When it comes to purse essentials, some girls always carry lip balm or sunscreen. Me, I tote around Claritin.
Whether I'm dealing with an itchy throat or watery eyes, that tiny white pill is my go-to for relief from seasonal allergies. Even if I'm headed for a quick hike and just want to avoid symptoms, I reach for my stash.
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That was, until a friend pointed out that simple changes to my diet can prevent allergy attacks from happening in the first place. Since I was starting to worry about my daily dose of allergy meds, I set up an appointment with a nutritionist and found out these 7 simple diet rules can put an end to seasonal allergies for good.
Rule No. 1: Stop eating wheat
The gluten-free movement may be onto something -- particularly in regards to avoiding seasonal allergies.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and rye that can be difficult to digest, causing inflammation in the body. And when the body is inflamed, the immune response kicks into overdrive, says Kate Brown, nutritionist at DailyBurn. "If your body is constantly inflamed and trying to fight off the gluten it perceives as an allergen, exposure to seasonal allergens will cause an even bigger allergic reaction," she says. Translation: Horrendous symptoms that'll keep you sequestered in your house just as the spring weather starts to get really beautiful.
Not that we need another reason to load up on the 2 Buck Chuck, but here's more support for your red wine habit: Lauren Schmitt, MS, RD, says red wine is high in quercetin, an antioxidant that reduces the amount of histamine that's released in the body.
Histamine triggers an inflammatory response, which causes allergy symptoms like redness, swelling, itching, and mucous production. By reducing histamine levels, "the quercetin will reduce your symptoms -- especially nasal congestion," says Schmitt. Not a drinker? Other foods that are high in this antioxidant are onions and apples.
James Matthew Andry, MD, says most commercial dairy products exacerbate allergies due to their primary protein, beta-casein, which is created during the pasteurization process and which the immune system tries to "fight."
The exception? Raw, unpasteurized milk from grass-fed cows, which can actually treat seasonal allergy symptoms, says Andry. "I've seen scores of patients with eczema, asthma, and allergies whose symptoms improve thanks to all the antibodies in the milk that aren't pasteurized out. It's like giving someone an IgG, which is a bunch of antibodies. It helps fight infections, allergens, and supports the immune system."
If you're mostly plagued by wheezing, a runny nose, and congestion, increase your fruit intake. In a study published in the journal "Thorax," researchers found that Crete islanders had very minimal to zero cases of nasal allergies. They found that 80 percent of the population ate fresh grapes, apples, and tomatoes -- the main local products in Crete -- at least twice a day.
These antioxidant-rich foods are packed with vitamin C, which the study found to be protective against nasal allergy symptoms, such as mucous congestion and sneezing. And the skins of red grapes are filled with resveratrol, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation in the body, which in turn strengthens the immune system.
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In addition to fruits, the Crete islanders' diet also consists of walnuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts, which have been found to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Schmitt says it's due to the nuts' inflammation-reducing omega-3 fatty acid content.
In addition to reducing inflammation, omega-3s inhibit prostaglandin, a fat that produces histamine, says Schmitt. "Block prostaglandin production and you prevent the production of mucous, swelling, and leakiness of the blood vessels, which causes congestion," says Andry. Not a fan of nuts? Flax seeds, chia seeds, and cold water fish, such as salmon, are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Turns out sugar will make you pack on the pounds andsuffer from seasonal allergies: A spike in blood sugar generates an insulin response, Andry explains, which in turn causes mucous membranes to become congested and tissues to swell.
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In a study published in the journal "Clinical and Experimental Allergy," researchers at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, UK, found that individuals who drank the probiotic strain Lactobacillus casei once a day for five months had lower levels of an allergy-producing antibody. And you don't have to get your probiotics via dairy products. There are plenty of non-dairy probiotic drinks and supplements available.
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