For many people "allergy season" is year round. If you're one of the 60 million Americans who suffers from environmental allergies you know the misery of a constantly runny nose, itchy, watery eyes and scratchy throat. Allergies also frequently cause asthma exacerbations in susceptible individuals. These symptoms typically lead to increased reliance on anti-histamine and asthma medications and decreased outdoor activity, both of which can have a negative impact on quality of life. How can you improve your symptoms without these adverse consequences?
Allergen avoidance is key to symptom management. Keep up your exercise routine by finding indoor activities that you enjoy. Don’t stop exercising! Physical activity improves your immune system and can decrease inflammation – part of the underlying process that drives allergies.
While avoiding outdoor exposure, consider taking a vitamin D supplement. There is some evidence to suggest vitamin D deficiency is correlated with increased rates of asthma and allergies. The average adult only needs 800 – 2,000 IU vitamin D3 per day.
Consider taking a break from milk and dairy. There is evidence that dairy product consumption can worsen respiratory symptoms in those with asthma or allergies. More over, many people have food allergies to the proteins in cow milk which can manifest as GI upset (chronic abdominal pain, loose stools or constipation can all be symptoms). Try the myriad types of delicious plant milks widely available in most stores!
Increase antioxidant intake. Antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, help fight inflammation. The best sources of antioxidants are whole plants, not supplements. Most whole fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C while nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E.
Limit saturated fat. Saturated fat and its main food sources (fried foods, eggs, meat, cheese and other dairy products) have been associated with worse allergy symptoms. Instead, try to aim for an anti-inflammatory Mediterranean style diet high in unprocessed grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and unsaturated fats. All types of fats, including oils, have the potential to be inflammatory in our bodies. For optimal anti-inflammatory effects limit fats to those only found in whole plant foods: nuts, seeds, whole olives and avocados.