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Hay fever and allergies: how the food you eat can reduce your symptoms

Hubert Cormier Comments

The Mediterranean diet is said to reduce the severity of symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis.

Is it possible to counteract seasonal allergies by eating certain foods? Although we can’t make them disappear, we can certainly reduce the effects of the most common hay fever symptoms by trying certain strategies.

Probiotics

Probiotics are bacteria known to be effective for alleviating many types of allergies, including allergic rhinitis (dust, dust mites, pollen), which affect some 10 to 30% of the population. They are said to reduce the severity of the symptoms and improve the quality of life of allergy sufferers. Probiotics[1]. However, the quantities needed to observe such effects have not been established. Until this happens, there’s nothing preventing you from including yogurt and kefir—which both contain probiotics—in your diet. Remember: probiotic bacteria won’t colonize your intestinal flora because they’re only transient. So to feel the benefits, you need to eat them regularly!

Nutrition for mothers-to-be

The intrauterine environment is very important to a baby’s development. A pregnant woman’s diet may explain certain conditions appearing in the child later in life, including allergies. Three nutrients of special interest are omega-3, folate and vitamin D. Studies aren’t always clear and don’t necessarily recommend that you increase your consumption of these three nutrients, but rather just meet the recommendations[2]. So, it is recommended to take a folic acid supplement during pregnancy and slightly increase your servings of healthy foods in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. For example, to ensure you meet your omega-3 (AEP and ADH) needs, eat at least two servings of fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.) a week, or products enriched with omega-3.

Food allergies

The only option if you have a food allergy is to avoid any contact with the allergen and always carry an epinephrine auto-injector (like an EpiPen®) with you. The constant fear of eating or drinking an allergen can lead to anxiety and reduce your quality of life. For certain allergens only, you can undergo an allergy desensitization treatment. Some randomized controlled trials have shown beneficial effects from oral immunotherapy (under medical surveillance), which consists in taking a very small amount of the allergen and progressively increasing it every day until a full portion can be consumed without any symptoms. It has the potential to change the way our immune system sees the allergen. However, clinical studies are often conducted with a small number of individuals and more research needs to be done before desensitization therapies can be recommended to overcome allergies.

To sum up, certain foods help reduce the symptoms of hay fever, without solving the problem. Foods rich in antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts, as well as a healthy regime based on the Mediterranean diet, may play a protective role when it comes to allergic rhinitis[3].

1. Zajac, A.E.; Adams, A.S.; Turner, J.H. A systematic review and meta-analysis of probiotics for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology 2015, 5, 524-532.
2. Miles, E.A.; Calder, P.C. Maternal diet and its influence on the development of allergic disease. Clinical and experimental allergy : journal of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2015, 45, 63-74.
3. Chatzi, L.; Apostolaki, G.; Bibakis, I.; Skypala, I.; Bibaki-Liakou, V.; Tzanakis, N.; Kogevinas, M.; Cullinan, P. Protective effect of fruits, vegetables and the Mediterranean diet on asthma and allergies among children in Crete. Thorax 2007, 62, 677-683.

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