Ahhh, the lovely sight of Spring; beautiful blossoms, buzzing insects, sunny skies… and seasonal allergies.
For many, the onset of spring is a long overdue shift from our winter hibernation mode, others want to find the nearest surgical mask and stay indoors. Seasonal allergies caused by pollens produced by trees and grasses in the spring and summer.
The symptoms are caused by an autoimmune response to pollen that causes the mucous membranes in the nasal cavity to inflame. When the pollen comes in contact with the membranes, the immune system goes on the assault and creates antibodies to it.
If children are not allergic to pollen, this response is normal and goes unnoticed. However if your child has a pollen allergy, an extreme response is triggered, resulting in a mass production of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals that cause symptoms like: sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, sore throat, swollen eyes, itchy and irritated skin.
It’s normal for allergy sufferers to feel tired, irritable, and have poor focus or concentration during an allergy attack. By age 2-3 years , 20 percent of children have symptoms of upper respiratory allergies. 42 percent of children have allergies by age 6.
Foods that Aggravate Allergies
If you or your child suffers from seasonal allergies it is advisable to remove dairy products from her diet during the allergy season. This includes milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Dairy increases the mucous production and is a common allergen during childhood.
If you are worried about getting calcium and protein, you can introduce such foods as: nuts, seeds, beans, fortified rice or nut milks, green leafy vegetables, and black strap molasses.
Other foods that can cause histamine release include: tomatoes, bananas, strawberries, shrimp, lobster, salmon, pineapple, and chocolate. If you suspect that your child may have a sensitivity to any of these foods, then avoid them during hay fever season.
Wheat is another food that may exacerbate allergies. Originally a grass product, the proteins in wheat are similar to those in other grasses and it seems that allergy sufferers have become hypersensitive to these proteins. Also, the intensive farming practices of today deliver a much stronger and robust wheat that is higher in gluten (protein) which is a common gut irritant, and stimulates mucous production.
Simply extracting wheat from your child’s diet for a month will identify whether wheat is worsening your child’s allergies or not. Alternatives to wheat products include rye breads and crackers, oats, gluten free flours, brown rice, millet, quinoa, and buckwheat.
Medicinal Foods to Treat Allergies
Give your child foods rich in beta-carotene to help reduce allergic reactions and to soothe mucous membranes. Beta-carotene can be found in all yellow, orange, and red fruits, and in vegetables including: carrots, bell peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes.
Phytonutrients from the flavonoid group especially quercetin are known for their antihistamine qualities. Quercetin is found in the peel of citrus fruits as well as in buckwheat, colored onions, apples, tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, and broad beans.
It enhances the body’s absorption of vitamin C- another antihistamine, which prevents the secretion of white blood cells and increases detoxification activity. Quercetin and vitamin C are often found together in foods, mainly citrus fruits. Other vitamin C rich foods include black currants, kiwi, guava, bell peppers.
Garlic is a powerful food that can provide allergy relief as it reduces sinus inflammation. Include it in stir-frys, soups, salad dressings. Remember- the full spectrum of health benefits of garlic are best when chopped and left to sit for an hour in open air prior to being used.
Other herbs and spices that may relieve allergy symptoms include: ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, fenugreek, chili, and horseradish- all of which have decongestant and expectorant qualities.
Calcium and Magnesium are excellent anti-allergy minerals that have a soothing influence on the nervous system. You can find them in nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, and calcium magnesium supplement formula- which comes in a variety of flavors. Magnesium can be taken 6 milligrams per pound of body weight daily in the form of magnesium chloride or magnesium citrate.
Omega-3 Fatty acids abundant in flaxseed oils and cold water fish like salmon, herring, and krill have an effect on the inflammatory process. Gamma-linoleic acid, contained in evening primrose, borage, and black currant oils also fosters the production of favorable prostaglandins.
Encourage your child to stay hydrated on water and diluted juices to thin the mucous secretions. Feed your child yummy salads and cooked greens, offer nut mixes if they are at least 5 years of age. Offer a teaspoon of local honey (made from local pollen) dissolved in warm water once daily to help build up your child’s resistance to pollen and lessening the affects of the allergies over time.
Key Foods for fighting allergies: almond, arugula, barley, blackberry, blueberry, broccoli, brown rice, fig, garlic, ginger, grapefruit, honey, kale, lemon, onion, rosemary.
Managing Allergies at Home
- Keep your child’s nose clean- literally. Use salt nasal drops or nasal irrigation to help wash away allergens.
- Steam inhalation will help cut down on congestion and loosen the mucous so it’s easier to expel.
- Experiment with changes to your child’s diet eliminating the foods that cause inflammatory illnesses.
- Keep stress levels low in your child’s life. High stress often contributes to low immunity and more inflammation.
- Make an Allergy Tea
2 teaspoons of the following herbs:
eyebright herb (decreases secretions of nose and eyes)
stinging nettles (decreases histamine response)
rose hips (provides vitamin-C, bioflavonoids)
elder flowers (reduces excess mucous)
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (stimulates circulation, anti-inflammatory)
7 cups of water
Directions: Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and add herbs; steep 5-10 minutes. Strain and sweeten to taste with raw honey or raw agave nectar.
Dosage: Start with 1/4 cup twice daily for 5 year old, 1/2 cup for older children. The solution will store well in the refrigerator for up to four days.