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Seasonal Allergy Suppression Through Diet

By Kyle Cordain, B.A.
June 3, 2016
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Achoo! Achoo! Achoo!

You or someone close to you might be all too familiar with the chronic sneezing that often accompanies allergic rhinitis or hay fever – otherwise known as seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergy sufferers can experience a multitude of symptoms such as a stuffy or runny nose, watery or itchy eyes, coughing, throat irritation, and in extreme cases sufferers will break out in hives. An allergic reaction occurs when your body misidentifies a normally benign substance like pollen as a threat.

Over the course of the year, approximately 10-30% of the global population experiences seasonal allergies, and that percentage has been increasing steadily in recent decades1.

New research supports climate change as a potential catalyst for the increased prevalence of seasonal allergies. Anthropogenic induced climate change has resulted in a relatively rapid increase in global temperatures and CO2 concentrations. Plants respond to these changes in climate by producing higher levels of pollen1.

Although it is certainly difficult if not impossible to avoid allergens resulting from climate change, it’s possible to improve other environmental factors that have a significant impact on allergy sensitivity, such as diet. By following The Paleo Diet, your body will be less likely to suffer from systemic inflammation that is common with a Standard American Diet and contributes to allergy symptoms.

Below are a handful of tips and tricks for mitigating your seasonal allergy symptoms:

Reduce inflammation with fish oils

First and foremost, if you want to reduce your body’s susceptibility to seasonal allergies, you should reduce inflammation. An adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids is crucial for keeping inflammation low and although debated some evidence supports the notion that higher omega-3 intake is correlated with fewer incidence of allergic symptoms2.

In a recent study by Nagakura et al., 29 children suffering from bronchial asthma were split into two groups – a control and an experimental group. Every day over the 10-month experiment, the control group took 300mg of a placebo (olive oil,) while the experimental group received 300 mg capsules of fish oil containing 84mg of EPA and 36 mg of DHA. Those in the fish oil group demonstrated decreased asthmatic symptom scores while the olive oil group showed no improvement 2. Although this study only demonstrated benefits for asthma sufferers, it nonetheless draws a positive correlation between respiratory health and omega-3 intake that could be beneficial for seasonal allergy sufferers as well. Aim to consume seafood at least a few times per week or consider supplementing with fish oil.

Lay off the histamine-rich foods

Typically, fermented histamine-rich foods, include, alcoholic beverages, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, cheese, and pickled foods. Although many fermented foods are known for their powerful probiotic benefits, it might be wise to limit these histamine-rich foods in your diet for the sake of improving your allergy symptoms. Additionally, it’s worth noting that fermentation has its roots in the advent of the agricultural revolution and was made possible by the transition towards a more sedentary lifestyle3. Fermented foods were in all likelihood absent from the prehistoric hunter-gatherer diet.

Numerous studies have demonstrated a correlation between alcohol consumption and increased frequency of allergic symptoms. A recent study addressed the effects of alcohol on the upper nasal airways. A survey was sent out to 11,933 randomly selected adult individuals. Red and white wine were the most frequent triggers for alcohol-induced nasal symptoms (ANS). This makes sense considering the relatively high histamine content of wine when compared to other forms of alcohol. Most importantly, the study demonstrated that people who suffer from ANS were much more likely to suffer from allergic rhinitis as well4.

Increase your fruit and vegetable intake

This recommendation may seem simple, but its shown to have a powerful effect. A recent study among children living in rural Crete sought to understand why wheezing and rhinitis were rare amongst the children living in the population. Approximately 80% of the children in rural Crete consumed fruits and vegetables at least twice a day. The most common being grapes, oranges, apples, and fresh tomatoes. A high consumption of fruits and vegetables was inversely associated with wheezing, whereas margarine consumption worsened symptoms5. Margarine should also be avoided, not only for its high trans-fatty acids content, but for its high omega-6 content which is inflammatory.

Eat vitamin E rich foods

Vitamin E supplementation has been shown to reduce symptoms among some sufferers of allergic rhinitis during the pollen season6. Supplementation is typically avoided by those following The Paleo Diet. You’re better off consuming foods that are rich in Vitamin E such as almonds, raw seeds, leafy greens, and hazelnuts.

Try a half teaspoon of honey

Many people on internet blogs and forums give testimony to raw local honey for relieving allergy symptoms. The logic behind the local raw honey remedy is that gradual exposure to raw local pollen-containing honey will lessen one’s sensitivity to the pollen that is in the air. Your body will “adapt” to the pollen. I haven’t seen any studies confirming this theory, but it’s certainly worth a shot if all else fails. Just be careful not to overdo your honey consumption. It is very high in sugar and could wreak havoc on your blood sugar and insulin if over-consumed. I would recommend ¼ to ½ teaspoon per day. Make sure to source local raw honey. People have not reported the same benefits while consuming regular store-bought honey.

References

[1] Schmidt, C. W. (2016). Pollen Overload Seasonal Allergies in a Changing Climate. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(4), A70-A75. doi:10.1289/ehp.124-A70

[2] Nagakura, T. S. K. H. K., Matsuda, S., Shichijyo, K., Sugimoto, H., & Hata, K. (2000). Dietary supplementation with fish oil rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in children with bronchial asthma. European Respiratory Journal, 16(5), 861-865.

[3] O'Brien, C. M. (2006). Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World. New Society Publishers.

[4] Nihlen, U., Greiff, L. J., Nyberg, P., Persson, C. G., & Andersson, M. (2005). Alcohol-induced upper airway symptoms: prevalence and co-morbidity.Respiratory medicine, 99(6), 762-769.

[5] Chatzi, L., Apostolaki, G., Bibakis, I., Skypala, I., Bibaki-Liakou, V., Tzanakis, N., ... & Cullinan, P. (2007). Protective effect of fruits, vegetables and the Mediterranean diet on asthma and allergies among children in Crete.Thorax, 62(8), 677-683.

[6] Shahar, E., Hassoun, G., & Pollack, S. (2004). Effect of vitamin E supplementation on the regular treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 92(6), 654-658.

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