Punctually at the beginning of spring, bothersome symptoms such as watery eyes, cough, sneezing attacks or runny nose settle among those allergic to pollen. While the medicine cabinet has antihistamines ready, symptoms can also be relieved by eating the right foods.
By deliberately avoiding and consuming special foods, allergy sufferers can finally look forward to the best time of year again. FITBOOK explains which foods can ease pollen allergy symptoms and also provides tips on the right diet for hay fever.
Histamine plays a key role in hay fever
The allergic symptoms of a pollen allergy are due to the messenger substance histamine. For this reason, conventional medicine relies on antihistamines to relieve breathing difficulties, puffy eyes, and the like.
In the case of hay fever, the body first produces antibodies because it misclassifies grass pollen as a potential hazard. These antibodies are also known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) or IgE antibodies. As soon as the antibodies come into contact with the respective allergens or pollen, the messenger histamine is released. The undesirable result: An acute inflammation then develops, which allergy sufferers perceive in the form of typical allergy symptoms.
As an alternative to or in addition to antihistamine drug therapy, it makes sense to avoid histamine-rich foods during pollen season!
Also interesting: How do you recognize histamine intolerance?
Foods low in histamine in pollen allergy
Since histamine in particular triggers the symptoms of hay fever, the content of this messenger substance in the body should not be increased. Therefore, allergy sufferers are advised to prefer foods low in histamine or to consume only histamine-containing foods in moderation. However, there are not only foods such as red wine or cured cheese that are especially rich in histamine, but also those that stimulate the release of the messenger substance by the body itself.
Rules for a low histamine diet
- Prefer fresh foods*
- Avoid foods rich in histamine (see list)
- Avoid canned and fermented foods.
- eat naturally
- Avoid products that have matured for a long time.
- Discover the individual tolerances
- Keep a food diary (when do symptoms occur?)
* Consume food as soon as possible and do not store it for a long time.
Also interesting: »I tried to fight my allergy with hypnotherapy – that’s how it was
What foods contain a lot of histamine?
Since histamine ingested through food would also trigger the allergic symptoms of hay fever, nutritional therapy is based on foods low in histamine. Therefore, the following foods should be avoided in case of acute allergy symptoms and, if necessary, also as a preventive measure.
- Smoked sausages, salami and ham
- Mature cheeses, e.g. B. Parmesan or old Gouda
- Smoked fish, canned fish and seafood
- Vegetables: eggplant, spinach and tomatoes
- Soft cheese and processed cheese (for example, Brie and Camembert)
- Mushrooms (porcini and mushrooms)
- Fruit: strawberries, raspberries, pears, citrus*
- Tropical fruits: banana, pineapple, kiwi, papaya, guava
- Legumes and nuts (including soy products like tofu)
- fresh baked goods (still hot)
- yeast and vinegar
- Cocoa and dark chocolate
- jam, peanut butter
- black and matte tea
- marzipan and nougat
*mainly ripe fruit
**especially top-fermented beers (e.g. Kölsch), red wine and sparkling wine
What foods are low in histamine?
Since a completely histamine-free diet is not possible, the diet plan for allergic symptoms should consist of foods low in histamine. The following overview shows better tolerated alternatives to aged cheese, canned fish, etc.
- cream cheese and cottage cheese
- Young Gouda, butter cheese
- yeast-free baked goods
- corn, rice
- fresh fish
- Fruit: apple, apricot, peach, melon, mango, sour cherries, blackberries**
- Coconut, macadamia and chestnuts
- small amounts of white wine and bottom-fermented beers (eg, Pilsner)
*except the histamine-rich vegetables listed above
** Pome and stone fruits not suitable for those allergic to birch pollen
Allergy enhancers: from alcohol to stress
But in addition to foods rich in histamine, there are other foods and factors that increase the symptoms of pollen allergy. These triggers, known as augmentation factors, vary from person to person. However, the sensitivity and intensity of the body’s allergic reaction also depend on physiological and psychological factors.
Therefore, the current stress level, sports activity and pollen load play a decisive role in allergies. But alcoholic beverages can also promote or intensify allergic reactions.
