Dear Mark: Seasonal Allergies

By numerous accounts, this spring has been the most brutal in years for seasonal allergy sufferers. (Do I see some nodding heads out there?) As much as everyone looks forward to spring, some folks grit their teeth for several weeks or live on a steady dose of allergy pills. I always get questions this time of year from folks who are looking for ways to get through spring a little happier and maybe less medicated. Here’s one such email from reader Joyce….

Dear Mark,

I’m from the Upper Midwest where spring came early this year. No complaining about that, mind you – we earn our warm season! I’ve always had problems in spring, but this year I’ve been in really bad shape (like everybody what I hear). I’m relatively new to your site, and I’m slowly adopting elements of the Primal Blueprint. So far, it’s been going great! It’s got me thinking though about diet and whether what I eat/don’t eat can make any difference. What’s your take on this? I’d love any recommendations that could get me in the garden earlier!

Although the extent of people’s allergies (as well their sources) span a wide spectrum, anyone who spends whole months blowing through Kleenexes can likely benefit from a few adjustments – especially those new to the PB.

First, what to avoid… One of the best strategies to alleviate those miserable symptoms is to steer clear of alcohol and other histamine containing foods. As far as alcohol goes, wine (both red and white) seem to be the worst instigators. Sulfites are part of the issue with these drinks, but histamines that result during the fermentation process also wreak havoc. If you have allergy issues, consider avoiding other foods subject to aging and fermentation like aged cheese, pickles, and sauerkraut. And as for yeast, it’s one more reason to ditch bread. Grapes and ciders can be culprits as well.

Also, if you know the source of your particular allergy, you can further pinpoint foods that tend to trigger what’s called “oral allergy syndrome,” a reaction to allergen-related foods that affects primarily the lips and mouth. Check out the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia information on cross-reactive foods for those with seasonal allergies.

As for what to eat, think anti-inflammatory. It just so happens that the PB delivers just that. Research supports the particular benefits of fresh produce, fish and nuts for reducing both the symptoms of existing allergies as well as the development of allergies later in life. Research on the pregnancy and childhood diets of Spanish children found that a higher intake of certain vegetables (like tomatoes and eggplant) and fish offered protective benefit from allergies and asthma. Another study with Greek children linked high intake of nuts, fruits and vegetables with a lower risk for respiratory allergy. The EPA and DHA in fish and fish oils has been shown to be among the best preventative options for allergic disorders.

Want more? Tea, particularly green or white, offers a big flavonoid boost that reduces inflammation and supports general immune function. For raw dairy enthusiasts out there, farm milk consumption was shown to provide similar protective advantage against allergy and asthma whether or not the children drinking it lived on the farm or not.

Although antioxidants and flavonoids in general offer therapeutic benefit, certain nutrients like vitamin C and quercetin are potent natural antihistamines. An extra dose of magnesium can help alleviate wheezing symptoms. Some folks report success with spirulina as well. As for herbal remedies, butterbur shows good promise, but isn’t for women who are pregnant or nursing.

Another recommendation? Buy some wild – and local – honey. Because bees pick up the pollen of their environment, the resulting honey can offer something of a therapeutic dose for gradual desensitization – much like an allergy shot. It’s important to start small (1/4 teaspoon daily – max) and work your way up to gradually build tolerance.

Last, my own nearly debilitating seasonal allergies literally disappeared when I got rid of grains (and cut the chronic cardio). It may have been related to the autoimmune connection between anti-nutrients/leaky-gut and hypersensitivity to proteins in grass seeds and pollen (grains are grass seeds). Many MDA readers report a dramatic reduction in hay fever or allergy symptoms when cutting grains.

Good luck to Joyce and everyone else who’s laying low for another couple weeks. Let me know your thoughts, and do share any other anti-allergy strategies that have worked for you! As always, thanks for the great questions and comments, and keep ‘em coming. Have a great Monday everybody!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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