5 ways to sidestep summer allergies

Fortify your immune system to avoid sneezy and wheezy outdoor workouts.

Hike, bike or run outdoors and you'll likely experience one downside to the fresh-air high: grass and weed pollen that trigger seasonal allergies. Genetics play a role in why some of us are susceptible, but so does the health of your immune system.

“There is an environmental component that comes into play, perhaps prenatally or at birth that primes the immune system to become overreactive to certain antigens, in this case substances in the air or on the ground like pollen,” says functional medicine specialist Susan Blum, MD, MPH, founder of the Blum Center for Health and author of The Immune System Recovery Plan.

These antigens cause the immune system to launch a cascade of events as a defense. “A typical seasonal allergy response causes the release of IgE, an immunoglobulin, by B lymphocyte cells, which are part of your immune system’s defensive army,” explains Blum. “And this IgE ultimately triggers mast cells to release irritating compounds like histamines which cause symptoms.”

The better your immunity, however, the less likely it is to fall prey to overreacting. Here, Blum offers an immune-boosting, allergy-beating plan to help you breathe easy all season:

1. Add a probiotic
You’ll find probiotics in foods like yogurt and cultured veggies, but if you suffer from allergies each season, consider adding a daily probiotic supplement to your diet.

2. Load up on colorful fruits and veggies
Daily exposure to free radicals set off little ‘fires’ within the body that your immune system needs to extinguish. It requires a steady stream of antioxidants to do this and have energy leftover for any antigens that may come your way, notes Blum. Bonus: The fiber will also support your gut’s healthy bacterial balance.

3. Down your green juice
In addition to being rich in immune-boosting vitamins and minerals, an alkalizing green juice supports toxin-removal from the liver, which can enhance immunity by lowering inflammation and your overall toxin load, says Blum.

4. Sip nettle tea
Research indicates nettle may nip seasonal allergy symptoms. A study on nettle extract showed it blocks histamine receptors and can help curb hay fever, which peaks in August.

5. Try a natural antihistamine supplement
Synthetic allergy tablets can contain waxes, parabens and talc—more for the liver to eliminate. Instead, Blum recommends D-hist by Orthomolecular, which contains quercetin (along with nettles): “Research shows that in addition to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, the naturally occurring flavonoid quercetin inhibits histamine release from mast cells in both human and animal models,” she says. And studies on butterbur, another natural option, show it can offer relief against grass allergies, hay fever and asthma.