People can be allergic to many different things, such as food, mold, pets, and pollen. All allergies have one thing in common: the body’s immune system sees the allergen as harmful, which stimulates an allergic immune response that can lead to a variety of symptoms including coughing, difficulty breathing, itchy eyes, rash, runny nose, and sneezing. (5)
When the body comes into contact with the allergen, the immune system produces antibodies to fight these “harmful” substances by tagging them so that the next time the body encounters the allergen, histamines are released, triggering the allergic reaction and symptoms. (5) A common strategy to decrease allergy symptoms is taking antihistamines. Over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines can have side effects such as drowsiness, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, nausea, or rashes. (11) There are, however, some dietary supplements for allergies that may help relieve symptoms in allergy sufferers—with less risk of side effects.
Foods and supplements for allergies
Some herbs, nutrients, and even foods may help reduce allergy symptoms.
Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme found in all parts of the pineapple fruit that has been shown to have antiasthmatic, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory effects. Bromelain may reduce nasal mucus production and nasal swelling while improving nasal drainage. (2)
Quercetin is a potent polyphenol flavonoid that has been shown to inhibit histamine production as well as pro-inflammatory mediators. (6) Quercetin has been studied extensively and studies show that it is effective at improving most allergic diseases, especially if there is inflammation of the mucous membrane in the nasal passages. (6)
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps regulate immune function. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to allergic asthma, allergic nasal congestion, anaphylaxis, and eczema. (13) A 2019 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation along with allergy medications improved symptoms in vitamin D-deficient individuals. (1) Another study in 2019 showed that people receiving allergy shots had better outcomes to the treatment if they had optimal vitamin D levels. (7)
Astragalus is a popular herb used in traditional Chinese medicine. A 2010 double-blind, placebo-controlled trial demonstrated that astragalus improved symptoms and quality of life in people with seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever). (8)
Butterbur is an herbal extract typically used to treat migraines, but research also shows it can decrease histamines and can be effective at relieving symptoms of allergic rhinitis. (3)
We know that the herb ginger has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, but can ginger also help relieve allergy symptoms? According to the research, it is. A 2020 randomized, controlled trial found that ginger extract was just as effective as the drug loratadine (Claritin) without the side effects in improving nasal symptoms and quality of life in patients with allergic rhinitis. The researchers note that side effects of loratadine include drowsiness, fatigue, dizziness, and constipation. (14)
Foods that contain the herbs and nutrients mentioned may also be added to the diet. This includes pineapple for its bromelain content, along with dietary sources of quercetin such as apples, citrus fruits, dark berries, garlic, and onions.
Foods high in vitamin C can also help reduce symptoms. A 2013 study involving children with allergic rhinitis showed that the group with increased vitamin C food consumption had far fewer symptoms than those with lower amounts of vitamin C foods in their diet. (12) Many fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C including bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, and tomatoes. (10)
Research also shows that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can help decrease the risk of allergies including allergic rhinitis. (4) Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines, as well as nuts and seeds such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts. (9)
The bottom line
Various herbs, nutrients, and foods, such as vitamin D, vitamin C, astragalus, and ginger may help provide symptom relief to individuals who suffer from allergy symptoms. If you are a patient, always speak to your integrative healthcare provider before taking supplements for allergies.
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- Bakhshaee, M., Sharifian, M., Esmatinia, F., Rasoulian, B., & Mohebbi, M. (2019). Therapeutic effect of vitamin D supplementation on allergic rhinitis. European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, 276, 2797-2801.
- Chakraborty, A., Mitra, S., Tallei, T. E., Tareq, A., Nainu, F., Cicia, D., Dhama, K., Emran, T., Simal-Grandara, J., & Capasso, R. (2021). Bromelain a potential bioactive compound: a comprehensive overview from a pharmacological perspective. Life, 11, 317.
- Guo, R., Pittler, M. H., & Ernst, E. (2007). Herbal medicines for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a systemic review. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol, 99(6), 483-95.
- Hoff, S., Seiler, H., Heinrich, J., Kompauer, I., Nieters, A., Becker, N., Nagel, G., Gedrich, K., Karg, G., Wolfram, G., & Linseisen, J. (2005). Allergic sensitization and allergic rhinitis are associated with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet and in red blood cell membranes. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 59, 1071-1080.
- Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. (2020, Apr 23). Allergies: overview. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK447112/#_NBK447112_pubdet_
- Jafarinia, M., Hosseini, M, Kasiri, N., Fazel, N., Fathi, F., Hakemi, M., & Eskandari, N. (2020). Quercetin with the potential effect on allergic diseases. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, 16, 36.
- Joudi, M., Hosseini, R., Khoshkhui, M., Salehi, M., Kouegaran, S., Ahoon, M., & Azad, F. (2019). Effects of serum vitamin D and efficacy of subcutaneous immunotherapy in adult patients with allergic rhinitis. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res, 11(6), 885-893.
- Matkovic, Z., Zivkovic, V., Korica, M., Plavec, D., Pecanic, S., & Tudoric, N. (2010). Efficacy and safety of astragalus membranaceus in the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis. Phytother Res, 24(2), 175-81.
- Office of Dietary Supplements. (2022). Omega-3 fatty acids. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/
- Office of Dietary Supplements. (2022). Vitamin C. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
- Randall, K. L., & Hawkins, C. A. (2018). Antihistamines and allergy. Australian Prescriber, 41(2), 41-45.
- Seo, J., Kwon, S., Lee, S., Kim, H., Kwon, J., Kim, B., Yu, J., Kim, H., Kim, W., Jang, G., Song, D., Shim, J., Oh, S., & Hong, S. (2013). Association of antioxidants with allergic rhinitis in children from Seoul. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res, 5(2), 81-87.
- Tian, H., & Cheng, L. (2017). The role of vitamin D in allergic rhinitis. Asia Pac Allergy, 7(2), 5-73.
- Yamprasert, R., Chanvimalueng, W., Mukkasombut, N., & Itharat, A. (2020). Ginger extract versus loratadine in the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, 20, 119.