In my office visits, I often talk about how we are big buckets, with a level of fluid that rises based on the exposures we experience every day. This includes stress, viruses, inflammatory foods and yes, environmental allergens. As the level of fluid rises, eventually, our "cup runneth over," and symptoms occur. But, there are many things we can do to minimize the rising fluid level, or to drain a bit of the fluid, thereby reducing overall symptoms.
We all need to breathe (or we really should be trying), so there is little control we have over what pollens might be "blowin' in the wind." However, we can avoid potential food ingredients that may contribute to our overall allergen load; but where do we start?
Many environmental allergens have been shown to exacerbate food sensitivities, and vice versa. This means that if you have an allergy to any of the pollens listed below, you may have become sensitized (i.e. more reactive) to certain food items. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are reactive to all of the substances, all of the time. You may be in the population of folks that during certain times of the year, when pollen counts are high, you experience compounded severity of symptoms due to exposure to both food triggers and environmental allergens. So what should you do? Avoid the items that trigger you, especially those that are cross reactive with pollens that may be more present at specific times of the year.
One of the best online resources for tracking which pollen counts may be high in your area is www.pollen.com. Sign up for the email alerts, and you can be prepared for days of high pollen counts, and act accordingly. Additionally, you can overlay your symptoms to see if you may be sensitive to something that you have yet to have formally diagnosed.
BIRCH POLLEN: apples[i], stone fruits, celery, carrot, nuts, and soybeans.[ii]
- Celery, carrots and soybeans appear to have the strongest reactivity
- Other potential cross reactive foods (in some individuals): peach, orange, lychee fruit, strawberry, persimmon, zucchini, tomato, bell pepper, banana and carrot
- Celery and hazelnuts appear to have the same effects whether cooked or raw.
- Possibly walnut[iii]
ALDER: apples, plums, kiwis, carrots, celery, potatoes, hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and even spices such as oregano, basil and dill.
HOUSE DUST MITES: Shrimp[iv]
QUERCUS spp: Pineapple[v]
**The following lists are suggested, however, there is not enough research to confirm or deny a definitive cross reactivity between these pollens and the food items listed.
RAGWEED: Cucurbitaceae vegetables (e.g., watermelon, melon, cucumber) and banana has been reported, [vi],[vii], Bromelain/Pineapple[viii]
GRASS: tomato, potato, green- pea, peanut, watermelon, melon, apple, orange and kiwi.[ix]
MUGWORT: celery, carrot, spices, nuts, mustard and Leguminoseae vegetables[x]
CANNABIS: tobacco, natural latex and plant-food-derived alcoholic beverages.[xi]
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and there is conflicting information published on cross-reactive species. Additionally, we are all different bodies, therefore, may react differently or with differing severity to the same items. So, it is always a good idea to consult with an allergist regarding necessary evaluation for more severe allergies.
Stay tuned for future posts about other natural symptomatic relief options for allergies, and in the meantime, enjoy the Spring and go outside to play!
[i] Wagner, A., Szwed, A., Buczyłko, K., & Wagner, W. (2016). Allergy to apple cultivars among patients with birch pollinosis and oral allergy syndrome. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 117(4), 399-404.
[ii] Vieths, S., Scheurer, S., & BALLMER‐WEBER, B. A. R. B. A. R. A. (2002). Current understanding of cross‐reactivity of food allergens and pollen. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 964(1), 47-68.
[iii] Wangorsch, A., Jamin, A., Lidholm, J., Gräni, N., Lang, C., Ballmer‐Weber, B., ... & Scheurer, S. (2017). Identification and implication of an allergenic PR‐10 protein from walnut in birch pollen associated walnut allergy. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
[iv] Rosenfield, L., Tsoulis, M. W., Milio, K., Schnittke, M., & Kim, H. (2017). High rate of house dust mite sensitization in a shrimp allergic southern Ontario population. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, 13(1), 5.
[v] Bedolla-Barajas, M., Kestler-Gramajo, A., Alcalá-Padilla, G., & Morales-Romero, J. (2017). Prevalence of oral allergy syndrome in children with allergic diseases. Allergologia et Immunopathologia, 45(2), 127-133.
[vi] Caballero, T., & Martin-Esteban, M. (1997). Association between pollen hypersensitivity and edible vegetable allergy: a review. Journal of investigational allergology & clinical immunology, 8(1), 6-16.
[vii] Anderson, L. B., Dreyfuss, E. M., Logan, J., Johnstone, D. E., & Glaser, J. (1970). Melon and banana sensitivity coincident with ragweed pollinosis. Journal of Allergy, 45(5), 310-319
[viii] Yokoi, H., Yoshitake, H., Matsumoto, Y., Kawada, M., Takato, Y., Shinagawa, K., ... & Saito, K. (2017). Involvement of cross-reactive carbohydrate determinants-specific IgE in pollen allergy testing. Asia Pacific Allergy, 7(1), 29.
[ix] Bircher, A. J., Melle, G. V., Haller, E., Curty, B., & Frei, P. C. (1994). IgE to food allergens are highly prevalent in patients allergic to pollens, with and without symptoms of food allergy. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 24(4), 367-374.
[x] Caballero, T., & Martin-Esteban, M. (1997). Association between pollen hypersensitivity and edible vegetable allergy: a review. Journal of investigational allergology & clinical immunology, 8(1), 6-16.
[xi] Decuyper, I. I., Van Gasse, A. L., Cop, N., Sabato, V., Faber, M., Mertens, C., ... & Ebo, D. G. (2016). Cannabis sativa allergy: looking through the fog. Allergy.