The easy diet fix to help bust asthma and hay fever symptoms

Spring weather got you sneezing and spluttering? This one simple dietary change could help keep hay fever and asthma symptoms at bay.

It all comes down to gut bacteria, says food science and nutrition researcher Dr Emma Beckett of University of Newcastle.

Maintaining good gut bacteria is crucial for alleviating asthma and allergies, she says – and for that, fibre is your best friend.

“We used to think asthma and allergies were on the rise was because society was too clean,” says Dr Beckett.

“Allergy and asthma are an over-response of inflammation. Now we know gut bacteria and our modern diet might be responsible for the rise in asthma and allergies.”

Why fibre is key to balancing gut health

Dr Beckett says probiotics used to be the main go-to food for the gut, but results were always “transient”. Research now focuses on fibre’s role in reducing inflammation, she says.

“Fibre feeds the good bacteria and keeps the gut in balance, and that can reduce asthma and allergy symptoms,” she says.

Dr Beckett says several studies show eating more fibre can reduce asthma symptoms, while people who ate less fibre have been found to suffer worse symptoms.

And boosting fibre intake to improve allergy and asthma symptoms comes with an added bonus – it is good dietary advice too, says Dr Beckett.

“Most people when they think about gut health just think about the trendy, cultured foods. Fibre is not terribly sexy when it comes to nutrition advice,” she says.

“All foods that contain plenty of fibre are good for us anyway. Even if it doesn’t take all of your symptoms away, it’s still very good for you.”

Dietitian Nicole Dynan agrees, saying “fibre nurtures good gut bacteria, and good gut bacteria nurtures us”.

How to get more fibre in your diet

“We need to eat a wide variety of fibre-rich plant foods to help improve how the body responds to allergies,” Nicole says.

Nicole says including fibre in your diet needs to be a daily habit, starting with a high-fibre breakfast such as oats or bran.

“Fruit and nuts for snacks, wholegrain salad sandwiches for lunch and legumes – like a chickpea and veggie curry for dinner,” she says.

High-fibre foods include:

  • Wholegrain cereals, bread, rice and pasta
  • Fruits such as berries, pears, melon, oranges
  • Vegetables including broccoli, carrots, sweetcorn, potatoes with skin
  • Beans and pulses, including chickpeas and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds

Fibre needs to come from a variety of sources, says Nicole. And those who eat up to 30 different plants a week will have a better gut microbiome.

What to know about increasing fibre in your diet

Nicole cautions to take it slowly.

“Don’t go from zero to hero – you might end up quite uncomfortable with bloating, gas and diarrhea. It’s important to drink plenty of water,” she says.

And keep in mind that alcohol and antibiotics can interrupt good gut bacteria.

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Written by Sally Heppleston