Pollen Allergies and Which Foods to Avoid

When certain fresh fruits, raw vegetables, seeds or nuts are consumed, typically during spring and early fall  – 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.

For people who experience what’s 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

Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) may affect up to 5 percent of the population, and is clearly more prevalent among those with seasonal pollen allergies, specifically those who have an allergic sensitivity to tree, weed and/or grass pollen,” Clifford Bassett, MD, founder and medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York, and assistant clinical professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine.

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Which Foods to Avoid for Pollen Allergies

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

If you eat something that triggers allergies, you’ll notice symptoms almost immediately. Most allergists would agree that OAS symptoms appear no more than half an hour after eating.

Also, 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.

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.