rhinitis. Collectively these natural substances can be combined to help build your body’s natural defense system, decrease swelling and inflammation in the nasal passages and provide support to allergy sufferers.
During the fall, a plethora of allergy causing pollens, dust mites and molds are present. Learning how to minimize your exposure to these allergens and how to eat to decrease nasal congestion can help fall become more bearable.
Elizabeth McMillan, CNS, LDN, is a clinical nutritionist at the Rose Wellness Center, in Oakton, Virginia. Visit them online at RoseWellness.com for more information.