Seasonal Allergies and Nutrition

May 25, 2011

By johnmac

Spring is finally in the air….along with all the things that cause seasonal allergies.   Allergy symptoms are caused by histamine being released in our bodies. This is a natural immune system response, and in many cases, it will just run its course – although that means putting up with symptoms such as burning/itchy eyes, a runny nose, sneezing and wheezing. Depending on the severity of the allergic response, symptoms can range from mildly annoying to debilitating.

Many people who suffer from seasonal allergies feel that anti-histamines are the only way to get relief. But did you know that making certain changes to your diet can help to make the allergic response less severe, and therefore help to alleviate the symptoms associated with external allergens such as pollen? Here are a few suggestions that can help:

  • Avoid/limit dairy, sugar and gluten-containing foods(e.g. wheat, rye, oats, barley). These foods cause the creation of mucus in the body. While mucus can actually help to get allergens out of the body, when it gets to thick (as is the case when we eat too many mucus forming foods) allergens can get stuck in this thick, slow moving mucus, causing allergy symptoms to be worse.
  • Avoid foods high in histamine. Since allergy symptoms are caused by histamine, it makes sense that we would want to avoid putting more histamine into our bodies through the food we eat. The digestion of certain foods can increase histamine in the body since certain bacteria found in the digestive tract can convert the amino acid histidine in these foods into histamine. Histidine is found in many protein-containing foods, but especially in higher protein-containing foods that have been aged such as fermented soy sauce and tofu, certain cheeses (e.g. Camembert, Brie, Gruyere, Cheddar, Roquefort/Blue Cheese, Parmesan), sauerkraut, alcohol, vinegars, aged meat and canned fish (apparently, the longer a fish remains ungutted, the higher the levels of histamine in its flesh – so the fresher the better!).
  • Eat foods that are high in vitamin B6. While certain bacteria in our digestive tract can convert the amino acid histidine into histamine, we also have cells in the lining of our digestive tract (and in other parts of the body) that can break down histamine into other substances before it gets absorbed into the bloodstream. These enzymes require vitamin B6 in order to function. To make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B6, you can supplement with it or eat good food sources, such as spinach, bell peppers, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, Brussel sprouts and chard.

Since an allergic response is a function of the Immune System (a large part of which is in the gut), here are some suggestions to support the Immune System and a healthy gut:

  • Eat plenty of whole, organic, naturally raised foods, such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. Animal products should be from organic, pasture-raised/naturally raised animals. Buy locally as much as possible. Avoid/limit processed foods, especially ones with long ingredient lists containing artificial sweeteners/flavours/colours and ingredients that you wouldn’t normally find in your own kitchen. Note that there are a number of food additives and preservatives that affect the release of histamine.
  • Supplement with, or eat foods high in quercetin. Quercitin is a bioflavonoid, which may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties helpful for allergies. Studies suggest that quercetin prevents the release of histamine. Foods rich in quercitin include green tea, apples, citrus fruits, onions, parsley, kale, papaya, broccoli and many berries (especially dark berries such as bilberries, blackberries and blueberries).
  • Vitamin C is a great immune boosting vitamin. Foods rich in vitamin C include bell peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, papaya, kiwi, raspberries, strawberries and citrus fruit. You can also supplement with vitamin C. Take up to 2,000 mg/day in multiple doses of 500mg spread out over the day to maximize utilization.
  • Probiotics support the health of the entire digestive tract (right from the mouth to the other end) and strengthen the immune system. I feel most of us would benefit from daily supplementation as probiotics are destroyed by numerous things, including stress. For more information on probiotics, please read my May 2008 Tip of the Month.

If you still need relief, I have recently begun to carry a great product called HistoPlex AB (the AB stands for ‘Air Borne’). This product supplies a proprietary blend of herbal extracts that helps to regulate the immune/allergy response. This is the first spring that I am carrying this product and so far, I’ve been getting great feedback from my clients who are taking it. They have reported less congestion, better breathing, no more runny nose, better energy and better sleep. They have also told me that it is more effective and faster acting than other products they have used in the past. This product is going fast, so please email me at to reserve your bottle.

Here’s to a happy and healthy spring!



  1. Spring is in the air: Changing your diet to help lesson your allergies. Kschamica S. Nimalasuriya MD, MPH, May 19 2011

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