Allergies and the Foods You Eat
Minimize your asthma and allergy symptoms by learning which foods to choose, and which to avoid. You may be surprised by the choices.
Try a Cup of Tea
“Tea, especially green tea, with or without caffeine, is very good for people with allergies,” says Murray Grossan, MD, an ear, nose, and throat doctor in Los Angeles. Tea contains natural antihistamines, he says, which makes it a great addition to your diet to reduce allergy symptoms. Histamine is a chemical that your body releases during allergic reactions. He especially recommends a morning cup of hot tea just when you get up, which can help prevent morning sneezing.
Avoid Spicy Foods
Some people with seasonal allergies can enjoy a diet of spicy Thai and scorching Mexican foods during part of the year, but not when high pollen counts in the air are triggering their allergy symptoms, Dr. Grossan says. That’s because spicy foods create an “outpouring of histamine” that only bothers you when it’s added to the histamine produced by your seasonal allergies. When your allergy symptoms are acting up, skip the spicy stuff.
Consider a Mediterranean Diet
A recent study involving 174 people with asthma found that adhering to a Mediterranean diet increased a person’s chance of controlling their asthma. This diet includes lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish, and olive oil, with a lesser amount of meat.
Switch to Cooked Foods
During the height of allergy season, when symptoms are really bothering you, cut the fresh foods out of your diet and stick with canned and cooked foods, Grossan suggests. Raw apples or pesticides on lettuce may bother your allergies. Cooking foods, however, lessens your chances of allergy symptoms. So switching from, say, fresh apples to applesauce may help.
Add Some Wasabi
Wasabi, the pungent green paste served with sushi in Japanese restaurants, might be helpful in opening up your nose and helping you breathe better when you have allergy symptoms, Grossan says. The next time your nose is plugged up, drop into a sushi restaurant for a bit of wasabi. It might do the trick if you can tolerate it. This method isn’t guaranteed, however, as wasabi also has potential to unleash more allergy-related histamine in your system.
Eat Yogurt and Probiotics
Grossan strongly recommends that people with allergy symptoms add yogurt and other sources of probiotics to their diet. Probiotics are known as “friendly bacteria,” according to the National Institutes of Health. Typically these are listed on labels as lactobacillus or bifidobacterium and are similar to those found in people’s digestive tract. You can get probiotics from yogurt, miso, fermented milk, and dietary supplements. These can help regulate your immune system so you’ll have fewer allergy symptoms.
Go the Low-Calorie Route
Research has found an association between obesity and asthma, and the results indicate that being obese may actually worsen asthma. A recent study compiling 15 earlier studies on weight loss and asthma found that all of them observed some type of asthma improvement after subjects lost weight. So if you weigh too much and your allergy symptoms include asthma, changing your diet to control your weight may be helpful.
Stick to a Low-Salt Diet
Studies have found that eating a diet higher in salt may be associated with more severe asthma, and small studies have found that eating a low-salt diet can improve lung function, decrease symptoms, and reduce the need for medications in people with asthma. Good ways to reduce salt in your diet include eating plenty of fresh vegetables and cutting down on processed foods like frozen dinners and canned soups.
Up Your Omega-3s
Some research indicates that eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful for reducing asthma symptoms. In one recent study, researchers had 23 adults with asthma take an omega-3 supplement or placebo for five weeks. Those taking the omega-3s had lower levels of a marker of airway inflammation. You can get more omega-3s in your diet by eating fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, and albacore tuna.
Skip the Fast Food
Looking for yet another reason to limit your burgers and fries? A New Zealand study of more than 1,300 kids found that those who ate hamburgers occasionally or at least once a week were more likely to have asthma symptoms than kids who never ate burgers. The good news: A diet designed to reduce asthma and allergy symptoms with foods like fruits and vegetables and fish might not leave a lot of room for fast food.