It's not unknown that the state of our gut plays a huge role in our overall health. 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. 70%!!! That's huge. We also know that what we eat on a daily basis can either help or hurt our gut microbiome. Why is the gut microbiome so important? Well when our gut health is compromised, it directly affects our immune system. And seasonal allergies are the result of our immune system reacting to an external factor. See how it's all connected? A healthy gut = a well functioning immune system = reduced seasonal allergies. An unbalanced gut that is "leaky" or not functioning well leaves us much more susceptible to illness, food sensitivities, seasonal allergies, and even autoimmune diseases in the long run. So what can we do to help keep our gut and immune system in tip top shape and plunder through this springtime sneezy, itchy-eyed madness?
1. Take a high-quality probiotic or eat plenty of fermented/cultured foods
We have to make sure that we're supplying our gut with the beneficial bacteria necessary to keep our gut lining in-tact and promoting optimal digestion and health. Luckily, we can do that through both supplements and foods. You've probably heard me mention some of these foods before, so if you haven't tried them out yet this is just one more reason why you should! Foods such as raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, miso, natto, cultured yogurts (check the label for live cultures), and kefir are all awesome options. If you're dairy free, there are plenty of non-dairy yogurts and kefir available on the market. When choosing a probiotic, do your research to be sure that you're picking a quality brand that you trust. The Winchester Institute also has two great pharmaceutical grade options from Anabolic Labs and Standard Process to make it even easier for you.
2. Incorporate organic turmeric root or powder into your meals
Turmeric contains a bioactive anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin. This powerful antioxidant can actually inhibit the release of histamine and ultimately inhibits the allergic response. If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably seen me add turmeric powder to all of my eggs and omelets, and even as part of a marinade for my tofu and tempeh! Add it to your tropical fruit smoothies, curry flavored dishes, or really any savory dish you enjoy on the reg. Curcumin has been shown to increase nasal airflow and support immune response in people with allergies, which is great news for those that are suffering extra this year in terms of nasal congestion.
3. Eat foods rich in vitamin C
We think of vitamin C as the nutrient to load up on to boost our immune system as we anticipate a cold or illness coming on. Did you know that vitamin C can also have a direct role to play in our allergies? This micronutrient actually prevents the formation of histamine. In contrast, over-the-counter antihistamine medications work by interfering with the histamine after it has already been produced. (Basically, just slapping a Band-Aid on the problem). To maximize effectiveness, vitamin C is best consumed with bioflavonoids which are the natural pigments found in fruits and vegetables. So, eat those fruits and veggies rather than loading up on Airborne. These compounds help to stabilize mast cells, which are the cells that secrete the histamine linked to allergic reactions. Foods to incorporate could be bell peppers, fresh lemon, oranges, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, and spinach.
4. Get ready to cry more – eat your onions!
Onions contain an ingredient called quercetin, a bioflavonoid that is an effective inhibitor of histamine. Other quercetin rich foods include shallots, broccoli, apples, peppers, some teas, and even dill. Similar to vitamin C, quercetin works to halt mast cells from secreting histamine and thus improving the way our bodies react to external factors that trigger allergic reactions.
5. Stock up on pineapple
Pineapple is one of the richest sources in the world of the enzyme bromelain, a compound that has been extracted to be used as an anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling agent. In mice studies, bromelain has been shown to reduce allergic sensitization and stop the development of other inflammatory responses affecting our airways. Unlike over-the-counter medications, this enzyme attacks the root of the problem when it comes to allergic reactions – an over-sensitized immune system. Many people have reported improved symptoms of a stuffy/runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, and swollen lymph nodes.
Seasonal allergies can be a real buzz kill. Don’t resort to taking an anti-histamine every day for the next month! Not only is it harmful for your gut, but it’s also harmful for your wallet. An abundance of fruits, vegetables, and cultured foods is the key to maintaining optimal gut and immune health. Shocking how all these fruits and veggies continuously work to keep us feeling well, huh?