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03-26-2011, 03:01 PM
The Anti-Allergy Diet
By Victoria Stein/AOL
With allergy season right around the corner, we've sought out the foods that will help ward off those itchy eyes and runny noses. Plus, a list of foods you should skip if you want to stay congestion-free.

Allergies are the immune system's reaction to generally safe substances in the environment (like ragweed and pollen). When allergens interact with immune cells in the blood, histamine and other allergic intermediaries are released into the bloodstream, causing familiar allergic reactions -- namely sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes, skin rashes and stuffy congestion. Although no diet can prevent allergies all together, certain foods can help alleviate symptoms.

Red Wine, Apples and Onions
Quercetin, a flavonoid that helps the body fight against allergic inflammation by inhibiting the release of histamine, is found red wine, apples and onions. You can also get a dose of this ant-allergy antioxidant in berries, red grapes, black tea, broccoli and citrus fruits.

Grapefruits and Red Peppers
Vitamin C strengthens the immune system and decreases the production of histamine. Oranges, cantaloupe, papaya, strawberries, dark leafy green vegetables, and sweet potatoes are also good sources.

Mustard Greens
Mustard greens are a great source of beta-carotene and vitamins E and C, which fight inflammation, scavenge for free radicals and help break down histamine. Sauté mustard greens with olive oil and garlic or use them as you would any other dark leafy green.

Flaxseed, Walnuts and Salmon
Eating a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids may help alleviate allergies by reducing inflammatory chemicals in the body. One German study showed that a high level of omega 3s in subjects' diet or red blood cells was associated with a decreased risk of hay fever. Other sources of this essential fatty acid include canola oil, pumpkin seeds, and cold-water fatty fish.

Brazil Nuts
Selenium is an essential mineral that is required in very small amounts. In the body it is incorporated into proteins to make important antioxidant enzymes that both strengthen the immune system and increase the effectiveness of vitamin C. Brazil nuts and tuna are among the best sources.

Green Tea
Green tea is rich in catechin, a polyphenol (antioxidant) that inhibits the enzyme that converts histidine to histamine. For maximum benefits, use loose tea leaves instead of tea bags and pair with fruit or vegetables high in vitamin C.

Cayenne Pepper
Hot, spicy foods thin mucous secretions which can help clear nasal passages. Try adding cayenne pepper, ginger, onion and garlic to your favorite dishes.

Garlic inhibits certain enzymes that generate inflammatory compounds, has a kick just like cayenne, and is a good source of vitamin C.

Rosemary contains a substance called rosmarinic acid, a polyphenol that is believed to suppress allergic reactions and inflammation. Try adding rosemary to roast potatoes, marinades, and tomato sauces.

Tumeric, a member of the ginger family, boasts anti-inflammatory properties. A central ingredient in curries and other Indian dishes, tumeric can also be used as a flavor enhancer for fish, meat, vegetable and pasta recipes.

Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds help suppress allergic reactions thanks to high levels of vitamin E and selenium. Vitamin E fights inflammation and selenium stimulates immune function (see above).

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Pro-inflammatory foods increase inflammation, which may aggravate existing allergy symptoms. High-fat meats, fast food and packaged, baked goods are high in unhealthy fats (trans fats and saturated fats) and processed meats (hot dogs, sausage, bacon) contain chemicals called nitrates -- both of which are associated with increased inflammation. Even naturally occurring saturated fats, such as those found in meats, dairy and eggs, contain fatty acids called arachidonic acid, which may exacerbate inflammation in large quantities. Lean meats and low fat dairy products will not promote inflammation.

In the case of oral allergy syndrome, our bodies mistake a plant protein for pollen triggering a cross-reaction. People who suffer from ragweed allergies may experience similar symptoms when they eat certain seeds (sunflower), fruits (bananas, melon) and vegetables (cucumbers, zucchini), take the herb Echinacea, or drink chamomile tea. Individuals with grass pollen allergies may have difficulty eating melons, oranges, peaches, tomatoes and celery. And pollen from alder trees can cross-react with apples, cherries, peaches, pears, parsley, celery, almonds and hazelnuts.

To prevent or reduce allergy symptoms, stick with fresh, unprocessed foods and steer clear of any personal triggers.