The Best Diet for Allergies and Hay Fever
Certain foods and drinks can make allergy symptoms worse – or better.
By Debra Fulghum Bruce, PhDWebMD Feature
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
Imagine your doctor giving you this prescription for your nasal allergies or hay fever: “Eat some grapes and call me in the morning.” Well, it’s not that far-fetched.
Just as the right grade of gas helps your car run well, the right diet for allergies is important to help you feel your best.
A healthy diet for allergies or hay fever protects you in many ways. It helps keep your respiratory system strong. Many foods can help you breathe better because they open up clogged nasal passages. A nutritious diet also boosts your immunity to allergies. Certain foods have nutrients that can help boost your immunity and help your body fight sinus and respiratory infections, which are linked to allergies and hay fever.
The Link Between Diet and Allergies
Let’s take a short trip to the island of Crete. While skin allergies are common here, nasal allergies and wheezing are rare. Why?
From childhood on, the bulk of the Crete islanders’ diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, and nuts. The natural foods in the Mediterranean diet are high in antioxidants.
Antioxidants protect cells from the oxidative damage that causes diseases, and they have immune-boosting compounds.
In a study published in the journal Thorax, researchers found that Crete islanders who ate a Mediterranean diet had fewer allergies. They noted that diet staples such as nuts, grapes, oranges, apples, and fresh tomatoes were protective against allergies.
The researchers also reported that eating margarine increased the risk of allergies and wheezing. This is because margarine is made with unhealthy fat that boosts inflammation.
How 3 Foods Fight Allergies
Here’s how the anti-inflammatory properties of some typical foods on the Mediterranean diet protect against allergies.
Nuts. These are a great source of magnesium and vitamin E. Studies show that magnesium helps increase lung function and may also protect against wheezing in patients with asthma, which causes inflammation of the lungs. Vitamin E is an immune booster and has been shown to reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections, especially the common cold. As an antioxidant, Vitamin E protects the body from damaging free radicals. Free radicals can cause oxidative tissue damage, which triggers inflammation and problems like allergies and asthma.
Apples, Oranges, and Tomatoes. These three fruits are super sources of another antioxidant, vitamin C. Researchers found that they gave protection against allergies and asthma in the Crete diet study. This is important because nearly half of people with asthma also have allergies.
Grapes. The skins of red grapes in particular are filled with antioxidants and resveratrol, which reduces inflammation in the body. The Crete diet study found that grapes gave protection against both allergies and wheezing.