What is allergic rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis is caused by the immune system over-reacting to allergens like dust mites, mould and pollen. In someone with this condition the body sees these things as dangerous and so, instead of just letting them pass by as would usually be the case, it tries to fight them.
Normally, the mucous membranes that line the nose produce mucus to help trap any foreign particles like dirt and germs. However, in someone with allergic rhinitis, when one of the allergens listed above is detected, this organised system changes. The mucous membranes can become irritated and inflamed leading to an increase in the production of mucus. This, in turn, leads to many of the symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis.
Mucus can drip down the back of the throat for example, causing a cough to develop. It may also settle in the ear passages or the sinuses causing ear infections and congestion. What’s more, swelling of the nasal passages occurs due to the large amounts of histamine being produced by the immune system in response to the allergen. This can make it harder to breathe and so you can see how all these things together make allergic rhinitis quite problematic!
Here at A.Vogel we aim to help you out as best we can when it comes to allergies like this one. That’s why I’ve dedicated a whole blog to the various food and drinks that could help your allergic rhinitis. You may have limited control over your contact with a specific allergen or allergens, but you can control what you eat and drink!
Congestion is often a big problem for people with allergic rhinitis but, as was discussed in one of our previous blogs ‘can what you eat and drink affect your blocked nose?’, spice can sometimes help the problem.
Ever been a little generous with the chilli powder in your homemade curry and felt your nose begin to run? Well, this effect is caused by capsaicin, a compound found inside chilli peppers. This compound can be helpful when we are feeling congested as it breaks down mucus, causing it to run. So, it turns out you can have a tasty meal and help your allergy symptoms at the same time – just remember to keep your tissues handy!
Our website offers a whole host of spicy recipes to choose from but I particularly like the spicy butternut squash soup. With this recipe you can add as many chillies as you like to really increase the intensity of the heat. Plus, it’s super tasty, healthy and is packed full of nutrients and vitamins too!
As I already mentioned, in someone with allergic rhinitis large amounts of histamine are produced by the immune system when the body comes into contact with an allergen. This is why your doctor or pharmacist will recommend antihistamine medication. It aims to stop the effects of histamine to reduce symptoms such as inflammation, congestion, watery eyes and sneezing. However, there are foods that can help with this too and fruit and vegetables full of quercetin are an excellent place to start!
Quercetin is a type of polyphenol (a chemical compound) that can help control the levels of histamine being produced by the body. However, it is also often said to have an anti-inflammatory effect as, by controlling histamine production, it can reduce the problem of inflammation.1 This means it’s very important for someone with allergic rhinitis, but which foods actually contain it?
So, as it heads into allergy season, I’d recommend you find ways to regularly include these fruit and vegetables in your diet. Our raspberry and blueberry smoothie for example, is a refreshing and tasty way to include just a couple of these quercetin-rich fruits!
Pineapples are the only fruit containing bromelain, a compound that can be beneficial for those with allergic rhinitis. Some studies have suggested that bromelain reduces swelling which could therefore help deal with the symptoms of this condition. Plus, bromelain can also thin mucus which may help symptoms such as congestion and coughing.2
With all this positivity surrounding pineapple, you might be thinking of including more in your diet through fruit salads and smoothies. However, don’t forget you can make it into a tasty dessert too! Our pineapple ice lollies make the perfect after dinner snack but, if you want to try something more adventurous, we also have a pineapple cheesecake for you to try. This cheesecake is refreshing and light, plus the natural ingredients mean it’s completely vegan. So, why not treat yourself and help your allergic rhinitis symptoms at the same time?
4) Vitamin C
Histamine can cause inflammation and bring your skin out in rashes when you come into contact with an allergen. However, vitamin C is a natural antihistamine meaning it could help to counteract these effects. Our bodies cannot produce or store vitamin C so it’s up to you to consistently add it to your diet. If you do, you should find that this helps symptoms such as congestion.
