Byline: Sara Best
Sneezing, runny nose, itchy and watery eyes – the hallmarks of seasonal allergies.
When everyone around you is celebrating the return of spring, are you silently cursing all growing things?
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, the pollen in the air triggers a histamine (immune system) response in your body. One of the ways to prevent the horrible symptoms of this reaction is to strengthen your immune system so that it can quickly and easily neutralize the allergens without causing such a dramatic (and miserable) response.
Here are five things you can do to boost your immune system and help end your suffering from seasonal allergies:
1. Improve Digestion
Since approximately 80 per cent of your immune system is located in your gut, it’s no surprise that this is also where a lot of issues around allergies begin.
One of the biggest culprits behind allergies is leaky gut. After years of abuse (poor digestion, undiagnosed food sensitivities, etc.), gaps can start to form in the lining of your intestinal wall. This allows undigested proteins to enter your blood stream, sending your immune system into overdrive. With your immune system on constant red alert like this, it becomes unusually sensitive to environmental triggers and the symptoms of seasonal allergies often worsen.
You can disrupt this pattern by working to rebuild your intestinal wall. For a period of 21 days, try eliminating all common food allergens (gluten, dairy, soy, corn). During this period also cut out caffeine, alcohol and as much sugar as possible. Replace these foods with nutrient-dense and fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and clean proteins. Add in a good quality probiotic supplement and also look at natural sources of probiotics such as fermented foods.
You may find a significant improvement in your allergy symptoms at the end of the 21 days.
2. Drink Water
Your immune system – like every other system in your body – relies heavily on being properly hydrated to function. Most of us are walking around in a state of at least partial dehydration for most of the day.
Aim to get your full 6-8 glasses of water a day – more if you’re exercising heavily.
Water with fresh lemon juice is also a great way to alkalinize the body which helps to reduce inflammation and support the immune system.
Antioxidants are like booster packs for your immune system. They feed the production of white blood cells and antibodies.
Vitamins C, E and beta-carotene as well as zinc and selenium are among the most powerful antioxidants.
Great dietary sources of these include berries, green leafy vegetables, carrots, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, green tea, Brazil nuts, citrus fruits, garlic and onions.
Lack of adequate sleep can seriously compromise your immune system. The number of infection-fighting antibodies and cells in your body are reduced when you’re sleep deprived. In fact, studies have shown that certain white blood cells known as granulocytes are dramatically reduced after just one sleepless night.
Aim for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night to keep your immune system in tip-top shape.
5. Cut out the Sugar
Processed sugar is incredibly hard on the immune system. Studies show that just three ounces of sugar can actually suppress your immune system within 30 minutes of consumption–a response that can last up to 5 hours!
Sara Best is looking forward to graduating as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition this May.
She is the creator of the blog If Your Body Could Talk where she is building a community of people who want to better understand how to listen to the messages their bodies are sending them and use them to feel great and love life!
Sara is a writer and mom of two and lives in Ontario, Canada.