Do you dread hay fever season? Do you suffer with allergic reactions or have other allergy-linked problems such as eczema, asthma, dermatitis, itchy eyes, chronic nasal congestion or catarrh? These symptoms are miserable, but the good news is there are a number of substances that can help reduce your allergic potential which you can either eat or supplement.
What’s more, it’s also possible to reduce your allergic potential so you’re less likely to have these symptoms in the first place, reduce their severity if you do have them and can also help when you have an ‘attack’. I've outlined 7 nutrients that work for hay fever below to help you get on top of your diet when it comes to your allergies.
Nutrients that Work for Hay Fever
All that sniffling and snuffling, itchy eyes and blocked nose symptoms is medically called 'rhino conjunctivitis'. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gave 173 sufferers, during hay fever season, either 2 capsules of probiotics providing 3 billion units of bacteria or identical placebos in this randomised controlled placebo trial.
At the end of 8 weeks those taking the probiotics had improved (less symptoms) by 68%, compared to the placebo group who reported 19% improvement. So, those on probiotics had improved by 49% compared to placebo.
So, consider taking a probiotic supplement during hay fever season. This study used a combination of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is the most important anti-allergy vitamin. It is a powerful promoter of a strong immune system, immediately calms down allergic reactions and is also anti-inflammatory. Blood levels of vitamin C have been shown to be low both in people with treated and untreated asthma. It’s really recommended for everyone at an absolute minimum of 1,000mg (1g) a day, although 2,000mg (2g) or more is optimum for most people, whether or not you have allergies.
If you are suffering from allergic symptoms, you might want to take twice this amount on a regular basis. Since vitamin C is in and out of the body within six hours, it’s best taken in divided doses, either 1g in the morning and 1g at lunch or, if you’re taking larger amounts, 1g four times a day.
You can also increase your vitamin C intake through food by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, although you would have to eat an enormous amount to get up to 2g. For example, 100g of peppers contains about 100mg of vitamin C, 100g of broccoli contains 110mg and 100g of strawberries 60mg, and that’s assuming they are fresh. Foods that contain vitamin C typically also contain antioxidant bioflavonoids such as hesperidin, rutin and quercetin, and these bioflavonoids may actually help the body absorb vitamin C – another good reason to eat vitamin-C-rich foods.
Another of the nutrients that work for hay fever is quercetin. Quercetin is also a bioflavonoid and is a potent antioxidant that promotes a healthy inflammatory response. Animal studies also show that quercetin regulates histamine production. One study found that of all the flavonoids, quercetin was the most effective at inhibiting histamine. Another study last year showed a reduction in inflammatory markers and improvement in airway inflammation.
The best food sources of quercetin are red onions, apples and berries, but you’ll be hard pushed to eat more than 20mg a day. So supplementing therapeutic amounts is also necessary if you’re suffering with allergies. Take 500mg three times a day if your symptoms are severe, then drop down to 500mg once a day once your reaction is under control. This maintenance dose is also effective for reducing allergic potential. The best results are achieved by supplementing 250mg twice a day, with some bromelain (a digestive enzyme from pineapple) and vitamin C.
MSM has so many benefits for allergy sufferers that it’s hard to know where to start. In one study, 55 volunteers diagnosed with seasonal allergies were given 1,300mg of MSM twice daily for 30 days. A significant reduction in symptoms of both the upper respiratory tract (including nasal congestion) and lower respiratory tract (including cough) was seen.
As long as you’re still suffering from any allergic symptoms, or are in pain, it’s well worth supplementing MSM on a daily basis. While therapeutic intakes go up to 6,000mg a day, I recommend you start with 1,000mg, or half this if in combination with the other anti-allergy nutrients.
Glutamine is an essential part of any regime designed to quickly restore healthy mucous membranes and reduce allergic potential. It's also a powerful nutrient for supporting proper immune function and protecting the liver. For this reason, I not only recommend it as part of healing a leaky gut - thereby reducing your allergic potential - but also for anyone experiencing allergy symptoms.
Take 500mg as part of a daily anti-allergy regime. Or if you suspect you have a leaky gut (which usually goes hand in hand with allergies), increase this dose to 8g a day for three weeks. If you use glutamine powder, stir it into cold water – a heaped teaspoon is about 4g. For best results, drink this solution on an empty stomach first or last thing.
Bromelain is a collection of proteolytic (literally meaning protein breakdown) enzymes found in pineapple stems that have considerable anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling properties. In a double-blind clinical trial, participants given 160mg of Bromelain daily experienced significant improvements in nasal drainage, swelling and restored free breathing, compared to those on dummy treatment. Take up to 300mg daily if you are having an allergic reaction or 100mg daily to reduce your allergic potential.
Curcumin is the natural anti-inflammatory agent found in the spice Turmeric. A placebo controlled trial gave 241 patients who suffered from allergic rhinitis either placebo or curcumin for 2 months. "Curcumin alleviated nasal symptoms (sneezing and rhinorrhea) and nasal congestion through reduction of nasal airflow resistance." said the researchers. Also, measures of inflammatory markers (TNF-alpha and IL4, 6 and 10) reduced significantly.
The problem with curcumin is it’s not very absorbable into the bloodstream so it’s best to choose supplements that have a proven high bio-availability (the degree and rate at which a substance is absorbed).
Allergy Diet: What to include and avoid
- Avoid mucus-forming, pro-inflammatory foods such as dairy and meat. You can further reduce your allergic potential by avoiding highly allergenic foods such as wheat, gluten (rich in wheat, rye and barley) and yeast. Kamut wheat products, however, tend not to produce 'intolerant' reactions seen with modern wheat.
- Get tested for food intolerances so that you know if there are any other foods you need to avoid. And be sure to look after any digestive problems. Disruption in the gut enhances allergic potential.
- Read my book “Hidden Food Allergies” to get to the bottom of your food allergies and improve gut health.
- Up your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Have at least 3 servings of fruit, a large mixed salad and 3 portions of vegetables daily. Choose local, organic produce. Local because there will be less depletion of antioxidant nutrients and organic to avoid pesticide residue which itself is an allergen. Eat plenty of these foods raw.
- Increase omega-3 fats by eating plenty of un-fried, un-breaded oily fish such as anchovies, mackerel, sardines, wild or organic salmon, kippers and fresh, not tinned, tuna. Also add plenty of freshly ground linseeds and pumpkin seeds to cereals, salads and soups every day.
- Avoid alcohol – it’s a major gut disruptor which increases your allergic potential. Drink 2 litres of pure, filtered water a day.
- Use a probiotic supplement providing both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
- Take a combination supplement providing Quercetin, Bromelain, MSM, Vitamin C and Glutamine
For a personalised diet to help boost your allergy resistance, try my online 100% Health Programme. Read Hidden Food Allergies co-authored with immunologist Dr James Braly. Check out HOLFORDirect.com - the home of GL friendly foods, supplements, books and tests. Members of the 100% Health Club are entitled to special discounts.
Please note, this blog is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice.
It’s always best to consult your doctor before taking any new supplements, treatments or remedies if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on medication.
Checked and updated: 25 August 2021