- Cigarette smoke (also passive smoke)
- intense physical activity
- Fast food and ready meals (additives)
- mental stress (stress, exhaustion)
- Fragrances (for example, candles)
- wheat or gluten*
- certain medications
*especially from the point of view of alternative medicine, which often recommends avoiding wheat products and foods containing gluten in case of allergies and autoimmune diseases
Food as a trigger: cross-allergy associated with pollen
It is estimated that 60 percent of people affected by a pollen allergy also develop a so-called pollen-associated cross-reaction. As a result, allergy sufferers show similar allergy symptoms after eating certain foods, for example apples or carrots, than after contact with pollen.
Allergy-triggering proteins in pollen and certain foods have a similar structure. This pollen-associated cross-reaction is often experienced as particularly severe during pollen flight. When a person with hay fever eats a cross-allergic food, acute allergy symptoms, such as sneezing or shortness of breath, can worsen. Additionally, there may be an unpleasant tingling and itching sensation in the mouth and throat after consumption.
Also interesting: The difference between wheat sensitivity, celiac disease and wheat allergy
While it makes sense to temporarily avoid cross-allergy foods, especially in spring and summer when there is a pollen load, you should always test individually whether apples, nuts, and the like are tolerated. In modern nutritional therapy for allergies, the motto is: Don’t give up your favorite dishes as a preventive measure because they are potentially incompatible or one of the possible triggers. For example, while people with celiac disease should avoid trace amounts of gluten throughout their lives, individual tolerance for hay fever should first be assessed.
Known allergens should only be avoided if intolerance is determined. It also makes sense to maintain tolerance to well-tolerated foods by regularly serving a colorful mix of nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, and salads. Allergists often diagnose a cross-allergy in people who are allergic to birch pollen. However, cross-allergic reactions also occur in the case of a grass and herb pollen allergy to mugwort.
Examples of cross allergies in people allergic to pollen
- Birch pollen: walnuts, pome and stone fruits (for example, apples, cherries or plums), soybeans
- Herb Pollen: Tomatoes, cereals and legumes
- Herb Pollen: Spices, Carrots, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Peppers, Celery, Artichokes, Garlic, Chamomile
Tip for an allergy-friendly preparation: Exposure to heat from cooking, steaming, or baking also plays a role in the intensity of an allergic reaction. For example, a steamed apple is better tolerated than the corresponding raw food. Nuts are also less likely to cause symptoms when eaten as a cake.
Antiallergic vegetable food: the right diet for hay fever
But there’s good news for people with pollen allergies: Nutritional therapy for hay fever isn’t just about avoiding certain foods. Targeted consumption of berries, lettuce, green vegetables, and fresh herbs can also reduce allergy symptoms.
There are numerous regional fruits and vegetables that provide an extra dose of antioxidants. After consumption, these small active ingredients develop anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and other cell-protective effects. Of course, due to their health potential, these culinary miracle cures shouldn’t just be on allergy sufferers’ plates.
Another point to note: Antioxidants, also known as phytochemicals, are found in local superfoods, from apples to broccoli to onions. For the sake of sustainability, it doesn’t always have to be acai, goji, or other expensive exotics from the other side of the world.
Also interesting: the bite of a certain type of tick can trigger a meat allergy
Regional superfood meal against pollen allergy
- Apple: Due to their high quercetin content, apples are considered an anti-allergy superfood. Its ingredient quercentin has an effect similar to that of antihistamines. Attention: people who are allergic to birch pollen may, however, have a cross-allergy.
- broccoli: Cabbage is rich in vitamin C. Its antioxidant mustard oil glycosides also relieve respiratory inflammatory problems.
- Lettuce and green leafy vegetables: The lamb’s lettuce and others are rich in carotenoids and secondary vegetable substances. As a cell protection agent, this green superfood relieves inflammation and the tissue and cell damage it causes. The intensity of hay fever can also be reduced. Caution: spinach is high in histamine!
- Berries, elderberry, sea buckthorn: The mixture of antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, numerous secondary plant substances such as flavonoids from blueberries, raspberries or blackcurrants also have an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Ginger: The tuber provides an extra serving of vitamin C and helps regulate histamine release and the acute inflammatory reaction in hay fever.
- parsley: The popular culinary herb blocks the release of histamine when pollen is present.
- Thyme: The antimicrobial and expectorant (for example, as a tea) effects of thyme essential oils can relieve allergy symptoms.
- Onion: Like apples, onions provide an extra dose of quercetin with antihistamine effects.