Can Food Make Your Seasonal Allergies Worse?

seasonal allergies

Yes, it can, and here’s why.

     I had literal “hay fever” for most of my life. My nose would get stuffy in the spring and remain that way through the fall. I took Sudafed to decongest quite often. Once or twice a year I went to the doctor because a sinus infection had set in and then was prescribed antibiotics. I was “normal” though, because almost everyone in my southern town dealt had seasonal allergies.
     Then almost ten years ago I discovered I was sensitive to gluten grains. I was not surprised that gluten elimination would help clear up my intestinal problems. The unexpected surprise was that after I eliminated the gluten grains, my seasonal allergies disappeared! I don’t have an IgE allergy to wheat, but I do have IgE allergies to several types of grasses and weeds, including Timothy grass.

What happened and why did my allergy symptoms disappear?

     It is concept called cross reactivity or concomitant foods. If you have IgE allergies and have a high exposure to those environmental allergens, you can become reactive to certain foods or the reactions to the foods may become stronger. Certain foods have been shown over time to be cross-reactive with various inhalants (grass, weed or tree pollens, mold, dust-mites, etc.) When you eat those foods and the inhalant is around, your reaction will be worse or you will have additional allergic reactions.
     Usually you have to be eating a food, to test as sensitive to it, but because of cross reactivity an IgG food sensitivity test can pick up a problem food even if you are not eating it! For example, my daughter took a food sensitivity test. She did not have many strong reactions, but she had a 3 star (highest level) reaction to oysters. Now an oyster, or any other shellfish for that matter, has never crossed this girl’s lips! But she is allergic to dust mites. All shellfish can be cross reactive to dust mites because they all as similar animals. So Katte knows that she probably should not eat oysters (although for her that is no problem!).

How does this my seasonal allergies?

     If you know you have specific environmental allergies, then learn about the foods that have been shown to be potentially cross-reactive. For example, all legumes (beans, peas, soybeans) as well as grains have been shown to cross react with grasses. I am also sensitive to soy and many beans, so avoid those in addition to wheat. Therefore because of my IgE allergy to several grasses, it is not surprising that my stuffy nose and allergy symptoms went away when I eliminated grains and soy.  Here is one list of environmental allergens and their concomitant foods. Here is another similar list.

 In most cases, you won’t react to all of the foods that are concomitant for a specific pollen, so you will need to test foods individually. For example, I can eat certain beans such as black beans and chickpeas with no problem. I also can eat the grains oats and rice. Up to 80% of people who are allergic to birch pollen often have food allergies in addition due to cross-reactivity. The foods that most often cross-react with birch are apple, carrot, celery, pear, tomato, cherry, tree nuts and soy.

Cross reactivity between foods

     If you know that you have a food allergy or sensitivity to a specific food, you should be aware that you can also have a cross-reactive response to other foods. For example, dairy, corn, soy, yeast and oats have all been shown to be cross-reactive to the gluten grains wheat, barley and rye. If you are allergic to one type of tree nut or one type of fish, you may also be allergic to other tree nuts or fish. This is not always the case, so you should work with an expert health care practitioner to help you determine whether you have additional allergies or sensitivities due to cross-reactivity.

     If you have allergies or food sensitivities and are not fully better, please make sure and investigate concomitant or cross-reactive foods. If you need help please be sure to contact me for a complimentary 20-minute session.

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