Hayfever and Food.
Hayfever can be a miserable experience. Just as you want to get out and enjoy the sun, it starts. Symptoms affect the eyes, nose, throat, ears and even the chest and skin. The nose is itchy and irritated with a form of allergic rhinitis mediated by Histamine and IgE. In Spring, the likely triggers are grasses and pollens. In Autumn the trigger is more likely to be a tree or even a mould. We often cannot change our outside external environment, but we can take measures to change our INTERNAL environments. Birch oral allergy is really interesting. People who are allergic to the pollen of the Birch tree can also find they are allergic to certain foods such as apple and stoned fruits. The allergen in the Birch cross reacts with the proteins found in these foods. So eating these cross reacting foods can make matters even worse.
There is a noticeable correlation between what you eat and the severity of your hayfever symptoms. For example, if you are eating food products that contain high levels of histamine, then this can make your symptoms more prominent and irritating!
Anti-histamine foods are food products that contain anti-histamine chemicals capable of disrupting or blocking the histamine receptors. If these receptors are blocked, it can help to reduce allergy symptoms. Foods that are rich in flavonoids such as quercetin, vitamin C or beta-carotene, can help to block histamine and reduce inflammation.
You can find these nutrients in a variety of foods but the most common and beneficial are:
· Garlic: Garlic is a great source of quercetin and has been used throughout history to alleviate the symptoms of common viral infections.
· Ginger: Ginger is known to slow down histamine production by reducing our IgE levels.
· Onions: Onions are another source of quercetin which can stabilise the production of histamine.
· Honey: Local honey can contain traces of the pollens causing your allergies, potentially helping the body.
· Blueberries: Contain high quantities of vitamin C and quercetin, making them an excellent anti-inflammatory.
· Carrots: High in beta carotene.
· Salmon: Salmon is a rich source of omega 3 which is known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
So What food do I need to avoid for hayfever?
Chocolate: Unfortunately, chocolate contains high amounts of the chemical histamine and can aggravate your hayfever symptoms
Dairy products: Dairy products such as milk and cheese can stimulate the production of mucous, making symptoms such as blocked nose or blocked ears much worse. Some matured cheeses also contain high levels of histamine, which can put your adrenal glands under a lot of pressure, making you feel fatigued and leaving your immune system vulnerable
Fermented foods: Food products that are aged or preserved, such as vinegar, sauerkraut, yoghurt or canned fish, can often end up being a big source of histamine. Patients ask, and I have usually found apple cider vinegar to be beneficial due to its probiotic content.
Wheat: Wheat can stimulate an allergic reaction in those who suffer from grass pollen allergies
Refined sugars: Refined sugars can trigger a rush of adrenalin into your system, causing your body to produce more histamine.
Alcohol is rich in histamine which can inflame hayfever symptoms and make them worse.
What about Probiotics?
Results from studies looking at whether probiotics can help with hayfever vary enormously depending on what strain of probiotic are used. There has been a study which looked at using strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium in patients with Birch Oral allergy. They found associated changes in gut bacteria and a reduced inflammatory response with reduced nasal mucus. Other studies have shown mixed responses and the research into more specific strain and how they apply to the individual are still ongoing.
Some patients do report back telling me how they feel less bloated with probiotics and less irritated in general with corresponding reduction in hayfever symptoms in many cases.
It’s worth thinking about what works for you and trying to identify if anything in your diet seems to be exacerbating hayfever symptoms. I’ve certainly seen patients make dietary and lifestyle changes for the benefit in hayfever.
As ever, if your changes do no harm and might even do some good, it is worth considering.