By Bronwyn Hill, Naturopathic Doctor

Over the next few months, Bronwyn will be contributing a series of interest pieces, sharing insights on the treatment of common health concerns via the use of food, lifestyle and other natural treatments.
If you have any ideas for topics or questions for Bronwyn, forward them our way and she will address them in her column.

It’s a wonderful time of year – the days are longer, the sun is coming out and the temperatures are slowly rising…spring is certainly on the way! As much as we love this season, for those with allergies – the change in weather might be clouded by the sniffles, sneezes and watery eyes.  If you are afflicted with seasonal allergies – although you might doubt it –  you CAN stop these symptoms from coming back year after year!

When it comes to allergies, prevention is key!

Start with what you eat – try to maximize your intake of foods that contain high amounts of Vitamin C and a bioflavanoid called Quercitin.  Both of these compounds help to stabilize mast cell activity in the immune system.  Mast cells are responsible for releasing histamine which causes a host of classic allergy symptoms.

Bump up your intake of quercitin-rich leeks, onions, garlic, apples, pears, dark berries, thyme, parsley and green tea.  For Vitamin C, love all produce that is orange, yellow and red – dark leafy greens are another excellent source of this nutrient.  Get juicing, or make fruit & vegetable smoothies to sneak more anti-allergy goodness into your diet.

Omega 3 fatty acids have an important role in decreasing inflammation and balancing the immune response, so proactively increasing your intake is super helpful.  In foods, sources include fish (wild-caught, cold water species is best), free-range eggs, walnuts, flaxseed and flax oil, hemp hearts and chia seeds.  A good quality Omega-3 supplement is also a worthwhile consideration for many, especially those with allergies.

Another nutrient which I think is key to immune support, but unfortunately is only sparingly found in the natural food supply; Vitamin D3.  Humans produce Vitamin D in the skin when we are exposed to sunlight – unfortunately here in Canada – our dark, cold winters leave us deficient.  One of the best plant-based sources of the nutrient are mushrooms, otherwise, Vit. D is largely found in fortified dairy products.  For allergy prevention, start getting your D levels up to par with a liquid supplement – and take 2,000 IU/day.

The last big tip I have for prevention and management of allergies; get that neti-pot out, and start cleaning your nose and sinuses every day (if not twice per day!).  The neti-pot is a traditional tool, now widely sold at health food stores, used for nasal lavage.  The technique takes a bit of getting used to, but man does it help reduce allergy symptoms!  An important tip – never use plain old tap water – always make a saline solution with ¼ tsp of sea salt.

I often prescribe concentrated food- based supplements of Vitamin C, quercitin, and Omega  3’s – among other botanical preparations and probiotics which are also very helpful for allergy sufferers.  If you have particularly bothersome spring allergies, consider a consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor to get you started on some focused treatment that will help you enjoy the spring season – allergy free!

Bronwyn Hill, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor & food lover. She is currently in practice in Toronto's Forest Hill Neighbourhood, at Mahaya Forest Hill Integrative Health. She specializes in using food as medicine, acupuncture & traditional chinese medicine & botanicals; and has particular experience treating digestive concerns, women's health concerns including menopause, stress management, insomnia, healthy detoxification, and chronic respiratory conditions including asthma. She can be reached at . Follow her on Twitter @drbronwynnd.