Why do allergy sufferers need to be concerned about their eating habits? Because a healthy diet best equips your body to handle allergy symptoms and to fight invaders to which allergies make you more susceptible. Your hard-working immune system also may increase demands for certain nutrients, both to protect the body and to help rebuild defenses.
The immune system is complex, and no single food, drink, mineral, or vitamin is responsible for fighting infection or rebuilding damaged tissues. Vitamins and minerals work together to help the entire system function properly. That's why a well-balanced diet is essential.
A healthy diet includes:
- A variety of fresh, unprocessed foods.
- Lots of fiber-containing foods, such as vegetables and whole grains.
- Three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit each day.
- Primarily low-fat foods.
- Only small amounts of red meat.
- Spices but little added salt.
- Moderate amounts of sweets.
By eating a healthy, balanced diet, you'll be providing the body with the following vitamins and minerals -- all of them important workers in building and maintaining a strong immune system. As a bonus, many of these vitamins also help the mucous membranes of the nose and throat, which are the immune system's front line, not to mention the areas most affected by allergy symptoms.
Protein: Most Americans don't have to worry about a protein deficiency since most diets have more than adequate amounts. However, if protein is lacking, the thymus gland shrinks, thereby decreasing the production of white blood cells that help fight disease.
Selenium: Selenium helps the body produce antibodies and teams up with vitamin E to help that vitamin work efficiently. Only a small amount is necessary. Selenium is found in meats, seafood, and whole grains.
Zinc: An adequate amount of zinc, found in animal-derived foods (meats, oysters, eggs, dairy products) and some beans, benefits the immune system in many ways. The thymus gland, where disease-fighting white blood cells are produced, gets an extra boost. Zinc also helps the skin to remain healthy, helps wounds heal faster, and may decrease the recovery time from colds.
A healthy, balanced diet doesn't stop at the dinner plate. Liquid intake plays an important, if often overlooked, role in maintaining your health. It aids the digestion, absorption, and transport of nutrients; ferries waste products away from the cells; gets rid of toxins from the blood via the urine; builds tissue; regulates body temperature; cushions joints and organs; and maintains blood pressure. Eight glasses of water or other nutritious, noncaffeinated beverages a day is recommended to keep your body happy, healthy, and hydrated. That's because you lose about 10 cups of fluid a day, and even more when it's warm outside or you're exercising.
Allergy sufferers should be especially vigilant about fluid intake. Some allergy medications, particularly antihistamines, leave nasal passages, eyes, and throat drier than desert sand. If medications don't cause membranes to shrivel up, an "allergy-proofed" environment might. A home with low humidity and/or air-conditioning can dry out the eyes, skin, and sinuses.
When we talk about fluids, we don't mean alcoholic beverages. Don't count alcohol as part of your daily fluid intake. Limit alcoholic beverages to one drink or less a day for women and two drinks or less a day for men. Remember that alcohol can exacerbate the effects of antihistamines, especially drowsiness.
Caffeinated beverages, such as cola drinks, coffee, and tea, don't fully count towards the 10 cups of fluid a day, especially for allergy sufferers. Caffeine can exacerbate the side effects of decongestants. And both alcohol and caffeine can act as weak diuretics, actually removing fluid from the body -- the opposite of what you need. However, caffeine is a mild bronchodilator.
Watching Out for Cross Reactions
It's crazy how allergies work sometimes, especially when it comes to cross reactions. This curious syndrome happens when a person allergic to a certain food, pollen, or substance has a reaction to another plant or fruit with a similar chemical configuration. Cast a suspicious eye toward the following foods if your lips, tongue, or throat start tingling or you itch after eating:
- Cantaloupe, watermelon, and/or chamomile tea if you have a ragweed allergy
- Tree fruits and hazelnuts if you have a birch tree pollen allergy
- Celery if you have a mugwort weed pollen allergy
- Tropical treats such as avocados and bananas, and sometimes peaches and apricots, if you have a latex allergy. Remember, latex comes from the rubber tree.
Cross reaction symptoms are typically mild and may not occur if food is processed or cooked. However, these may progress, so avoid the offending foods.By using alternative therapies and a well-planned diet, you can combat that runny nose and those watery eyes. ©Publications International, Ltd.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.