National Allergy Awareness Week: how nutrition can help fight allergies

shutterstock_360808592 woman in flower field Apr16It’s National Allergy Awareness Week which reminds us that it’s also the start of the allergy season; tree pollen starts to become problematic around this time of year quickly followed by the grass pollen season. But it’s not just pollen that causes allergic reactions; foods, dust, animals, moulds to name but a few can all cause some nasty symptoms.

The good news is that there is much that can be done nutritionally to help ease some of the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her seven top tips on how to help calm it down!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic


It sounds simple but it can really help! When an allergen is present the immune system produces antibodies which trigger the release of histamine. Histamine is released in the body as part of its normal allergic response mechanism, and it is produced in greater amounts when the body is dehydrated. So, make sure you’re always drinking at least 1 ½ litres of water daily.

shutterstock_216668371 water bottle splash Sept15Additionally, there are foods that naturally contain high amounts of histamine including red wine, matured cheeses, spinach, strawberries and chocolate so it therefore makes sense to avoid these foods if you are prone to allergies. Preservatives and food colours also encourage the release of histamine. Therefore, a diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables will really help as well.

shutterstock_277712882 onion family Apr16EAT MORE QUERCETIN (BUT WHAT IS IT?)

Quercetin is a natural compound that helps to manage the release of histamine. It’s found in onions, garlic, spring onions, leeks and green tea, therefore these foods should all be included in your diet on a regular basis. Additionally food containing sulphur, such as eggs, together with onion, leek and garlic also help to prevent the release of histamine.

shutterstock_115649197 vitamin D Aug15GET MORE VITAMIN D!

Certain allergies, and in particular allergy-induced asthma attacks, have been linked back to a lack of vitamin D during pregnancy. If you’re pregnant it’s important to make sure you’re supplementing with vitamin D in any case and supplementation during pregnancy is now a specific recommendation from the Department of Health. It will help prevent vitamin D deficiency in your new-born but it also appears to provide some protection from food allergies as well.

shutterstock_265791974 vit C foods Sept15VITAMIN C IS KEY!

Vitamin C has many amazing health benefits but it’s particularly helpful for keeping the airways clear, which can become constricted during many allergic reactions, causing coughing and wheezing.  It also works really well with quercetin and, interestingly, both are often found together in the same foods, especially apples.

Because your immune system is on ‘alert’ during an allergic response, vitamin C can really help to keep it in check and reduce histamine levels. So, up your intake of fruit and veg – there’s such a wealth of colourful fruits and vegetables around so remember to try to eat a rainbow every day! All the berry fruits, especially strawberries, are high in vitamin C.

shutterstock_221308501 omega 3 foods Apr15CALM DOWN WITH OMEGA 3

The omega 3 essential fats seem to have an amazingly calming effect on allergies and this is partly due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel are great sources, as are nuts and seeds if you’re vegetarian or don’t like fish. Additionally, to obtain the real benefits of these amazing omegas, it’s a good idea to take a daily omega 3 supplement to really help suppress reactions.

shutterstock_137168057 digestion Apr16GET FRIENDLY!

The role played by the beneficial or ‘friendly’ bacteria that happily live in our digestive tracts, is well-documented. They are essential for a smooth-running digestive system but also play a key role in the health of the immune system.

A healthy gut wall lowers the potential of an immune reaction, particularly to food, but also to other potential allergens. Even better, the presence of good bacteria appears to stimulate the production of calming immune cells so, although hay fever is caused by airborne allergens, a strong immune system helps to prevent an immune response.

It’s a really good idea to take a course of probiotics for three months each year during high allergy season to really keep your digestive tract in good shape.

shutterstock_157407788 3 milk glasses Apr16WATCH THE DAIRY

Although dairy foods provide great amounts of protein and calcium, they can also cause an inflammatory response within the body; this can increase the amount of mucous your body produces, which can become problematic.

Dairy can often be a contributory factor in asthma and hay fever, so if you’re suffering from allergies then it might be worth reducing or even avoiding dairy for a couple of months to see if it helps.

There are plenty of healthy, dairy-free alternatives – think almond, hazelnut or soya milk – all of which still contain calcium. They are also great sources of protein. Additionally, green leafy vegetables are rich in calcium so you won’t be missing out on essential nutrients and you might just find you’re sneezing a little less!

So, if you’ve been dreading the pollen or you’re already fed up with your allergies, there’s plenty of nutritional help at hand to help see you through the summer months.


