No one wants to suffer through the spring allergy season feeling miserable with a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes… or the headaches, fatigue, and sleep troubles that come with allergies. And you don’t have to rely on those commonly used OTC allergy medications that make you feel groggy and drowsy. A recent study has found that an unassuming cruciferous veggie — the broccoli sprout — is a superstar when it comes to keeping those miserable allergy symptoms under control. 

Why broccoli sprouts you ask? The key is a natural compound found in cruciferous veggies like broccoli sprouts called sulforaphane. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology and Allergy found that sulforaphane increases antioxidant and detoxification enzymes in the upper airway that support a healthy inflammatory response – and reducing inflammation in the respiratory tract is key in relieving allergic symptoms.[Ref 1,2] Sulforaphane also protects the upper airway’s cells and tissues against damaging free radicals that are generated when we are exposed to pollen, dust, pollution, and other environmental allergens.[Ref 3] 

According to Marc Riedl, MD, the study’s lead investigator and professor of clinical immunology and allergy at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, “…compounds in broccoli sprouts have a very potent effect in boosting the airway’s self-defense system.”[Ref 4]

During the three-day study, UCLA researchers gave 65 healthy participants varying oral doses of either broccoli or alfalfa sprout preparations (the alfalfa sprouts, which contain no sulforaphane, served as the placebo). To measure the effects of both vegetables, the researchers took samples of the subjects’ nasal fluids at the beginning and end of the study. The subjects who took the preparation of broccoli sprouts “had a two– to three-fold increase in antioxidant enzymes in the nasal airway cells,” according to Riedl. Doses of 100 grams (3.5 oz) led to a “significant” increase in protective airway enzymes and doses of 200 grams (7.1 oz) resulted in as much as a 200 percent increase in specific enzymes. “This strategy … could lead to potential treatments for a variety of respiratory conditions,” Riedl said. 

Sulforaphane is found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, but broccoli sprouts are the richest source, containing 20 to 50 times more sulforaphane than the others. You would have to eat a lot of crucifiers to get the same amount of sulforaphane found in broccoli sprouts. You can buy broccoli sprouts fresh – they are delicious on sandwiches and in salads – but for a consistent, easy daily dose (especially during allergy season), broccoli sprout supplements are available. 

According to Riedl, “This … approach may add another weapon to our fight against the increasing health burden of allergy and asthma.”

References

[1]http://www.beallergywise.com/news/broccoli-reduces-respiratory-inflammation/ ; Allergy News, March 5, 2009. “Broccoli Reduces Respiratory Inflammation.”

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broccoli_sprouts

 [3]Riedl M, Saxon A, Diaz-Sanchez, D. Oral sulforaphane increases Phase II antioxidant enzymes in the human upper airway, Journal of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, 130 (3), p.244-251, March 2009;
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2668525/

[4]Riedl, Marc. M.D., M.S., Associate Professor of Medicine Section Head, Clinical Immunology and Allergy UCLA – David Geffen School of Medicine. Cited: personal telephone interview Feb. 1, 2013.

[5]Riedl M, Saxon A, Diaz-Sanchez, D. Oral sulforaphane increases Phase II antioxidant enzymes in the human upper airway, Journal of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, 130 (3), p.244-251, March 2009;

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2668525/

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