The answer is YES, the foods you eat can certainly make your seasonal allergies worse. Many individuals with pollen allergies experience immediate symptoms after eating certain foods. This is known as Oral-Allergy Syndrome and occurs because a plant protein gets mistaken for a pollen protein. Common symptoms of Oral-Allergy Syndrome (OAS) include: itchy and/or swollen lips and may also include the tongue, itchy roof of the mouth, scratchy and tingling throat, and watery, itchy eyes.
Avoiding certain foods can help minimize the reaction. It should also be noted that OAS is usually related to fresh or raw fruits and vegetables. Cooked or processed foods don’t tend to cause the same reactivity. Avoiding certain foods, especially during the height of the pollen season, depends on the plant allergy. Grass pollens tend to have cross-reactivity with oranges, tomatoes, melons and figs. Ragweed allergy can have cross-reactivity with bananas, cantaloupe, cucumber, zucchini, artichoke and Echinacea and chamomile tea. Apples, cherries, strawberries, and almonds are also commonly associated with OAS.
Foods that trigger OAS are generally, an obvious source of allergy aggravation. IgG-mediated food sensitivities and increased histamine intake and increased circulating histamine are other common, but less known causes of worsening allergy symptoms. For the remainder of this article I will stick to IgG-mediated allergies.
What is IgG? IgG is one of 5 immunoglobulins (antibodies). The classes of immunoglobulins are: IgE, IgG, IgA, IgM and IgD. An immunoglobulin is a complex protein made by immune cells (lymphocytes) to destroy or neutralize a foreign protein. Each class of immunoglobulins serves a different function and is either a primary or secondary defender. Antibodies are vital to health, however, when the formation is inappropriate or excessive it can lead to illness.
When we think of allergies, especially seasonal allergies we are usually thinking of watery, itchy eyes, hay fever, hives, runny nose and even anaphylaxis. These symptoms are mediated by IgE and are an immediate response, meaning a reaction such as histamine release, occurs on contact with the antigen. Testing for IgE related allergies is usually done via skin prick test by an allergist.
Let’s get back to IgG and how it can influence seasonal allergies. IgG is the most abundant antibody and is found in blood, the intestines and lymph. It is also the only antibody to cross the placenta. IgG reactions have a slower onset, thus can be more difficult to identify. Symptoms related to IgG can include: IBS, anxiety and panic attacks, asthma, headaches and chronic fatigue.
One role of IgG is to increase mast cell degranulation, releasing histamine. IgE mediated reactions also cause mast cell degranulation and release of histamine. As exposure to IgG sensitive antigens continues or increases, the level of circulating histamine will increase. If you find your seasonal allergies are getting worse over the years, it may be that you have an undiagnosed IgG sensitivity causing your histamine levels to go up so your seasonal reactions will be greater.
It takes a minimum of 3 weeks to reduce the antigen load, thus reduce the corresponding reaction. If you start eliminating your IgG sensitivities at the least three weeks, but ideally 3 months, prior to the height of your seasonal allergies, then there is a good chance you will experience a reduction in allergy symptoms.
Couple the food avoidance strategy with some anti-inflammatory, immune modulating, nutritional supplements and you should have a winning combination in the battle against allergy symptoms.
At Vitalia Health Care we have IgG blood tests that will test 96 or 184 antigens. It takes up to two weeks to get the test results, so if you are interested in this course of action to improve your allergy symptoms, then book your appointment soon as allergy season is around the corner.