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Seven ways to spring clean your diet!

shutterstock_194241245 woman spring Apr16Spring is here and whilst we might be seeing some April showers, our thoughts still turn to the longer days and healthier living. Now is the time that you’ll want to have as much energy as you can so you can shrug off those winter layers and get out and about. Revamping your lifestyle with the new season is a great way to kick start spring. So to start you off, Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, brings us her seven top tips for spring cleaning your diet.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

shutterstock_395549032 glass of water with lemon Apr16TIP 1 – START THE DAY RIGHT

There’s no better way than to start your day with a glass of warm water, together with a few slices of fresh lemon. Your liver has been detoxifying through the night so you can help it further along by drinking a warm glass of water. Don’t make it too hot or too cold – the liver likes a temperature which is similar to your blood. And although lemons are acidic, once consumed they actually become alkaline in the body which is how the body likes to be. Try to drink it as soon as you can after waking up – it will make you feel invigorated and ready to start your day!

shutterstock_263001758 whole foods whole grains Apr16TIP 2 – CUT OUT THE WHITE

White foods are generally refined foods. White rice, white pasta, white bread and cakes and biscuits will slow down the digestive system, upset energy levels and generally leave you feeling bloated and sluggish. So, springtime is a great time to ‘ditch the junk’ (and that includes sugary snacks and fizzy drinks). Choose whole foods, such as beans, lentils, quinoa and wholegrain brown rice. And then why not try tip number 3…

shutterstock_225215197 wheat free Apr16TIP 3 – CUT OUT WHEAT

There’s so much talk of intolerances to wheat and how it makes people feeling bloated, particularly after eating bread. However, the problem is often that we’re just eating too much wheat; cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner!

So, as part of your spring time plan, why not try cutting out wheat completely, just for a month, and see if you have more energy and less bloating? There are so many delicious and healthy alternatives so you won’t feel deprived; quinoa, buckwheat (it’s not actually wheat), rye or pumpernickel bread, soda bread, wholegrain or wild rice, beans, lentils, coconut flour products …… the list is endless. And if you visit the ‘Free From’ sections in the supermarkets, you’ll find plenty of alternatives.

shutterstock_179649080 fruit and veg rainbow Apr16TIP 4 – GET SOME COLOUR IN YOUR LIFE

Think of all the colours of the rainbow and then think of all the foods with these colours. Instead of working out whether you’ve eaten your ‘five a day’, look at your plate at every meal to see the colour variety. If you can ‘eat a rainbow’ every day, you’ll be getting so many of the nutrients your body needs and loves, on a daily basis. There’s an abundance of fruits and vegetables within the rainbow colour spectrum; green (apples, broccoli, asparagus), red (tomatoes, peppers, strawberries), indigo (blueberries, aubergine) to name but a few!

shutterstock_381404767 eggs Apr16TIP 5 – EAT MORE EGGS

With Easter now firmly behind us, there’s no big temptation to eat the chocolate variety any more, and you can get back to thinking about the real thing! Eggs provide all the amino acids that make up a complete protein food. This means you’ll feel fuller for longer after eating them and they will help to keep your blood sugar levels in balance so that your energy levels will be sustained throughout the day. There’s no better way to start the day than with an egg-based breakfast.

SJ range with SJ and shadows LOW RES for TwitterTIP 6 – TAKE A MULTI-VITAMIN

It’s almost impossible to get everything we need from the daily diet, even if we try hard to eat the perfect diet. Therefore, a great way of ‘topping up’ the daily diet is by taking a good quality, complete multi-vitamin and mineral supplement such as Alive! It will help to boost your energy levels, protect your immune system, plus it will give you some much-needed vitamin D; 60% of the UK population are still vitamin D deficient so make it one of your spring resolutions to take a daily multi-vitamin – your body will thank you for it!

shutterstock_242698879 aloe vera Apr16TIP 7 – TAKE SOME ALOE

Cleopatra, reputedly one of the world’s most beautiful women, described Aloe Vera as the ‘elixir of youth’! Aloe Vera, or ‘true Aloe’ is actually a superfood. It’s generally more effective taken in a juice form and it provides the body with some wonderful health benefits; perfect for your spring clean.

Aloe is great for the skin, supports the digestive system keeping the bowels moving, is a powerful antioxidant and also aids whole body detoxification. Just make sure that you choose a juice that contains preservatives; this actually helps to retain the activity of important nutrients.

