Food is medicine: Improve your allergies and reduce inflammation through diet


 Allergy related conditions such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis), eczema and some types of asthma can be very troubling and impact on confidence and quality of life.  While a range of conventional and natural medicine options can assist these conditions, there are also some interesting self-help strategies which can be tried. Researchers have observed variations in the rate of these types of allergies around the world and found that people in Greece have very few reported allergies. Researchers tested the theory that the Mediterranean diet which is naturally high in antioxidant foods and essential fatty acids found in fish may have a protective effect against some types of allergies. For their initial study they studied children in Crete where the Mediterranean diet is common. They found that high dietary intake of commonly consumed fruits and vegetables and nuts had a beneficial effect on allergic rhinitis, asthma-like symptoms and excema.  A weekly intake of margarine had a harmful effect on asthma and allergic rhinitis. On a similar theme another study found that children who eat fast food 3 or more time a week were at an increased risk of severe asthma, whereas children who ate fruit at least 3 times a week were at a reduced risk of severe asthma. What’s also fascinating is that pregnant women who follow the Mediterranean diet have children with fewer allergies as well. Does this mean that diet causes these allergies? Maybe not – but it does show how simply eating a naturally nutrient rich diet and avoiding junk food may reduce these symptoms in some people.

 The study’s authors believe that the rich supply of antioxidants found in vegetables, fruits and nuts and the antinflamatory oils found in fish reduce inflammation and allergic symptoms, whereas junk food and the oils found in margarine tend to increase inflammatory process and allergies in the body.  The authors speculate that it is probably the complex interactions of antioxidants in whole foods rather than any one antioxidant which is responsible for the results so diet rather than a supplement should be the first choice.  So which foods are rich in antioxidants? Antioxidants are plentiful in fruit and vegetables, especially brightly colored ones, and often concentrated in the skin. Try cherries; avocado; beans;  leafy greens (especially darker ones); broccoli; asparagus; bean sprouts; tomatoes; berries; apples and pears; grapes; nuts and green tea. Spices that are also antixodant rich include ginger, basil, cayenne pepper and turmeric. Provided you are not sensitive to any of the foods mentioned (in which case avoid them) the only side effect of an antioxidant rich diet and cutting out junk food should be a boost in energy and wellbeing.