The Link Between Nutrition and Allergies

The running nose. The itchy eyes. The constant sneezing and nose blowing. That awful pressure in your sinuses. If you’re one of the more than 17 million people estimated by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology who suffer from seasonal allergies every year, you’ll recognize this list of symptoms. You might even be able to add a few of your own. You also know very well that the discomfort associated with hay fever can sap the fun right out of your summer.

It’s just bad luck, right? Something in your genetic makeup has predisposed you to hay fever. Now, whenever the pollen is thick in the air, you haven’t got much choice but to treat the symptoms as they appear. Just when the best parts of summer are gearing up — gardening, hiking, picnics in the park — you have no choice but to hide inside, hoping the air conditioner will filter out at least some of pollen in the air. You’ll have to take antihistamines, as well, and simply wait until the worst of the pollen-producing plants and grasses are done flowering for the year.

Are there alternatives?

If you think that hay fever is something that you will simply have to endure every summer — allergy pills and tissues in hand — think again. There might be some alternatives that you haven’t considered. Current research suggests that there may be a link between seasonal allergies and the overall level of your health and the quality of your nutrition. Maybe instead of hiding indoors and simply enduring your allergy symptoms, you should consider taking a look at what you eat. Proper nutrition and diet may be the missing link in your search for hay fever relief.

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals can be used to supplement a diet that may be low in important elements, and may help with hay fever, as well. Numerous studies in recent years support the theory that seasonal allergies can be treated by improving your general level of nutrition. A 2008 study, for example, reported by the National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine, showed that a deficiency in vitamin E can exacerbate the inflammatory symptoms of seasonal allergies, such as sinusitis and asthma.

Another study, reported by the Institute in 2013, stated that in most patients with allergic sinusitis being treated with prescription medications, the problem often persists year after year with “little or no improvement.” Improving the patients’ level of nutrition, however, according to the report, can lead to an 80 percent level of relief in symptoms for most people and can lower the number of allergy attacks they experience, as well. The role of the nutrients named in this study –vitamin E, vitamin C and cod liver oil — was considered “very significant” in the treatment of allergic sinusitis. Other supplements that may be useful in the treatment of seasonal allergies include vitamin D and essential fatty acids, such as those found in cold water fish, walnuts, almonds, olive oil and eggs.

Could gluten be the culprit?

Gluten in the diet, and the symptoms it can cause, has made the news in recent years. Gluten-free products are showing up on many grocery store shelves. Gluten is the protein found in grains — such as wheat, oats and barley — and, in some people, it can cause a wide range of unpleasant symptoms. These include, according to WebMD, bloating, upset stomach, diarrhea, stomach pain, headaches and fatigue.

Some people have also noticed a connection between gluten intolerance and hay fever. That was the case for Rich Rifkin. In his 2013 article, “Is Gluten Causing Your Seasonal Allergies?” published by The Davis Enterprise, Rifkin reports that after removing all gluten from his diet, his allergies to tree pollens like maple, sycamore and mulberries, have virtually disappeared. He had suffered from hay fever for more than 35 years and had come to accept that it was just a part of his life. “I’m sneezing,” he wrote at the start of his article, “this must be April.” Antihistamines were the only thing that brought him any relief.

Rifkin believes that the gluten in his diet super charged his immune system, causing it to over react to allergens such as pollen. Without the stress of gluten in his diet, his immune system seems to have returned to a more normal level of functioning. Now, he states, his “allergies have ceased.”

Make a game plan

If you suffer from hay fever, see your doctor. Prescription medications — or even allergy shots — may help relieve some of your worst symptoms. Don’t forget, however, to take a good look at your diet. Beefing up the overall quality of your diet and adding vitamin supplements may help diminish your symptoms.