So, with a few small changes you can make a big difference to how you feel this spring time and you’ll be even more ready for the seasons ahead.


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Spring into Spring: in-season foods to give you that extra lift!

shutterstock_128460218 woman in field of camomile Mar16Spring has officially sprung! The days are getting longer and, with this, our thoughts turn to what’s in season right now. Creating new and exciting dishes from the fresh, seasonal foods now available to us is a great way to refocus your diet and increase the number of nutrients you take in every day.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her top springtime foods and why they’re so beneficial to our health.

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic


Traditionally a springtime food, with the best British asparagus coming into season from April onwards, this is one vegetable that is certainly best eaten in season.

There’s nothing quite like eating British asparagus during the right season; it is full of flavour and very versatile, making a delicious starter to any meal, perhaps with a light hollandaise sauce, accompanied by a poached egg or wrapped in Parma ham.

shutterstock_384749551 woman with asparagus Mar16It is also a popular vegetable accompaniment to any meal and can certainly hold its own in terms of its nutritional status: asparagus is packed full of vitamins A, C, E and K, providing support for the immune system, as well as containing a good balance of the B vitamins for energy, and chromium to help keep blood sugar levels in balance. It’s simply delicious lightly roasted in the oven with a little olive oil, and even better cooked on the barbecue!

shutterstock_371738650 crab meat Mar16CRAB

The most commonly eaten crab in the UK is brown crab and this comes into season in April. Crabs look the way they do from the outside due to their large skeleton and it is this skeleton which protects some really delicious and nutritious flesh. And as with many aspects of nature, the female flesh is much sweeter than the male – true fact!

Crab can be seen as quite ‘rich’ in taste, but it is low in saturated fats and high in heart-healthy omega 3 unsaturated fats, making it a great, low calorie food choice.

Additionally, it contains a range of vitamins including vitamins A, C plus the B vitamins. It also provides selenium which is frequently lacking in the Western diet. So, why not ‘grab some crab’ from your fishmonger today and enjoy its many nutritional benefits!

shutterstock_289838444 carrots with tops July15CARROTS

Carrots generally find their way into most family’s shopping trollies on a weekly basis and for very good reason – they’re delicious, nutritious and versatile. Plus, they’re coming into season right now!

It is always preferable to buy organic fruit and vegetables to reduce the potential pesticide load on the body, but organic carrots genuinely taste so much better. As with all brightly coloured vegetables, they are bursting with nutrients. They’re rich in beta carotene, which can be converted into vitamin A within the body, and Vitamin A fulfils many functions including supporting night vision, hence the recommendation to eat carrots in order to see in the dark!

Carrots can be eaten in so many ways: raw with a delicious homemade dip, roasted with other vegetables, added into soups (carrot and coriander is particularly delicious), in juices or best of all in carrot cake!

shutterstock_250462048 Artichoke Feb15ARTICHOKES

There are two types of artichoke, which look completely different to each other, but both come into season in spring. The Jerusalem artichoke, actually has no association with Jerusalem but hails from America. The globe artichoke, is commonly referred to as the ‘real artichoke’ and is part of the thistle family. However, both have a rightful place in the store cupboard and have great health benefits.

As well as being very tasty roasted (they have a slightly sweet flavour), Jerusalem artichokes provide enormous benefits for the digestive system. Jerusalem artichokes are rich in inulin – a type of fibre that feeds the natural good bacteria in the digestive tract.

Globe artichokes are also good for the digestion and equally delicious in a variety of dishes. They are often seen on an Italian anti-pasti menu! They can be boiled whole (remove the tough outer leaves first) and then they can be eaten with garlic or grated parmesan. Don’t forget to remove the middle ‘choke’ but they can then be halved and roasted or barbecued. A great spring treat!

shutterstock_165452462 strawberries Aug15STRAWBERRIES

As with most fruits and vegetables, strawberries are available in the supermarkets all-year round. However, they’re truly delicious when in season and purchased from local farmer’s markets. The season doesn’t officially start until later on in April and slightly varies from year to year, depending on the individual harvests.

Strawberries contain high levels of vitamin C, which is great for the skin and immune system. Their beautiful colour means they contain significant levels of phytonutrients and antioxidants which help to fight free radicals – they are little heart-shaped nutritional powerhouses! There’s no better way to eat strawberries than just as they are – plain and simple!

Enjoy all the delicious foods on offer right now and celebrate the joys of spring by getting seasonal!


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Visit us at for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

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