It’s springtime, and everything’s in bloom. This is good news for gardeners and bad news for anyone who has airborne allergies. But help is on its way. This time it’s not a newer and better antihistamine. In fact, it’s not another medication at all. It’s a common vitamin.
The good news about this common vitamin is that you can get enough to fight allergies simply by eating one type of food – dark green leafy vegetables. These include spinach and Romaine lettuce. That’s right. The answer to your runny nose and sneezing may be for you to eat more salads.
The nutrient in green veggies that could reduce your allergy symptoms is folate – a water-soluble B vitamin. Folic acid is the synthetic form you’ll see in supplements. Many food manufacturers use it to fortify “enriched” grains and other foods. Both work to raise blood folate levels.
A new study out of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center found a correlation between folate levels and allergies. More than 8,000 people of all ages (2 to 85) participated in this study. Those with higher folate had fewer allergies. And people with the lowest folate levels had a 31% higher risk of allergic symptoms.
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“Our findings are a clear indication that folic acid may indeed help regulate immune response to allergens, and may reduce allergy and asthma symptoms,” said the head researcher of this study, Elizabeth Matsui, MD.
In spite of their conclusions, the researchers are not recommending we take more folic acid. They believe we need more research to establish safe doses. I disagree. You need to take into account the folate that’s destroyed by numerous pharmaceuticals, such as antacids, antidepressants, diabetic drugs, and many others. For more information on drugs that rob you of folic acid, pick up a copy of Drug Muggers by pharmacist Suzy Cohen, RPh (www.dearpharmacist.com). If you take any of these medications and have allergies, a folate deficiency may be why.
Meanwhile, there are three more steps to take. First, get your folate level tested. If it’s low, up your intake or ask if there’s a medication that won’t rob you of folate.
Second, everyone should take a multivitamin containing 800 mcg of folic acid, such as Women’s Vitality. If you’re deficient, Cohen recommends taking 800 mcg three times a day.
Third, include plenty of foods rich in folate. In addition to romaine lettuce and spinach, consider asparagus, broccoli, and beans. They make a healthful, delicious salad. Half a cup of raw spinach contains 100 mcg of folic acid. Add four spears of asparagus and half a cup of broccoli and you’re up to 235 mcg. Throw in some garbanzo beans, cucumbers, and avocado and you’ve got a meal packed with allergy-reducing folate.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, May 2009.