It’s that most wonderful time of the year….if you’re a bee! It’s allergy season, and with the melting snow and warming sun comes the mixed blessing of “everything is now blooming”. If you’re not a pollinator, then all of this stuff flying through the air isn’t “good news” to you if your immune system is getting triggered.
The symptoms of seasonal allergies that we experience, sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, etc., are the result of our immune system releasing high amounts of histamine. Even though this is a normal process for the immune system, too much of a good thing is, well, you know…! Dietary choices can help reduce symptoms by lowering the amount of histamine in your body – by ingesting less of it, by helping us to produce less of it, and helping to neutralize what we do make.
Foods highest in Histamine (Avoid or minimize):
Fermented Foods: alcohol, yogurt, kombucha, kefir, aged cheese (“Fresh” cheeses such as mozzarella and ricotta are low histamine containing dairy), “krauts”, soy sauce.
Aged foods: Aged or smoked meats and fish, aged cheese, leftovers in the fridge,
Yeast products: Alcohol, bread, vinegar (and vinegar-containing condiments), nutritional yeast.
A word about Dairy: While not all bodies have immune issues with dairy, it can increase mucous production which can make allergy symptoms worse. If you’ve wondered what more you can do to reduce post-nasal drip, for example, consider a trial without dairy.
Foods that cause more Histamine production (Minimize):
Nuts (especially walnuts, almonds and pecans)
Black, Green teas
Foods that help neutralize histamine (Enjoy Abundantly!)
The nutrients on this list are known to act as antioxidants specifically for histamine. These nutrients can help reduce symptoms that occur when we have too much histamine production.
Quercetin: Nettles (including nettle tea), onions, apples, all berries (but most especially blueberries), grapes, dark cherries, asparagus, fresh parsley, fresh sage. **We also have a great supplement, Quercetin & Nettles, in the clinic.**
Vitamin C: All berries (except strawberries) apples, melons, fresh, uncooked greens.
Cysteine: Cruciferous vegetables (the stand-outs are arugula, Bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watercress), allium vegetables (onions, garlic, scallions), oats, wheat germ (if tolerated).
Glutamic Acid helps reduce inflammation in the gut, where many histamines can be released:
Animal protein, Collagen peptides, broccoli, parsley, whole grains.
Strategies for Taking Action:
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of these dietary changes here are some ways you can break it down and take action!
1. Identify the Biggest Hitters in your diet and remove or minimize these first:
If the idea of trying to eliminate everything on these lists feels paralyzing then don’t try! Taking “some” action is better than taking “zero” action. Pick out the one or two of the foods you most commonly consume that are high histamine foods and seek a tasty alternative.
2. Shift your mindset to focus what you can add to the plate. Rather than focusing on what you are taking off your plate, think about what you get to add more of on your plate. What have you missed all winter? Both you and your diet have been cooped up these past few months, what would get your digestive juices flowing right now? We are creatures of comfort and habit, so busting out of the routine of the routine can feel like a chore. That is until you realize all of the new wonderful adventures-in-flavor that await!
3. Think fresh, Fresh, FRESH! Let this season inspire your plate and seek out something new that maybe you haven’t tried before – how about some pea sprouts in your stir fry, or jicama for a fiber-rich snack (or shredded into a salad)? Arugula and watercress are wonderful raw or lightly cooked (use in place of baby spinach). Baby Bok choy, onions, and sugar snap peas lightly cooked with some freshly grilled salmon? Yes, please!
4. Supplements like Quercetin & Nettles are great for added support during allergy season.