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The Best and Worst Foods for Allergies

Some of us can't wait for the brilliant blossoms of spring or summer to finally arrive. Others fear that day and the sniffling, sneezing, coughing, scratchy throats, and watery eyes it promises to bring. Because of climate change, this has been a worse-than-average spring allergy season—and experts say the situation will only escalate as time goes on.

In those with allergies, the immune system overreacts to typically harmless triggers, such as pollen. This allergen is mistaken as a threat, and the body releases a chemical called histamine, meant to protect you, which produces the above-mentioned symptoms in the process.

If you're no stranger to spring allergies, you're probably already familiar with your biggest triggers and remedies to make the sneezing stop, whether that's taking an allergy medication or adopting any number of natural allergy remedies.

Part of your prevention plan is likely to be to avoid your biggest triggers as much as possible. However, it's not quite as simple as it is with a food allergy wherein you simply don't eat the food you're allergic to, thus avoiding the symptoms, says Leonard Bielory, M.D., American College of Asthma and Immunology fellow.

But it turns out avoiding certain foods—and adding more of others—can affect your likelihood of developing seasonal allergies, as well as the severity of your symptoms. "It's a life choice, not a meal choice," Bielory, an allergy specialist at Rutgers University's Center for Environmental Prediction and a physician at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey, says.

So what should you eat if you want to stop sniffling? Here are some of best and worst foods and drinks for seasonal allergies.

Best: Fish

In some studies, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower the risk of developing allergies and to reduce symptoms. Look for them in fatty fish such as salmon, as well as in nuts. The anti-inflammatory properties of those omega-3s is likely to thank for that allergy relief.

The downside is that it takes quite a bit of omega-3 fatty acids to see even minimal benefit says Neil L. Kao, M.D., an allergist and clinical immunologist in practice in South Carolina.

However, in cultures where people eat more fish and less meat all throughout their lives, overall asthma and allergy responses are less frequent, says Bielory. But "it's a whole culture," he points out, not the difference between having a tuna sandwich for lunch or a burger.

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Best: Apples

An apple a day doesn't exactly keep the pollen allergy away, but a powerful combo of compounds found in apples might help at least a little. Getting your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C may protect against both allergies and asthma, according to WebMD. And the antioxidant quercetin, found in the skin of apples (as well as in onions and tomatoes), has been linked with better lung function.

Other good vitamin C sources include oranges, of course, but also more surprising picks like red peppers, strawberries and tomatoes, all of which contain a number of other nutrients essential to healthy living beyond simply allergy relief, says Bielory.

Best: Red Grapes

The famed resveratrol, the antioxidant in the skin of red grapes that gives red wine its good name, has anti-inflammatory powers that might reduce allergy symptoms, says Kao.

In a 2007 study of children in Crete who follow a traditional Mediterranean diet, daily fruit intake including grapes, oranges, apples and tomatoes was linked with less frequent wheezing and nasal allergy symptoms, reported.

Best: Warm Liquids

If your allergies present themselves as congestion or a mucus-y cough (sorry), consider turning to one of the tried-and-true sips to ease cold symptoms: a steamy drink. Warm liquids, whether it's hot tea or chicken soup, may help thin out mucus to ease congestion. Not to mention, it'll help you stay hydrated. Not in the mood for soup? Inhaling in a steamy shower can do the trick, too, says Bielory.

Worst: Celery

Because some of the most common spring allergy triggers come from the same families of plants as various foods, certain fruits and veggies can cause what's called oral allergy syndrome. Rather than sniffling or sneezing, these foods are likely to cause an itchy mouth or throat, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

"Corn is a grass, wheat is a grass, rice is a grass, so if you're allergic to grass, you can have a cross-reactivity to foods," says Bielory.

Celery, peaches, tomatoes, and melons might cause problems for people allergic to grasses, according to the AAAAI, and bananas, cucumbers, melons, and zucchini can trigger symptoms in people with ragweed allergies. Typically, allergists will go over lists of families of plants with patients so you'll know what to avoid at the grocery store, says Bielory.

Worst: Spicy Foods

Ever bit into a spicy dish and felt it all the way in your sinuses? Capsaicin, the compound that gives hot peppers their kick, really does trigger allergy-like symptoms. You nose might run, your eyes could water, you may even sneeze, says Kao.

These reactions occur via a different pathway than true allergies, says Bielory. But if spicy foods mimic your already bothersome symptoms, you might want to skip the jalapeños until you're in the clear.

Worst: Alcohol

Ever find your nose runny or stopped up after a drink or two? Alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate, the same process that gives your cheeks that rosy flush, and might make allergy sniffles feel worse.

The effect changes from person to person says Kao, but if you're already feeling sneezy before happy hour, it might be a good idea to take it easy, since having allergies may increase your likelihood for alcohol-induced sniffles, according to a 2005 study.

There's also some naturally-occurring histamin in alcohol, made during the fermentation process. Depending on how your body processes it, this could also lead to more allergy-like symptoms after drinking, the New York Times reported.

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