Spring is usually greeted with open arms due to the promise of warmer weather and lighter days, yet for those with allergies the new season can also bring a host of unwelcome symptoms. CHS and Tonic Health nutritionist Nicole Freebairn talks to us about spring allergies and gives some food for thought on how to help improve symptoms through diet.
For allergy sufferers, the arrival of spring often signals the onset of sneezing, sniffling and wheezing. Allergies occur when the body is exposed to something which it recognises as foreign, explains CHS nutritionist Nicole Freebairn, and in spring the most likely culprit is pollen.
“In response, the body produces a large quantity of histamines and other chemical messengers which then trigger an overcompensated immune response. This results in the classic allergy symptoms including itchy eyes, runny nose, skin flare-ups”.
Nicole says it’s also possible for new allergies to develop, especially when people move to a new place and haven’t been exposed to certain environmental allergens before.
The good news is that it’s possible to improve allergy symptoms and boost immune health through dietary management.
“Some of the best foods to eat are fruit and vegetables,” says Nicole. “Fruit and vegetables contain various antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other nutrient-rich compounds which improve and repair cell function, boost immunity, and regulate the allergic response. Particularly useful are kiwifruit and citrus fruits, which are rich in vitamin C.”
Other beneficial foods include oily fish and other healthy fats containing omega 3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation in the body.
Central to all areas of health, including immune function and allergy control, are well-balanced gut microbiota. Fermented foods such as kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut benefit the body as they contain live organisms which benefit gut health.
There are also foods which can increase inflammation in the body, and are best avoided, says Nicole. “Highly-processed foods, trans fats, refined sugars, alcohol, and vegetable oils may exacerbate allergic reactions and make symptoms worse.”