• Peeling back the layers. (SBS Food)Source: SBS Food
Here are five everyday ingredients, containing natural antihistamines and anti-inflammatory agents, that you can incorporate into your springtime diet.
Yasmin Noone

13 Nov 2019 - 12:53 PM  UPDATED 8 Oct 2020 - 9:30 AM

Spring is the season of new life, milder days and stronger rays of sunshine.

It’s also that time of the year marked by an influx of pollen; when trees, grasses and weeds release these tiny grains into the air to fertilise other plants. For people who suffer from hay fever (also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis), spring can ignite a pollen allergy. It can cause a runny nose, watery or itchy eyes, poor sleep and a decline in general health.  

According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, allergic rhinitis – which includes hay fever and other non-seasonal reactions – affects almost two in every 10 people living in Australia and New Zealand.

“Apples also contain the antioxidant quercetin, nature’s anti-histamine, which has been shown to have an anti-allergy effect particularly against hay fever.”

There’s currently no cure for hay fever so it's advised to seek medical advice on how best to manage your individual case of hay fever to reduce the severity of symptoms.

However, if you’re looking for a 'cause no harm' method to improve your hay fever management, then eating foods containing natural anti-histamines and anti-inflammatory agents might be a reasonable thing to try. In addition to a medically advised treatment plan, a balanced diet featuring the following foods may help to prevent or reduce hay fever symptoms in some people - all things remaining equal. 

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Foods with a fighting chance of battling hay fever

1. Apples

“While we all know an apple a day keeps the doctor away, an apple a day can also help keep hay fever at bay,” head of Nutrition and Dietetic Medicine at Endeavour College of Natural Health, Jaime Doumas, tells SBS.

“Apples also contain the antioxidant quercetin, nature’s anti-histamine, which has been shown to have an anti-allergy effect particularly against hay fever.”

A study from the Czech Republic, published in the journal Molecules in 2016, confirms that quercetin yields an anti-allergic immune response. The research suggests that quercetin can inhibit histamine release, decrease a pro-inflammatory response and suppress inflammatory mediators. These effects can assist with calming the symptoms of hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis, as well as other allergic responses.

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2. Onions

Onions also contain quercetin, which makes it an ideal food to incorporate into soups, tarts, salads and other meals, as part of a balanced diet.

“The reason onions help mitigate hay fever is because they contain quercetin, a water-soluble flavonoid that contains antihistamine and anti-inflammatory qualities,” says qualified nutritionist, Adele Hamilton of Anima Balance tells SBS.

Onion also features in homoeopathy – an alternative medical system founded by German physician Samuel Hahnemann around 200 years ago – as a food that can help relieve the symptoms of hay fever.

“The reason onions help mitigate hay fever is because they contain quercetin, a water-soluble flavonoid that contains anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory qualities.”

The homoeopathic remedy, Allium Cepa, is derived from red onion. Hamilton, who is also a homoeopath, says that Allium Cepa (potentised red onion) is often used in homoeopathy to reduce common symptoms like irritable and watery eyes, and burning discharge from the eyes and nose.

As is the age-old belief in homoeopathy, like is meant to treat like. So onions – which make you cry and irritate both the eyes and the nose – are used by homoeopaths to battle hay fever.

However, there is little clinical evidence to suggest that the homoeopathic remedy is effective in treating all people for the symptoms of hay fever.

So it might be an idea to consult a doctor before commencing a course of homeopathic treatment or just consume a quercetin-rich red onion as you would normally – as part of a balanced diet.

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3. Vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables 

Doumas explains that vitamin C is another natural antihistamine.

Vitamin C may potentially reduce the severity of allergic reactions and decrease your histamine production, slowing down your body's overreaction to environmental triggers like pollen.

“It’s good to eat plenty of vitamin C rich foods such as kiwi fruits, broccoli and strawberries, which work to support the body’s immune system and reduce the symptoms of hay fever,” explains Doumas.

4. Oily fish

“A diet high in omega-3 can also help reduce the effects of inflammation, so be sure to include lots of oily fish, such as salmon and sardines in your diet,” Doumas says.

“For a plant-based source, eat a handful of nuts and seeds each day and include walnuts and almonds.”

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5. Green tea

Green tea may provide some relief of hay fever. A Japanese study from 2002 identified a potent compound in green tea that blocks a key cell receptor involved in producing an allergic response.

The researchers say the compound, methylated epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), could block the production of histamine and immunoglobulin E (IgE) that are responsible for triggering and sustaining an allergic reaction. 

The effect was demonstrated on human blood cells. However, more research is needed to demonstrate how much green tea people need to drink to create this effect.

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