Fruits that contain vitamin C include:
- Red and green peppers
- Brussels sprouts
Our easy no-bake orange oat bars make the perfect snack and will help you get that daily dose of vitamin C too. However, if you feel you need a little bit of help to up your vitamin C intake, you could try out Nature-C. This natural product is made from a variety of fruits so it’s easy for the stomach to absorb, unlike traditional vitamin supplements. Vitamin C also supports the immune system which is important if you want to get on top of your allergic rhinitis symptoms.
5) Omega 3
Omega 3 is another food source rich in anti-inflammatory properties so once again, it may prove beneficial for people suffering from allergic rhinitis.3 Foods rich in omega 3 include lots of fish such as:
However, there are also a number of nuts and seeds that contain omega 3 as well:
There are many easy fish recipes on our website but I particularly love our potato cakes with smoked salmon and papaya chutney. Alternatively, you could add some nuts and seeds to a salad because, as well as helping the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, this will make it a little more exciting than just eating lettuce. These healthy dishes should help you to add more omega 3 into your diet.
A recent study by the University of Florida’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition found that probiotics had a positive effect on hayfever symptoms.4 In order to reach this conclusion the study used 173 healthy adults, all of whom reported having mild to moderate seasonal allergies. The group was split in half with one side receiving a probiotic, the other receiving a placebo. Compared with the placebo group, those who took the probiotic reported reduced allergy symptoms and improvements in their quality of life.
However, how exactly does this work? Well, research has shown that good bacteria may reduce the body’s immune response to allergens like pollen.5 So, if you’d like to try upping your consumption of probiotic foods to help your allergic rhinitis symptoms, here are some foods to include in your diet:
- Dairy-free yogurt - watch out for the kind high in sugar and fat – natural, plain flavoured ones are best. Also, milk is known to make mucus thicker so a dairy-free alternative, which still contains probiotics, may be best to help relieve your symptoms
- Fermented foods such as apple cider vinegar and pickles
- Sauerkraut – a finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented in lactic acid bacteria. This also contains antioxidants, minerals and vitamin C so should really help your allergic rhinitis symptoms.
- Tempeh – this is a fermented soybean product that is often substituted for meat
- Kimchi – a spicy, fermented Korean side dish. It is usually made from cabbage but can include other vegetables too.
- Miso soup – miso is a type of Japanese seasoning which is mixed with stock to make miso soup. The dish can include various ingredients depending on region and season.6
Having yogurt for breakfast is a great way to include more probiotics in your diet. I’d recommend you top it with some homemade muesli for some extra antioxidants, fibre and protein too!
If you’d like some further information on this topic, have a look at our blog ‘How can probiotics help the immune system?’
You’ll be pleased to know that relaxing with a cup of tea could actually help your allergic rhinitis symptoms! However, you will have to stay clear of tea that’s high in caffeine as this can trigger the release of histamine which could worsen your symptoms. As an alternative, I’d opt for a caffeine-free tea such as Tick Tock’s Redbush Tea which is available over with our friends at Jan de Vries. This will provide you with the comfort of a warm drink, whilst avoiding the troublesome properties contained in a regular cup of tea.
Alternatively, there are a variety of herbal teas such as chamomile and ginger which may help hayfever symptoms.7 You could also try peppermint tea which can thin mucus to ease congestion. Also, green tea helps strengthen the immune system and acts as a natural antihistamine. So, it seems there is plenty of choice when it comes to teas that could help your allergic rhinitis!
Need more help?
If you feel you need a little more help to keep on top of your allergic rhinitis, don’t worry as we have a few herbal products that just might do the trick!
The Pollinosan Hayfever tablets contain seven tropical herbs to help treat the symptoms of hayfever and allergic rhinitis such as sneezing, watery eyes, tickly nose, itching and congestion. This product stands out from other hayfever treatments as it is non-drowsy. Therefore, this should allow you to get on with your day-to-day life without worrying about this side effect.
You could also try the Pollinosan Nasal Spray as this cleanses the nasal passages to get rid of allergens like pollen. It can be used alongside other hayfever treatments and for a prolonged period of time too. This makes it a really popular choice for those suffering from allergies of the type we have discussed.