What foods shouldn't you eat if you want to keep pollen allergies in check?

Spring time is in full, well, spring. Allergists are having a field day treating patients with hay fever. But horrible puns aside, pollen allergies are no joke.
Up to 70 percent of those with pollen allergies experience unpleasant reactions after eating certain foods. Here are some of those foods to avoid for pollen allergies.
Most of the time, fresh fruits and raw, uncooked vegetables and certain seeds and nuts cause the allergic reactions.
For people who experience what's medically called 'Oral Allergy Syndrome' (OAS; also referred to as 'food-pollen allergy syndrome' and 'fruit-pollen syndrome'), the following symptoms may occur after eating the offending food:
  • itchy or swollen lips
  • tingling at the back of the throat
  • scratchiness on the roof of the mouth
  • watery or itchy eyes
Although symptoms can be serious, most reactions of OAS are minor and occur in the mouth or throat.
Why do certain foods cause allergic reactions?
In a food-pollen allergy, the primary problem is the pollen, not the food itself.
When certain fruits, vegetables, seeds or nuts are consumed, typically during spring and early fall when inhalant allergies are more common like hay fever, the body's immune system recognizes and essentially mistakes a plant protein in the food for pollen, and this irritant triggers what allergy specialists call a cross-reaction.
FigsCut to the chase. Which foods should I avoid?
It depends what tree or weed allergy you have. For those allergic to grass pollens, you’ll want to avoid:
  • oranges
  • tomatoes
  • melons
  • figs
As noted above, foods that cause a pollen-like allergic reaction are usually fresh or raw. If you love oranges but notice they cause a reaction, orange juice, although it's not as nutritiously-dense as an orange, might not cause the reaction. Same thing with tomatoes: freshly picked ones from the vine might cause an itchy throat, but tomato paste might not trigger a negative reaction.


If you're allergic to weed pollens, specifically ragweed, the following foods may trigger OAS:
  • banana
  • cantaloupe
  • cucumber
  • melons
  • zucchini
  • artichoke
  • teas of Echinacea, chamomile and hibiscus
Some other foods that trigger OAS in more than one type of allergy include:
  • apples
  • almonds
  • celery
  • strawberry
  • cherries
How long after I eat something that triggers allergies will I notice symptoms?
Almost immediately. Most allergists would agree that OAS symptoms appear no more than half an hour after eating.
Besides not eating certain foods, what else can I do to avoid OAS?
Eliminate or greatly reduce artificial additives, artificial sweeteners and pesticides, as they could potentially cause bronchial spasms and histamine reactions of the eyes, ears, nose, throat and skin.
cooked veggiesAlso, boost your immune system. The weaker your immunity, the more likely your body will experience a cross reaction. Drink plenty of water, exercise daily, get at least 7 hours of sleep a night and supplement with anti-oxidants (under the care of a doctor or nutritionist).
If you use anti-allergy medicine, try to choose natural anti-inflammatory and natural anti-histamine nutritional supplements.
Fruits and vegetables are vital food groups to consume daily for optimum health. During allergy seasons, consume more cooked vegetables and try to eliminate the offending raw fruits. Use a food journal to determine which foods are triggering allergic reactions.
Judd Handler is a freelance health writer in Encinitas, California.
Photos: chatirygirl/Flickr; naotakem/Flickr

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