Seasonal allergies got you sniffling and sneezing? An antihistamine pill would help for a while (though some leave you feeling foggy-brained), but there’s an even better solution that doesn’t involve taking pills. Instead of heading to your medicine cabinet, head into your kitchen—because certain foods have natural antihistamine effects, a top naturopathic doctor says. Incorporating these foods into your daily diet can help you feel well all through the allergy season, without grogginess or other unwanted side effects.
Why these foods help: When a seasonal allergen enters your body through your eyes, nose or mouth, it upsets the normal routine of cells located in the nasal passages, sinuses, throat and the clear covering of the eyes. In response, those cells release the substance histamine, which triggers the itching, sniffling, sneezing, tearing and other annoying symptoms.
Similar to the way that antihistamine medicines reduce the cells’ histamine reaction to allergens, compounds called flavonoids also have antihistamine properties—and you can easily get these flavonoids from your diet.
Incorporating the following foods into your daily diet can help reduce or eliminate your need for antihistamine medication. For maximum effect, do this year-round, or at least begin two months before your symptoms typically flare up.
Aim for two or more servings per day from each of the following categories. You’re focusing on foods that are rich in…
Anthocyanins. These flavonoids give dark purple and red foods their characteristic hue. Not only do they act as natural antihistamines, they also have anti-inflammatory properties. This means that anthocyanin-rich foods help reduce swelling in sinuses and nasal passages and relieve the congestion that leads to headaches and trouble sleeping. Good sources include black beans, blackberries, black currants, blood oranges, blueberries, eggplant, elderberries, red cabbage, red leaf lettuce and red onion.
Carotenoids. Among the most widespread groups of naturally occurring pigments, carotenoids are largely responsible for the red, orange and yellow color of various vegetables and fruits, though they also are found in many dark green vegetables and in other foods as well. A study from the Institute of Epidemiology in Germany found that people with high blood levels of carotenoids, reflecting a diet rich in these flavonoids, were at lower risk for allergic rhinitis. To get more carotenoids into your diet, eat apricots, carrots, collard greens, eggs (the yolks contain carotenoids), kale, salmon, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Try seasoning foods with cayenne pepper and chili pepper, too, since these spices also provide carotenoids.
Quercetin. A yellowish flavonoid food pigment, quercetin appears to help prevent immune cells from releasing histamine. Good sources include apples, broccoli, capers, citrus fruits, olive oil, onions, parsley, raspberries, red wine and sage.
Also helpful: Green tea. The particular flavonoids in green tea tend to stabilize cells in the body responsible for the release of histamine. In addition, green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that has been shown to block histamine release. Green tea is better at fighting allergies than black or oolong tea because it is less processed and thus retains more of its healthful properties, he added. Drink a cup or more of green tea daily for further relief from aggravating seasonal allergies.