What to eat — and what not to eat — during allergy season 

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By Bryce Wylde, BSc (hons), DHMHS

Did you know even some very nutritious foods may be making your seasonal allergy symptoms worse? Changing what you eat, and the smart use of some time-tested plant-based ingredients, may help you better manage your sneezing, runny nose, scratchy throat and / or itchy, watery eyes.

What causes allergy symptoms? 

Pollen, dust and dander are just some of the things that can trigger immune cells, called mast cells, to release the chemical histamine. Histamine’s job to get rid of bothersome allergens. But in doing so, they often cause their own havoc because they are associated with common allergy symptoms. That’s why many people reach for antihistamines this time of year. 

Plant-based options for managing seasonal allergy symptoms 

Managing seasonal allergy symptoms often requires a combination of strategies. Changing your diet can be a big help, and I’ll get to that in the next section. It may seem a little counterintuitive because seasonal allergies are created by plants, but plants can also be natural remedies and amplify the effectiveness of a healthy lifestyle.  

For example, if you have itchy watery eyes this time of you, consider a plant-based homeopathic solution made with Eyebright flower and Sabadilla Lily instead of stinging medications that take control over your life because of their rebound effect. 

Homeopathic preparations that contain natural active ingredients — no dyes, chemical vasoconstrictors, decongestants or steroids, such as Similasan Allergy Eye Relief — can be used regularly without that annoying rebound effect. Moreover, they help to activate your body’s own defense mechanisms to address the underlying problem.

How to eat if you have hay fever aka seasonal allergies 

Some lucky people breeze through the high-pollen season with only occasional minor sniffles. Others know when pollen coats everything outside yellow, the next few months will likely involve a lot of sneezing and watery eyes. If you fall into that second category, you may find some relief by changing your diet.  Here’s how to use food to help calm your symptoms.  

  • Eat like our ancestors did. Allergies are a modern-day phenomenon. To eat like our ancestors, dial back your intake of sugar and processed foods in favor of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy nuts and seeds, organic grass-fed beef and organic chicken. Foods high in plant sterols, flavonols and other healthy plant-based compounds can be an allergy sufferer’s best allies. There’s a ton of research showing that the quercetin found in such common foods such as apples and onions helps stabilize the mast cells before they start releasing histamines. 
  • Avoid foods that naturally contain high levels of histamines. Some people are surprised to learn that many otherwise healthy foods may aggravate seasonal allergies. Especially if you can pretty much count on getting sidelined by hay fever every spring, you might try avoiding such foods as:
    • Fermented and pickled foods
    • Aged cheeses 
    • Eggplant
    • Avocado
    • Tomatoes
    • Olives
    • Beans 
    • Citrus fruits
    • Dried fruits
    • Processed meats
    • Alcohol 
  • Be aware of the foods that may cause allergy cross reactivity:  Some foods contain proteins similar to the proteins found in pollen. Eating these foods may worsen your seasonal allergy symptoms. For example, if you are allergic to tree pollen (especially Birch), then you likely have a cross reactivity to apples, plums, kiwis, carrots, celery, potatoes, hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and even spices such as oregano, basil and dill. These need to be avoided. If your allergy stems from grass pollen you need to avoid melons, oranges, kiwi, tomatoes and peanuts, among others. Those who suffer in the fall from ragweed allergy (mainly in the northeast of the continent) can get itchy mouths and an upset GI from bananas, melons, zucchini and cucumbers. 
  • Change your cooking methods. After looking over the food lists above, it may seem like there’s not much left to eat! Here’s the good news. You may still be able to eat these otherwise healthy foods if you stew the vegetables and prepare the fruits in something like a warm compote. These cooking methods help to break down the proteins so they are less likely to cause an allergic response. 
  • Swallow some bugs. It may be beneficial to add probiotics to your daily routine. Some strains are associated with supporting seasonal allergy relief. They include: Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium infantis and Bifidobacterium longum.

It’s a beautiful time of year to get outside and enjoy nature. These tips may help you to reduce some allergies before they start, and make others much easier to tolerate. 

About the author

Bryce Wylde BSc (hons), DHMHS is a leading health expert in functional medicine specializing in clinical nutrition and supplementation. Practicing at VennMed in Toronto, he blends the latest in science and technology with traditional and ancient remedies. Wylde is also co-founder of The DNA Company, and founder of Mymmunity – a startup dedicated to optimizing immune health through personalized nutrition. Wylde is the author of four national best seller books, previous host of CTV’s Wylde on Health, and is a frequent guest health expert on U.S. and Canadian TV. 

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