As spring gets closer (it officially begins on March 20th, 2015), do you find that you’re struggling to stifle your sniffles? You may be suffering from seasonal allergies. Allergies occur when your immune system responds to something that it deems “foreign,” such as dust, pollen, mold, or pet dander. As a result, you may sneeze, cough, feel congested, experience digestive disruption, or notice inflammation on your skin. In short, your immune system is trying to help you, but the substance that it thinks is “foreign” isn’t actually going to hurt you. Not everyone experiences allergies, and symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Getting to the Root of Allergies

Like human DNA, the microbial DNA in your gut is mostly inherited. Babies pick up what’s called their microbiome as they pass through the birth canal. The microbiome in the birth canal is made of healthy bacteria, which could be the reason why kids born via a cesarean delivery are more likely to develop allergies (as well as food intolerance, childhood obesity, asthma, and diabetes).

One study published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy revealed that three-month-olds who have a lower variety of gut microbiota may be at greater risk for sensitivities to foods such as peanuts, milk or eggs by the age of one. These infants may not necessarily go on to develop food allergies, but they do become more likely to develop allergic rhinitis, asthma or eczema.

The total human microbiome is made up of a collection of microorganisms that comprise 99 percent of the body’s total genetic information. Just as the epigenome allows DNA to be modified, the microbial genome can be influenced by nutritional and environmental factors. That’s why it’s extremely important to enhance the intestinal microbial environment to promote health, rather than disease.

To help get rid of your allergies, follow these key steps.

Saying Goodbye to Allergies

Take a probiotic. Take one that contains either lactobacillus, acidophilus, or bifidobacterium, containing at least one billion colony-forming units (CFU) per gram. Probiotics are a beneficial kind of bacteria that are commonly found in certain beverages, yogurt, and even supplements. These may help treat and prevent certain allergies. They can also improve many gut conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, as well as protect against vaginal and urinary infections. Choose coated capsules to protect the probiotics from stomach acid, and take them on an empty stomach.

Consume magnesium. 200 milligrams per day may help you breathe better by opening up the airways. You can add more magnesium to your diet by taking a multi-vitamin or a magnesium supplement. The mineral can also be found in foods such as spinach, kale, almonds, sunflower seeds, salmon, tuna, soybeans, avocado, bananas, and low-fat yogurt. Just don’t consume more than 350 milligrams, total. And if you have kidney problems or heart disease, talk to your doctor before consuming extra magnesium.

Include Vitamin C in your diet. This vitamin—found in citrus fruits and juices, bell peppers, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, and peas—can help lower the release of histamine and help it break down more quickly after it is released. Shoot for 200 to 400 milligrams per day. You can also get vitamin C through a multi-vitamin or supplement.

Eat bioflavonoids. Like vitamin C, these compounds can also help reduce the amount of histamine that your body produces in response to allergens. Chow down on foods high in bioflavonoids such as Brussels sprouts, mangoes, papayas, and garlic—and sip on green tea.

Add more quercetin. This flavonol helps suppress the immune system, which reduces the amount of histamine released by the body (and, therefore, reduces allergy symptoms). It can also decrease inflammatory skin responses, as well as intestinal inflammation (often caused by food allergies). So fill your plate with foods and spices like apples, onions, parsley, sage, grapes, and dark cherries.

Eat clean. When toxins build up in the body, they can lead to allergies (as well as depression, fatigue, asthma, headaches, cognitive deficits, and chronic pain) through deleterious gene effects or “toxicogenomics.” Toxins can get into your body through the mouth, nose, or skin. The foods that you eat and the beverages that you drink bring most toxins into your body. So eating foods that detoxify your body is the best way to fight years of toxic buildup. Skip eating processed and conveniently packaged foods like frozen meals, canned spaghetti, and soft drinks. Instead, reach for unprocessed (or minimally processed) foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, eggs, hormone-free dairy, and olive oil.

Breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding exclusively may help ward off allergic disease in your child by lowering your kid’s “exposure to exogenous antigens, protecting against infections, promoting gastrointestinal mucosal maturation and the development of gut microbiota, and conferring immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory benefits,” according to a 2012 study from Medical University of Warsaw in Poland that was published in the Israel Medical Association Journal.

Visit The site for the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology is a helpful resource for keeping track of pollen counts and the latest news on allergies.

See an allergist. If you would like to pinpoint exactly what’s causing your allergies, see an allergist who may be able to do advanced testing and tell you about treatment options that are customized to your particular needs.

In my upcoming book, The Gene Therapy Plan, I talk in more depth about how the foods you eat and the supplements you take can prevent all sorts of health problems, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, early aging, and cancer.

Source: Journal of Clinical and Experimental Allergy. Published online ahead of print, March 2015; vol 45, iss 3, pp 632–643,  DOI: 10.1111/cea.12487 “Infant gut microbiota and food sensitization: associations in the first year of life” Authors: M. B. AzadA. L. Kozyrskyj et al.