Allergy-fighting foods you should stock up on this spring

Ease allergy symptoms this season with these helpful foods

Aaahhh, springtime and the living will soon be easy. Not so! If you suffer from seasonal allergies, heading outdoors takes your breath away, literally, and makes your face hurt.

You go out armed with an arsenal of antihistamines and decongestants and buy tissue in bulk. Everyone thinks you’re sick or have been crying. Enough already!

Spring months are the worst time for allergies, and you can run but you really can’t hide. “Airborne allergen levels are at their peak and can trigger weeks and weeks of symptoms that can interfere with your work and sleep,” says holistic nutritionist Lisa Tsakos, of Nu-Vitality Health & Wellness.

Sure you can spend the season hibernating indoors – hiding from pollen from trees, grass and weeds – but better yet, how about using your diet to fight allergies.

“Certain foods are known to have anti-inflammatory properties and are natural anti-histamines, and including these foods in your diet during allergy season can help lessen or alleviate symptoms,” says Tsakos.

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Image: Getty Images

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Recent research indicates that a higher intake of antioxidants, omega-3, vitamin D, and probiotics can boost the immune system to regulate the inflammatory response, helping to lessen symptoms brought on by the pollen outbreak.

According to Michelle W. Book, of the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), symptoms like itchy eyes, runny noses and hacking coughs may seem like no big deal “but dealing with them on an ongoing basis can really affect people’s personal and professional lives. It can be physically draining and can impact your ability to enjoy the beautiful outdoors.”

Use foods to help combat springtime’s annoying invaders. Actually, different foods can affect us in different ways and can actually agitate or ease our allergy symptoms. “Some fruits and vegetables can have pollen allergens on the food, which is one reason people who suffer from seasonal allergies should wash their fruits and veggies well,” says Book, an in-house holistic nutritionist at

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Image: Getty Images

While allergy medications bring welcomed relief, eat up these allergy-fighting food suggestions from Tsakos, a registered nutritional consulting practitioner at

  • Bring on the salmon and other cold-water fatty fish, including mackerel, halibut, sardines, tuna, and herring. Cold-water fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce the inflammatory response. “One study involving 568 people found that a high content of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cells or in the diet was associated with a decreased risk of hay fever.”

  • Hot peppers along with spicy mustards and horseradish are natural decongestants. Hot peppers contain a substance called capsaicin, which may relieve a stuffed up nose or congested lungs by stimulating secretions that help clear mucus. It also fights inflammation.

  • Buckwheat is a gluten-free grain that’s a rich source of quercetin and is linked to preventing histamine release, helping to reduce allergy symptoms. Quercetin is a natural histamine and an antioxidant that fights inflammation. Quercetin is also available as a supplement - take 200 to 400 mg twice daily. Eat up buckwheat pancakes or waffles and soba noodles; add buckwheat to soup or over a salad.

  • Boost your immune system with vitamin C. One guava has 206 mg vitamin C. Runner up: Half of a papaya has 94 mg vitamin C. Stock up on red peppers. One cup of chopped red bell pepper contains nearly three times more vitamin C than an orange (190 mg).

  • Get your magnesium to breathe better. A quarter cup of raw pumpkin seeds provides 317 mg magnesium. This mineral helps relieve constricted airways in the lungs and may ease breathing. “One study found that lab animals severely deficient in magnesium had higher blood levels of histamine when exposed to allergens than animals getting enough magnesium.”

  • Sauerkraut, anyone? Fermented foods are rich in probiotics. Gut bacteria play an important role in immune system function - up to 80 per cent of immune tissue is located in the gut. “The right balance of beneficial microflora can help you fight off allergens and infections, including viral, fungal and bacterial infections.” Other fermented foods: kimchi, kombucha.

  • Turmeric is well known for its anti-inflammatory effects. The active ingredient, curcumin, has anti-allergic properties with an inhibitory effect on histamine release from mast cells. “Animal studies have found that curcumin is effective in reducing the allergic response,” says Tsakos, adding that a human study found that turmeric helped improve airway obstruction.

  • Garlic has got to be one of the most potent medicinal herbs/superfoods. “Garlic is beneficial in providing relief from sinus congestion resulting from exposure to environmental allergies. Garlic can relieve swelling in the nasal passages, improving the flow of mucus in the sinus cavity and eliminating infection,” says Tsakos.

  • Drink up for good health: Get lots of water because when the body is dehydrated, histamine production increases significantly. Dehydration also affects and suppresses antibody production, which means that the body will not be able to deal with unwelcome invaders, such as pollen and other antigens. Other fluids such as coffee, tea, milk, and juice are not as hydrating.

  • Stinging nettle keeps allergy symptoms at bay, adds Book. Available in supplement, tincture, juice and tea form, the nettles have anti-inflammatory properties.

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Editor's note: This article was originally published in May 2019