April showers might bring May flowers, but seasonal allergy sufferers also know that a stuffy, runny nose might be right around the corner as well. Did you know that the foods you eat and your nutrition status can affect your quality of life during allergy season? It's true!
The healthy bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts actually assist our body's immune function and play a role in quality of life for people who suffer from rhinitis, or inflammation of the nasal passages that can be associated with seasonal allergies. Probiotics are strains of bacteria which promote the growth of strains of bacteria that aid immune function. Foods can be probiotic in nature or strains of bacteria can be taken orally in the form of a probiotic supplement.
A recent rigorous randomized control trial compared a placebo treatment to a probiotic treatment for seasonal allergy sufferers over an eight week period. Results showed that participants who took the probiotic supplement noticed significant improvement in quality of life from the start of the trial to peak pollen time when compared to the placebo group. While the mechanism behind this result is still inconclusive and the study was small, the results show promise in the potential for a healthy gut to prevent lowered quality of life as a result of allergy symptoms.
So how can you improve the health of the bacteria in your own GI tract? By eating balanced and COLORFUL foods! Colorful fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber are best at promoting healthy gut bacteria. Try some of the following:
If plain bananas don't excite you, try grilling them for a unique flavor, or mash then freeze them for an ice cream-like treat!
Black, kidney, pinto, etc... any beans are great! They can be eaten plain, or on top of salads, or used in casseroles as a substitute for meat products. Even try tacos with lightly mashed black bean filling.
As summer approaches, the corn gets sweeter. Buying ears of corn in season is the most cost effective, but frozen or canned corn with no salt added are great options too! Just like beans, corn can be added to salads, mixed casserole dishes, or even added to tacos!
-Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage)
Steamed, baked, microwaved, boiled... however you like your veggies cooked, the cruciferous ones feed the good bacteria in your gut. If you don't like them plain, try them with a light sauce or with some shredded cheese for a calcium boost.
Artichokes can be intimidating, but all they need is a trim of the leaves and to be boiled for about 30 minutes before you can eat the soft, white base of the leaves. Once all the leaves have been removed, scrape out the hair like part in the center and enjoy the heart of the artichoke!
Some people find them too tart to eat alone. If so, try them mixed into your favorite breakfast cereal or oatmeal, or cook them gently over medium heat until they start to break open then spread them on toast with a little honey for a jelly like flavor.
-Fermented products like miso or tempeh
If you aren't familiar with these products, they can be found in the international or vegetarian aisle of many grocery stores. Tempeh is a great meat substitute and can be sliced for sandwiches, or incorporated into mixed dishes.
If you don't like the taste of these foods or are afraid you may not be getting enough, probiotic supplements are available. As with all supplements, use caution and always buy from verified vendors because supplements are not tightly regulated by the FDA. The participants in the study mentioned above took a probiotic supplement with 1.5 billion colony forming units (CFUs) that included 3 different strains of bacteria. When shopping for a probiotic at your local grocery or drug store, look for one that similarly includes at least 1.5 billion CFUs. Always check with your doctor before starting a nutrition supplement, especially if you take other prescription medications.
If you're interested in learning more about how the health of your GI bacteria affects your overall health or simply want to learn more about general nutrition concepts, contact us today to make an appointment. We'd love to meet you in person and help you achieve your goals!
1. Dennis-Wall JC, Culpepper T, Nieves C, et al. Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2) improve rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life in individuals with seasonal allergies: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. (2017);105:758-767.