I have a love-hate relationship with spring. The love part is probably obvious – warmer temps, lighter clothes, open windows, trees leafing, flowers budding. Ahhhh.
The hate part is about my seasonal allergies, which typically make me feel like crap for most of April, May and June. More than just a runny nose and watery eyes, I get major sinus congestion, brain fog, exhaustion, constipation and I always feel slightly achy, like I’m fighting off a cold.
When my kids were little and bringing all manner of viruses into the house, the way I felt in spring didn’t feel all that different from the way I felt all winter. I didn’t have the energy to be pro-active about my spring allergies; frankly, I also didn’t believe that anything I did could truly help.
This year is different. My kids are seven and five and we only had one virus sweep through the house this winter. It seems we’ve rounded the corner on the immunity front, and now I’m ready to do something that will improve my experience of spring.
I consulted with my naturopathic doctor, Keri Layton, N.D., and she guided me through a simple dietary cleanse. Before I outline the steps, I want to answer the question that may have just popped up in your mind – what does diet have to do with hayfever?
“The GI tract is largely responsible for immunity. When the GI tract is chronically battling a poor diet, it is ill equipped to handle the sudden pollen load of spring,” Layton says. “Congestion in the colon leads to congestion in the sinuses, and the more your GI tract gets bogged down, the more challenged your immune system is.”
In short: The better your digestion and your diet, the better your body will be able to process all those airborne allergens that will be swirling around these next couple of months.
Here’s your guide to this 10-day cleanse:
- First cut out the crap. You know what this means to you – chips, cookies, fried foods, candy. “Anything you’d be embarrassed for me to see in your cart if we ran in to each other at the grocery store,” Layton explains. At this point, you don’t need to add any special foods, you just need to stop eating the things you know for sure aren’t good for you. Do this for 3 days.
- Then, remove common allergens from your diet. This means primarily wheat, soy, and dairy. If you want to be more thorough, also remove eggs, tree nuts, shellfish, peanuts and strawberries. Keep this up for 4 days.
- Finally, go at least three days eating only fruits and vegetables. You can still put a little olive oil on your salad or on your roasted cauliflower. Vegetables can absolutely be cooked—too much raw food, particularly when the weather may still be chilly, can be a challenge for the gut to digest, and this cleanse is about making the gut’s job easier. The fiber in the produce will help relieve any congestion in your digestive tract, and the antioxidants will help the body regulate its response to the pollen. “The nutrients that help stabilize histamine are available abundantly in fruits and vegetables, reducing the need to take an anti-histamine in pill form,” Layton says.
And that’s it. Simple to remember. Fairly painless to implement as you get to ease your way in to it. And a great way to reset your palate to increase cravings for healthier foods and lesson pangs for the not-so-healthy stuff. “No one stays on a detox for life, but it creates an opportunity to shed or reduce former habits, and hopefully the habit of greater fruit and vegetable consumption remains in place long term,” Layton says.
I found that cutting out dairy made a huge difference in my congestions levels, so I’ve decided to keep my milk, cheese, butter and kefir consumption to a minimum at least through allergy season. I also realized that I was barely getting a minimum of fresh produce on a daily basis, and have been inspired to really up my fruit and vegetable intake.
Here in the Northeast, things still haven’t started blooming in full force, so the jury’s still out on the cleanse’s long-term effectiveness. But the beginning symptoms I was starting to feel totally subsided—and I’ll take every day of being able to breathe and think clearly I can get!