More than 35 million Americans suffer each year with seasonal allergies, which can actually begin in early spring and last until late November–depending upon where you live. Of course there are medications such as antihistamines that can help, but some research has shown that food can affect season allergies as well.
What is An Allergic Reaction?
Allergies are an inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the nasal passages caused by an airborne trigger such as tree, grass, flower, or weed pollen. These enter the body and trigger a reaction by the immune system as it is detected as an invader. Histamines and other chemicals are released and lead to irritation and discomfort.
How Can A Vegan Diet Help?
Vegetarian and vegan diets have been studied in the relief of both asthma and allergies since the mid-1980’s. Researchers noticed that those who followed a vegetarian diet were less likely to need treatment for reactions. There are many reasons for the link.
One of the chemicals, aside from histamine, that is released during an allergic reaction is called leukotriene. Leukotrienes are fatty molecules in the immune system that contribute to inflammation. The production of leukotrienes is influenced by the presence of arachidonic acid, a fatty acid found exclusively in animal products. Eliminating all meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, as in the vegan diet, can help reduce the presence of leukotrienes.
Vegetarians and vegans are also known to consume a greater amount of fruits and vegetables than the typical American diet. Fruits and vegetables contain many nutrients that may be beneficial for allergies and the overall immune system, such as antioxidants and vitamin C. Quercetin, for example, is a flavonoid that is found in many fruits and vegetables that has been shown to inhibit both histamine and leukotriene release from the mast cells.
The addition of whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds are also benefits of a vegan diet. Many of these contain vitamin E, which can help stop the immune system from overreacting to pollens and other allergens.
Another possible benefit to a vegan diet is that it could create weight loss which can help improve the presence of inflammation in the body. Vegetarians tend to eat fewer calories, less fat, and more fiber in their diets. In addition to the influence on weight, a high fat diet can weaken the immune system.
If you like spicy foods, your desire for all things hot may actually lead to some relief from allergy symptoms. Hot and spicy foods can thin mucous secretions which can help to clear nasal passages. Many Indian and Asian dishes are both vegan and spicy.
Vegetarian Foods to Avoid with Seasonal Allergies
Sugar is vegetarian, but it is can have a negative effect on the body. Sugar and sweets have been shown to reduce neutrophil activity, cells that fight off infection and inflammation.
Those with a ragweed or other weed pollen allergy should avoid eating melon, banana, cucumber, and sunflower seeds, as these are from the same family and could cause a reaction.