Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, and is experienced by as many as one in four people during the summer months. The effects of hay fever include a runny nose, watery eyes, itching, a tickly throat, sneezing and congestion. Medical treatments such as antihistamines and steroids can be very effective in reducing the severity of hay fever, but are there any helpful foods for hay fever sufferers?
Vitamins and Minerals for a Healthy Immune System
A healthy, balanced diet containing a variety of nutrients is important for boosting overall health. Eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) will provide the vitamins and minerals necessary for an efficient immune system. A healthy immune system will help the body to cope with the effects of hay fever.
Vitamins A, C, and E are antioxidants, which support the immune system. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, kiwifruit, strawberries, red and green peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A by the body and is found in carrots, spinach, kale, cantaloupe, melon, and apricots. Vitamin E can be found in plant oils, nuts, and seeds.
Minerals which support the immune system include iron, zinc, selenium, and magnesium. Iron is found in red meat, lentils, kidney beans, blackstrap molasses, spinach, and fortified cereals, while zinc occurs in meat, poultry, shellfish, dairy products, nuts, and seeds. Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, poultry, eggs, and rice are good sources of selenium, and magnesium can be found in nuts, spinach, beans, peas, and whole grains.
Flavonoids, Quercetin and Histamine Reduction
Flavonoids are plant pigments which act as antioxidants and encourage healthy immune function. Flavonoids also appear to reduce the amount of histamines (the chemical responsible for causing hay fever) released by the body’s cells. They are found in foods such as citrus fruits, blackcurrants, kiwifruit, strawberries, and other berries.
One particular flavonoid which appears to relieve hay fever is quercetin, a yellow pigment found in plants. Good sources of quercetin include onions, garlic, kale, broccoli, apples, cherries, and tea. Quercetin is also available as a supplement.
Reducing Inflammation to Relieve Hay Fever
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are found in oily fish, flaxseed, walnuts and pumpkin seeds, and contain anti-inflammatory, hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins. An adequate supply of these foods in the diet may help to reduce inflammation and aid hay fever relief.
In addition to their other health benefits, vitamins C and E, and the flavonoid quercetin have anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger and peppermint teas may also help to reduce inflammation and relieve congestion.
There are a variety of useful foods, which support the immune system, reduce histamine production, and control inflammation. Including more of these foods in the diet before the pollen season takes hold may help to prevent hay fever symptoms and lessen the need for conventional remedies such as antihistamine tablets.
The information in this article should not be considered medical advice. Always check with your physician before taking any products or following any advice you have read on BrightHub.com.
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