The key to alleviating seasonal allergies? Optimize your gut health

There is an important relationship between your gut, skin and seasonal allergies. Here’s how a few simple dietary changes can help you get through allergy season, according to a nutritionist.

Spring brings warm temperatures, blooming flowers and chirping birds. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the reviving sun, cool off on the beach or enjoy the freshest fruit that has just come back into season. For some it is the most beautiful time of the year. But for many others, it means the return of seasonal allergies and deteriorating skin health. It may seem like there’s no escaping these annual ailments, but what you may not realize is that what you eat can actually help relieve pesky allergy symptoms and protect your skin.

Why do your allergies get worse this time of year? The return of the flowers symbolizing the arrival of spring is to blame. Leading nutritionist Dr Denise Furness says it’s because “floral pollen increases during the spring, causing hay fever-like symptoms.” On top of allergy issues, warmer weather brings another set of challenges, “the change in weather can also make our skin dry and sometimes inflamed,” says Dr. Furness.

Dr. Furness is a pioneer in nutrigenomics, which studies the relationship between people’s genes, nutrition and health. While it may be difficult to understand the connection between your gut health and allergies, Dr. Furness says changing your diet can be crucial in getting you through allergy season. “When we feed our gut, we can support our immune system, which can help our bodies tolerate the spring season,” says Dr. Furness.

To optimize gut health and reduce allergies, there is a group of foods that are easy to add to your diet that contain one key nutrient: fiber. “Eating high-fiber foods and fresh produce like fruits and vegetables builds your gut’s defense system and often aids in healing and reducing inflammation,” says Dr. Furness. “Grain fiber, in particular, feeds the bacteria in the gut that modulate the immune response.”

“Gut health can be optimized quite easily by consuming high-fiber foods and natural products, such as grains, nuts, beans, and fresh fruit.”

The gut is associated with allergies and skin health because of its connection to the body’s immune system. The gut is responsible for all nutrients entering the body. It distributes the nutrients to different areas that need them. But if you don’t eat a balanced diet and your gut doesn’t get those nutrients, it can’t help when you need them most. “A balanced diet is essential for maintaining good gut health and ultimately reducing the impact of allergy symptoms.” Dr. Furness says.

Fiber is crucial. There are a range of high-fiber foods that you probably see every day that are easy to add to your diet. From starting the day with a high-fiber cereal to swapping a typical snack for some nuts, or even increasing your intake of fruits and veggies, the options are plentiful. In terms of how it can help your gut, yogurt is a superfood. Yoghurt contains strains of bacteria that can replenish the bacteria already present and further improve your gut health.

“Foods, such as high-fiber grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, are the best foods to feed our gut due to their high fiber content.”

While a quick fix would be great, a lasting change in diet needs to be made to see positive change. As Dr. Furness says, “Good things take time and this is certainly the case when it comes to improving your gut health.” Making the change can be difficult and one of the biggest challenges is breaking old habits. But for anyone exposed to the constant torture of seasonal allergies, it’s worth it. “If you make a conscious effort to implement these changes, you will see the benefits within a few days.” Dr. Furness says.

“You often notice small differences at first, such as less bloating, less discomfort and more energy. Over time, however, the benefits are much greater, with the potential for a reduction in allergy symptoms, a better mood and a stronger immune system.

If a high-fiber diet doesn’t appeal to you, there are other ways to survive allergy season. Dr. Furness says better rest is another factor in relieving symptoms. “Getting a good night’s sleep gives your body time to recover and function at its best the next day.” Drinking plenty of water is the best protection for your skin. “Hydrating is also a great way to keep your skin from drying out and feel the effects of the change of season.” Dr. Furness says.

Three recipes to clean your gut

According to dr. Furness, transitioning to a high-fiber diet is key to spring-cleaning your gut and alleviating allergy symptoms. Fortunately, there are plenty of common fiber-rich foods that are easy to incorporate into your diet. Here are three healthy, high-fiber meals, courtesy of Kellogg’s, that will help you clean out your gut and get through allergy season.

Morning come

Start your morning with a bowl of high-fiber cereal topped with yogurt, pomegranate, and pistachios.

Ingredients:

40 g fiber-rich cereal flakes

Dollop of yogurt

Handful of pomegranate jewelry

Handful of chopped pistachios

Travel directions:

1. Pour cereal into a bowl.

2. Add a dollop of yogurt

3. Top with a handful of pomegranate jewels and chopped pistachios for a subtle nutty flavor.

Fiber-rich snack bars

These bars are a great option if you need an afternoon pick-me-up or if you’re on the go.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup tightly packed brown sugar

125g butter or reduced-fat butter blend

1/3 cup golden syrup

3 1/2 cups high-fiber cereal flakes

2/3 cup flour

1/2 cup dried apricots, finely chopped

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Travel directions:

1. Preheat the oven to medium (180°C/160°C convection).

2. Grease a 19cm x 29cm rectangular tin; cover the bottom and two long sides with baking paper.

3. Combine sugar, butter, and syrup in a medium saucepan; stir over low heat until butter melts.

4. Stir in remaining ingredients; mix until well combined.

5. Divide the mixture into the prepared pan.

6. Bake, uncovered, in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes or until browned and firm to the touch.

7. Cool in pan before slicing.

Fiber Boost Acai Bowl

The Acai Bowl is a top foodie trend that is growing in popularity. Try this fruity version with an added cereal crunch for an extra hit of fruit and fiber for your day. It just might become your pick me up staple.

Ingredients:

1 cup high-fiber bran cereal

1/3 cup (30 g) acai powder

2 cups (240 g) frozen mixed berries

1 cup of coconut water

1/2 tablespoon maple syrup

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 cup of fresh raspberries

1/2 cup coconut flakes

1/2 cup of chia seeds

Travel directions:

1. Put the acai powder, mixed berries, coconut water and maple syrup in your blender until smooth.

2. Add extra coconut water for desired consistency.

3. Garnish with cereal, blueberries, raspberries, coconut and chia seeds to serve.

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