Natural Support for Seasonal Allergies

Natural Support for Seasonal Allergies

By Andrea Bartels CNP NNCP RNT
Registered Nutritional Therapist

09 May 2023

Natural Support for Seasonal Allergies

Are you experiencing itchy eyes and throat, a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, and fatigue?  Is your asthma flaring up? These are the most common symptoms of “hayfever”—the seasonal allergic reactions to tree and grass pollens. 

Over-the-counter anti-histamine drugs like desloratadine (Aerius) , loratadine (Claritin) and fexofenadine (Allegra) are designed to provide some relief from environmental allergies.  Unfortunately, the side effects of these medications can include dryness of the mouth, nose, eyes, headache, fatigue, cough, abdominal pain or discomfort, and even nausea or vomiting.

You don’t have to trade annoying allergy symptoms for another set of discomforts like these. Reducing your need for these medications starts with an understanding of how they work, and what food ingredients can offer in the way of allergy support.


Classic Allergies 101

The classic allergic reaction happens like this: when an allergen like pollen enters the body via the airway, IgE antibodies in your tissues that are designed to recognize that specific pollen type attach to the pollen particles. That stimulates a group of white blood cells called mast cells to release inflammatory chemicals like histamine into your tissues. This is what causes the swelling, itching and nasal secretions in allergy.

Anti-histamine drugs suppress histamine release by binding to histamine receptors on those mast cells.  The logic is, no histamine, no inflammation—but not without potential side-effects.  It’s also important to remember that suppressing the allergic response means suppressing the immune response---and that may pose additional risks, depending on the individual.

Here are a few ways to manage seasonal allergies naturally.


Nutritional support for Pollen Allergies

Reduce intake of inflammatory foods. There’s a reason why the traditional Mediterranean diet of Greece and southern Italy is considered one of the healthiest diets: it’s low in inflammation-promoting foods like sugar, milk products, red meats, milk products and processed foods.  Most importantly, this diet is high in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil.

Eat foods that nourish your T-regulatory cells. T-regs are immune cells that keep the immune system from being too ‘excitable’.  They act like the conductor of an orchestra, whose job is to direct the tempo and volume of music coming from different parts of the band, to create a balanced sound that people want to listen to.

The foods that nourish the T-regs include flavonoid-containing plants, like green tea, oolong tea, onions, broccoli, spinach, parsley, avocado, sweet potato and berries. Onions are a source of quercetin—a bioflavonoid associated with histamine inhibition. Strawberries are particularly beneficial because not only are they excellent sources of vitamin C --- they also contain fisetin, a bioflavonoid that reduces histamine release by preventing the IgE antibodies from binding to mast cells.  Just make sure the strawberries you buy are organic, local or flash-frozen to reduce the chance of mould exposure.

Boost your glutathione levels with NAC and selenium.  Allergy and inflammation are worsened by the presence of oxidative stress. Although there are glutathione-containing supplements on the marketplace marketed to counteract oxidative stress, it’s important to realize that their effectiveness is limited by the fact that glutathione doesn’t get absorbed intact from the digestive tract. 

Since the allergic response tends to reduce levels of this endogenous antioxidant, allergy can result in a poor response to infection.  In the case of asthma, glutathione depletion can worsen the damage that an allergic reaction has on the lungs.  That’s why supporting glutathione production with its nutritional building blocks, selenium and n-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) can be useful for those who suffer from allergies.

Selenium is an essential trace mineral found in foods grown in selenium-rich soils---which is becoming rare due to intensive farming practices.  While human research links certain types of cancer to selenium deficiency, animal research has found that selenium deficiency is associated with heightened allergic response in the nose and lungs as well as in the skin. When supplemented together with vitamin E, selenium appears to reduce lung inflammation and mucous secretion while reducing symptoms of asthma and rhinitis.  If you’re looking to boost your selenium intake, selenomethionine is the most bioavailable form of the mineral selenium.

Increase your vitamin C intake.  Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is not only an antioxidant; it also has anti-histamine properties and glutathione-boosting abilities.  It’s found in raw fruits and vegetables, but its effects don’t last long, since it’s a water-soluble nutrient. This means that it can’t be stored in the body and needs frequent replenishment. Taking a slow-release form of vitamin C is an easy way to ensure blood levels of vitamin C are maintained for longer periods of time when diet cannot provide enough to achieve desired benefits.

If your mood and concentration are suffering during pollen season, try l-theanine. This is an amino acid first discovered in green tea that offers relaxing properties, without sedation or stimulation. There’s even some preliminary research that suggests l-theanine may stabilize mast cells, reducing their histamine release and therefore reducing allergic response. Although further research is needed, the fact that l-theanine supports relaxation could have particular benefit to those who suffer from the breathing challenges brought on by allergy-induced asthma.  L-theanine is available in capsule form, chewable tablets and slow-release capsules that may be taken several times daily by adults and children to support relaxation and focus-- without any contraindications with most other medications.



Cai X, Wang C, Yu W, et al. Selenium Exposure and Cancer Risk: an Updated Meta-analysis and Meta-regression. Sci Rep. 2016;6:19213. Published 2016 Jan 20.

Cleveland Clinic. “Antihistamines”.  Accessed online May 8, 2023.

Galland, Leo and Galland, Jonathan.  The Allergy Solution. Hay House Inc., 2016.

Jacoby, Sarah. “8 Anti-histamine side effects you should know”.  Self July 2, 2020. Accessed online May 5th 2023.

Jiang J, Mehrabi Nasab E, Athari SM, Athari SS. Effects of vitamin E and selenium on allergic rhinitis and asthma pathophysiology. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2021;286:103614.

Kim NH, Jeong HJ, Kim HM. Theanine is a candidate amino acid for pharmacological stabilization of mast cells. Amino Acids. 2012;42(5):1609-1618.

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Sureda A, Bibiloni MDM, Julibert A, et al. Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet and Inflammatory Markers. Nutrients. 2018;10(1):62. Published 2018 


I’d say:  Classic Allergy 101


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