Food and Drink

Allergy-busting edibles

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Vintage Pineapple Girl
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The superfoods that fight off hay fever

Next time a tickle erupts in your throat and your sinuses swell with mucus, try trading the Claritin for a strategic snack. The latest research shows that certain foods may defend against allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies) caused by pesky pollens and molds.

While foods can't replace drugs or nasal sprays in serious attacks, they might be all you need to combat mild-to-moderate cases. Household comestibles also complement traditional medicine for a one-two knockout punch. Here are some of the most promising bets:

  • Cayenne: Anyone who's eaten hot peppers knows they can make the nose leak. That's because capsaicin, the alkaloid that gives the fiery fruits their heat, is a natural mucus thinner. One study by University of Cincinnati allergy researcher Jonathan Bernstein, MD, found that a capsaicin-based nasal spray was effective against runny nose and sinus pressure. While the trial subjects had non-allergic rhinitis rather than hay fever, the results offer hope for allergy sufferers as well.

    Sprinkle as much cayenne as you can take (or a bit more) onto salads, soups and vegetables. Or, mix some in with hot salsas to burn away even more mucus.

  • Pineapple: Pineapples are high in an bromelain, an enzyme blend that comes from certain plant foods. Although the link between bromelain and allergies has not been widely studied, research suggests that the substance has antihistamine effects, and is a natural decongestant. As a bonus, pineapple is high in vitamin C, an antioxidant with antihistamine properties.

    Use fresh pineapple chunks as a topping for yogurt or cottage cheese, or sprinkle some with anti-inflammatory cinnamon to help wipe out the sniffles.

  • Garlic: Garlic may be the star of all superfoods, potentially fighting every malady from cancer to the common cold. The sulfur-rich bulb also contains healthy doses of quercetin, a bioflavenoid that some experts believe squelches allergy symptoms.

    James Dillard, MD, clinical advisor at Columbia University's alternative medicine center, told WebMD that "quercetin may control the release of histamine and other chemicals that help initiate the allergic response." Dillard noted that quercetin can be particularly effective combined with vitamin C.

  • Try eating garlic raw to maximize health benefits. If that's too pungent for your palate, lightly saute with olive or canola oil in a stir fry, or simmer in a lycopene-rich marinara sauce.

  • Horseradish: In greek mythology, the Oracle of Delphi told Apollo that horseradish was worth its weight in gold. If you're an extreme allergy sufferer, you just might agree. People have used the herb as a folk remedy to clear nasal passages for years. A home health care guide by Columbia University's Department of Pediatrics also reveals that horseradish is an expectorant, helping to relieve cough.

    Add freshly-grated horseradish to yellow or spicy mustard. Or, try horseradich sauce on baked or mashed potatoes.

  • Ginger: Although ginger hasn't been heavily researched as an allergy fighter, the NIH states that experts are investigating the possibilities. In addition, alternative health practitioners often recommend hot ginger to clear the sinus cavities. One study published in "Cytotechnology" in 2007 showed that green tea with ginger improved pollen allergy symptoms.

    Steep it in hot water with lemon and honey, with or without tea leaves; the steam will add to the decongestant effects. Alternatively, try it in a miso or carrot soup.

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Updated Aug 12, 2017 12:17 PM EDT | More details


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