The Key to Alleviating Seasonal Allergies? Optimising Your Gut Health - Men's Health Magazine Australia

The Key to Alleviating Seasonal Allergies? Optimising Your Gut Health

There’s an important relationship between your gut, skin and seasonal allergies. This is how a few simple diet changes can help you conquer the allergy season, according to a nutritionist.

Spring brings warm temperatures, blooming flowers and chirping birds. It’s an opportunity to soak up the resurgent sun, cool off at the beach or enjoy the freshest fruit that has just come back into season. For some, it’s the best time of the year. But for many others, it means the return of seasonal allergies and worsened skin health. It may seem like there’s no avoiding these yearly afflictions, but what you might not realise is that what you eat can actually help relieve pesky allergy symptoms and protect your skin.

Just why do your allergies get worse at this time of year? The return of the flowers that symbolise the fact that spring has sprung are to blame. Leading nutritionist Dr Denise Furness says it’s because “Pollen from flora increases during spring, triggering hay fever-like symptoms.” On top of allergy troubles, warmer weather brings with it 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 the field of nutrigenomics, which studies the relationship between people’s genes, diet and health. While it might be difficult to grasp the link between your gut health and allergies, Dr Furness says that changing your diet can be crucial in getting you through allergy season. “If we nourish our gut, we can support our immune systems, which can help our bodies tolerate the spring season,” Dr Furness says.

To optimise gut health and ease allergies, there’s a group of foods that can easily be added to your diet, with one key nutrient: fibre. “Eating high-fibre foods and fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables build your gut’s defence systems and often aid in healing and the reduction of inflammation,” says Dr Furness. “Grain fibre in particular feeds the bacteria in the gut that modulates immune response.”

“Gut health can be optimised quite easily with the incorporation of high-fibre foods and natural produce, such as grains, nuts, beans and fresh fruits.”

The gut is linked to allergies and skin health due to its connection with the bodies immune systems. The gut is responsible for all of the nutrients that enter the body. It distributes the nutrients to different area’s that need them. But if you don’t maintain a balanced diet and your gut doesn’t get those nutrients, it can’t help when you need it to most. “A balanced diet is essential for maintaining good gut health and ultimately reducing the impacts of allergy symptoms.” Dr Furness says.

Fibre is crucial. There are a range of high-fibre foods that you probably see every day which can easily added to your diet. From starting the day with high fibre cereal, to swapping a typical snack for some nuts, or even upping your intake of fruits and vegetables, the options are plentiful. In terms of how it can help your gut, Yoghurt is a superfood. Yoghurt contains strains of bacteria that can help supplement the ones that are already there and further improve your gut health.

“Foods, such as fibre cereals, fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts are the best types of foods to nourish our gut thanks to their high fibre content.”

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

“Often you will notice small differences first, such as reduced bloating, less discomfort and more energy. Over time however, the benefits are much greater, with the potential for a reduction in allergy symptoms, improved mood and a stronger immune system.”

If a high fibre diet doesn’t appeal to you, there are other ways to survive the allergy season. Dr Furness says that better rest is another factor in alleviating symptoms. “Getting a good night’s sleep allows your body time to repair and function at its best the next day.” For your skin, drinking a lot of water is the best protection. “Hydration is also a great way to keep your skin from drying out and feeling the effects of the change in season.” Dr Furness says.

Three Recipes to Help Spring Clean Your Gut

According to Dr Furness, the key to spring cleaning your gut and alleviating allergy symptoms is transitioning to a high fibre diet. Luckily, there are plenty of common high fibre foods that can easily be incorporated into your diet. Here’s three healthy, high-fibre meals, that will help spring clean your gut and conquer the allergy season.

Morning Bowl

Start your morning with a bowl of high fibre cereal topped with yoghurt, pomegranate and pistachios.

Ingredients:

40g (1 cup) high fibre cereal flakes

Dollop yoghurt

Handful pomegranate jewels

Handful chopped pistachios

Directions:

1. Pour cereal into a bowl.

2. Add a dollop of yoghurt

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

High Fibre Snack Bars

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

Ingredients:

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

125g of butter or reduced fat butter blend

1/3 cup golden syrup

3 1/2 cups high fibre cereal flakes

2/3 cup plain flour

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped finely

2 eggs, beaten lightly

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to moderate (180°C/160°C fan-forced).

2. Grease 19cm x 29cm rectangular slice pan; line base and two long sides with baking paper.

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

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

5. Spread mixture into prepared pan.

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

7. Cool in pan before cutting.

Fibre Boost Acai Bowl

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

Ingredients:

1 cup high fibre bran cereal

1/3 cup (30g) acai powder

2 cups (240g) frozen mixed berries

1 cup coconut water

1/2 tablespoon maple syrup

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 cup fresh raspberries

1/2 cup coconut flakes

1/2 cup chia seeds

Directions:

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

2. Add extra coconut water for your desired consistency.

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

By Cayle Reid

Cayle Reid is a fan of everything sports and fitness. He spends his free time at the gym, on his surfboard or staying up late watching sports in incompatible time zones.

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