The leading cause of hayfever can often be associated with pollen. Our immune system triggers an allergic reaction whenever we come into contact with a particular type of pollen, such as grass, tree or weed. However, these pollens can often cross-react with the foods that we eat, causing an oral allergic reaction. In this page, our hayfever expert Louise Baillie describes the causes of Pollen Food Syndrome, and what foods you should avoid.
Hayfever, or allergic rhinitis, occurs when your immune system has an allergic reaction to pollen.
There are three different types of pollen normally responsible for triggering this reaction – grass pollen, tree pollen and weed pollen. Within each type of pollen, there are numerous subsections; for example, if you are allergic to tree pollen, you might be specifically allergic to the pollen emitted by birch trees.
The variety of different pollens can make it confusing to identify what type you are allergic to; however, most doctors can perform tests to certify which ones are irritating your immune system out of the big three.
Once you know which pollen is aggravating your body, it can go a long way towards treating your symptoms, especially if you suffer from Pollen Food Syndrome.
Pollen food syndrome, or oral allergy syndrome, occurs when we consume food products that contain similar proteins to those found in the pollen that is responsible our allergies. Your immune system recognises these proteins and triggers an allergic reaction, which can lead to unpleasant oral symptoms such as a sore throat, swelling of the lips and nausea.
It can be difficult to determine what foods are causing a reaction if you do not know the type of pollen allergy that you are suffering from, however once you know it can help you to identify what foods cross-react with your specific pollen allergy.
This means that you can avoid irritating your hayfever symptoms and, in some cases, help to reduce existing symptoms.
Grass pollen: Around 95% of hayfever sufferers in the UK are allergic to grass pollen. It is the most common cause of hayfever and it can cross-react with a variety of raw fruit and vegetables, such as celery, melon, oranges, tomatoes, figs and kiwis. If you plan on eating any of these products, then it is worth limiting your intake, or to try incorporating them into a cooked meal. Cooking your food can reduce the allergens, making your food suitable for consumption again.
Tree pollen: Tree pollen allergy normally occurs when the immune system has a reaction to a specific type of tree pollen, such as birch, pine or ash. There are a variety of different foods that can cross-react with tree pollen but the main culprits are apples, tomatoes, carrots, celery, peanuts, soy beans and almonds.
Weed pollen: Weed pollen is not usually as common as the other two types named but the pollen count normally peaks slightly later, around September. Trigger foods can include, bananas, celery, melon, sunflower seeds, chamomile tea and honey.
Some of these foods are considered beneficial when it comes to reducing hayfever symptoms – foods such as oranges are rich in vitamin C, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
However, it is important to realise that you might not be allergic to all of the foods above and it is still important to try and incorporate foods into your diet that do have anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties as this can help to alleviate hayfever symptoms.
Although diet can play a major in exacerbating or relieving your hayfever symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention from your doctor if your symptoms are becoming more persistent or causing you concern.
There are a number of herbal remedies available to help you to combat your seasonal allergies. If you are finding it difficult to manage your symptoms, you might find relief by trying our Pollinosan Hayfever Relief Tablets.
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What you eat can have a dramatic effect on your hayfever symptoms. While anti-inflammatory and natural anti-histamine foods can help control your symptoms, foods containing dairy and foods rich in sugar can actually make them worse.