Hay fever season is back…complete with runny nose, scratchy throat, red eyes, itchy-all-over feeling and incessant sneezing. What causes these reactions, and is there anything, besides taking a ton of antihistamines, that you can do to help get you through this time of year?
First, many people understand that you take antihistamines to combat allergies but what, exactly, does that mean and what are histamines?
Histamines are chemicals produced naturally by the body to help eliminate something that is not welcome, in this case, allergens or substances that trigger allergic reactions.
The problem is that if you are allergic to trees, grasses, weeds or mold spores (to name a few) your built-in natural defense system wants to rid your body of them as quickly as possible, so it releases histamines to protect the natural immune system. The trouble is, that the histamine-creating function goes into overtime and produces too many which results in annoying allergy symptoms.
Histamine is held in the body’s mast cells and when allergic triggers are present, the body is sent a chemical signal to release more histamine to your skin, nose, eyes, mouth, lungs, stomach and bloodstream. The result is increased blood flow that, in turn, causes inflammation. Histamines trigger membranes in areas including the nose to make more mucus as a protection against the allergens. Unfortunately this increased production causes the nose to become stuffy, runny and it makes you sneeze! In addition, the mucus created by these histamines-on-overdrive drains down the back of the throat causing irritation, coughing and soreness.
There are numerous over-the-counter medications, referred to as antihistamines that are designed to create a more manageable balance of histamines in the body during allergic episodes. But there is more that can be done to help keep the overabundance of histamines at bay and that is to avoid certain histamine-creating foods during peak allergy seasons.
I am not a doctor but this information come from a vast amount of research provided by professionals. Opinions vary and some say avoid certain foods where other sources say that particular food is OK. However, for the most part, the following histamine-rich foods should be avoided in an effort to help alleviate your symptoms.
• Fermented Alcoholic Beverages, particularly Wine, Champagne and Beer
• Fermented Foods: Sauerkraut, Vinegar, Soy Sauce, Kefir, Yogurt, Kombucha
• Foods with Vinegar: Pickles, Mayonnaise, Olives
• Cured Meats: Bacon, Salami, Pepperoni, Lunch Meats, Hot Dogs
• Soured Foods: Sour Cream, Sour Milk, Buttermilk, Sour Bread
• Dried Fruits: Apricots, Prunes, Dates, Raisins
• Most Citrus Fruits – Oranges, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime
• Aged or Fermented Cheeses including Goat Cheese, Feta, Blue, Brie,
Cheddar, Colby, etc.
• Processed Cheese
• Nuts: Walnuts, Cashews & Peanuts
• Vegetables: Avocados, Eggplant, Spinach and Tomatoes
• Smoked Fish
• Mackerel, Mahi-Mahi, Tuna, Anchovies, Sardines
• NOTE: All fish unless freshly caught, cleaned & cooked within 30 minutes.
• Protein-based leftovers
Studies have determined that 1% of the population is histamine intolerant, which is a very small number. Chances are you are not in the 1% and you should be able to help relieve symptoms during allergy season by trying to eliminate some/all of the above-mentioned foods. Also, look to increase foods that are anti-inflammatory but are not histamine-rich such as Blueberries.
Keep in mind that the body needs histamine in order to keep it running smoothly however during peak-allergy times it may help to eliminate some of the food triggers. Please consult with your health care professional or nutritionist to discuss options best suited for you.