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Fight Spring Allergies with Fruits and Vegetables

It’s spring! Which mean it’s also…allergy season. Before you resign yourself to itchy, watery eyes; a stuffed up nose; and a nagging cough for the next couple months, take heart: Research has found that certain fruits and vegetables provide natural allergy relief.

In order to understand why, you have to first understand what’s happening inside your body when you get allergy symptoms. Really, it’s not that different than what happens when a visitor comes to your home and your normally well-behaved dog starts barking and baring her teeth.

Your immune system, like your dog, is always on guard to protect you against a threat. No threat, no problem. But just as your dog sometimes misidentifies someone friendly as being threatening, so too does your immune system sometimes misidentify something harmless as a hazard to your health. Hence, the crazy barking dog and the onslaught of allergy symptoms.

As you probably know, allergy symptoms are caused by the release of histamine. This chemical is a key part of your body’s inflammatory response. It makes sense then that anti-inflammatory foods can help tame the allergic response and provide natural allergy relief. And what are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods? Fruits and vegetables! In fact, an Italian study of over 4,000 children found that eating plenty of cooked vegetables, tomatoes, and citrus fruits caused a significant reduction in allergy symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath.[1] Fruits and vegetables contain a plethora of anti-allergy nutrients. These include:

Vitamin C

Inflammation and oxidation are closely linked, and as an antioxidant, vitamin C is also naturally anti-inflammatory. That means it counteracts the allergic response. Oranges probably come to mind when you think of fruits rich in vitamin C, and one serving does provide 93% of the daily value (DV) for the nutrient, but even better sources include: pineapple (105% DV), strawberries (113% DV), and papayas (224% DV). [2]

Bioflavonoids

Where does histamine come from, anyway? It’s stored in immune cells known as mast cells. When an allergen enters the system, mast cells release histamine to initiate the inflammatory response. By stabilizing mast cells, phyto-nutrients known as bioflavonoids prevent them from jettisoning their histamine stores, which may prevent or at least decrease the intensity of allergy symptoms.[3] One particularly powerful bioflavonoid is quercetin, which you can find in apples and onions.

Vitamin E

Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant, so by nature it is anti-inflammatory. The big difference is that vitamin C is water-soluble, so it works within the watery contents of the cell, while vitamin E is fat-soluble, so it works inside the fatty cell membrane. One study found that a high dose of gamma tocopherol (an isomer of vitamin E) reduced inflammation among animals breathing heavily polluted air.[4] The best fruit and vegetable sources of vitamin E include spinach (25% DV per serving), Swiss chard (22% DV), and avocado (21% DV.)[5]

Anthocyanins

Anthocyanins are another class of anti-inflammatory phyto-nutrients with the power to fight allergies.[6] You may never have heard of anthocyanins before, but you’ve probably been eating them your whole life. These dark red, purple, and blue pigments give fruits and vegetables like blackberries, blueberries, Concord grapes, elderberries, raspberries, cherries, beets, and red cabbage their dark color.

Carotenoids

I’ve written about carotenoids several times before. These yellow and orange-hued phyto-nutrients neutralize unstable free radical molecules, give skin a rosy glow, and even support breast health. You can add allergy relief to that list of benefits. A study conducted by the Institute of Epidemiology in Germany found that having high levels of carotenoids in the blood was correlated to lower risk for allergic rhinitis.[7] Fruits rich in carotenoids include carrots, peaches, papayas, and tomatoes, as well as green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and spinach.

Which fruits and vegetables will you be eating this Spring to help fight allergies? Let us know your favorite fighters in the comments below!

References:

[1] Wickman M, et al. The BAMSE project: presentation of a prospective longitudinal birth cohort study. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2002; 13 Suppl 14:11-3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=The+BAMSE+project%3A+presentation+of+a+prospective+longitudinal+birth+cohort+study

[2] Vitamin C. The World’s Healthiest Foods. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=109

[3] Pearce FL, Befus AD, Bienenstock J. Mucosal mast cells. III. Effect of quercetin and other flavonoids on antigen-induced histamine secretion from rat intestinal mast cells. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1984 Jun;73(6):819-23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6202731

[4] Raloff J. Vitamin E shields lungs from smog effects. ScienceNews. 2009 March 18. https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/science-public/vitamin-e-shields-lungs-smog-effects

[5] Vitamin E. The World’s Healthiest Foods. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=111

[6] Ghosh D, Konishi T. Anthocyanins and anthocyanins-rich extracts: role in diabetes and eye function. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16(2):200-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17468073

[7] Kompauer I, et al. Association of carotenoids, tocopherols and vitamin C in plasma with allergic rhinitis and allergic senitisation in adults. Public Health Nutr. 2006 Jun;9(4):472-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16870019

 

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