Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Allergy and asthma season- what can you do?

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Chihuly Gardens in Seattle

An inordinate amount of people seem to be suffering from allergic and asthmatic symptoms this month. Is there anything to be done about them besides taking antihistamines?  There’s increasing evidence that foods, internal triggers like stress, and exercise play a role.  Let’s start with good foods to eat for allergies:

  • Bone broths—especially homemade chicken broth
  • Cruciferous vegetables—broccoli, arugula, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, collard greens and brussel sprouts
  • Chili pepper
  • Curcumin (substance contained in turmeric)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Onions and garlic
  • Salmon
  • Tomatoes

There are also foods that seem to trigger symptoms:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Aspirin
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits
  • Dairy products
  • Dyes and preservatives
  • Sugar
  • Tap water
  • Wheat

So what you can you do?

  • Take in vitamin D. People with more severe asthma may have low vitamin D levels and replenishing vitamin D levels may improve asthma. Fish such as salmon, milk and eggs all contain vitamin D. Even spending a few minutes outdoors in the sun can increase vitamin D levels, but using sunscreen can filter out those beneficial rays.   Balance your unprotected time in the sun with the common sense need to use sunscreen.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They’re a good source of antioxidants such as beta carotene and vitamins C and E which may help control lung swelling and irritation (inflammation) caused by cell-damaging chemicals known as free radicals.
  • Avoid sulfites. Sulfites can trigger symptoms in some people with moderate to severe asthma. Used as a preservative, sulfites can be found in wine, dried fruits, pickles, fresh and frozen shrimp, and some other foods.
  • Avoid allergy-triggering foods. Children with food allergies have a higher chance of having asthma than those who don’t. In children with both conditions, the asthma tends to be more severe. In general, allergic food reactions rarely trigger asthma attacks. But a few studies suggest that wheezing accompanies other signs of these reactions more often than previously thought.
  • Eat to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can worsen asthma. Even losing a little weight can improve your symptoms. Learn how to eat right to maintain a healthy weight over the long term.

Go to to learn more.

As the trees, shrubs and flowers bloom, think about how your system may be reacting not only to nature, but also to what you’re eating. Try eliminating one food at a time that you think may be contributing to the problem, and see if symptoms subside. This may not be a definitive test because it will be complicated by various environmental triggers but you may find some relief by eliminating certain foods that trigger symptoms.

How about exercise? Here are things you can do to exercise safely and comfortably even if you have allergies and exercise-induced asthma:

  • control your asthma through the appropriate medications, including inhalers used before exercise
  • Know your triggers and avoid them- common ones are mold, dust mites, pollen and animal fur.
  • Check pollen counts on each day- this information can be found on common weather apps on your smartphone like wunderground, weatherbug, and yahoo weather. You may decide to exercise indoors if the counts are high, or exercise in late afternoon instead of morning when pollen levels are highest.
  • Be sure to warm up before you go full force with any exercise.
  • Exercising in humid conditions, such as in swimming pools, are good for your airways; avoid dry or very cold air.
  • Breathe through your nose to warm and humidify the air and decrease irritation to airways.
  • Use intervals to catch your breath- high intensity interval workouts are OK if you’re conditioned for them.
  • Be sure to cool down after exercise.

Check out for more details.

  A little planning is all it takes to help you breathe easier and stay in shape.
So there you have it. You’ve guessed by now that eating right, exercising regularly and maintaining  a weight close to your target range can make just about every bodily system feel better- even your respiratory and immune systems. So get out there and enjoy this magnificent season!



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