Hay fever and diet – avoid discomfort by knowing what you eat

Jane Collins examines the link between hay fever and diet while offering advice on foods with high and low histamine concentration.

pollen hayfever and diet

There is most definitely a correlation between hay fever and diet. What you eat has a knock on effect to the severity of your hay fever symptoms.  For example, if you are eating food products that contain high levels of histamine, then the chances are that this additional chemical influx will be intensifying your symptoms, making them more prominent and painful than ever before.

Histamine sensitivity is common, but a poorly recognised adverse reaction that can occur as a result of eating certain foods. It is caused by the presence of histamine and is classed as pharmacological food intolerance.

Anti-histamine foods are food products that contain anti-histamine chemicals capable of disrupting or blocking the histamine receptors in the immune system. If these receptors are blocked, it can help to reduce allergy symptoms such as blocked nose, eye irritations, sore throats, and congestion. Foods that are rich in flavonoids such as quercetin, vitamin C,  beta-carotene, can help to block histamine and reduce inflammation.

Symptoms of histamine intolerance can be very similar to hay fever with congestion, watering eyes, sneezing, fatigue, headaches, itchy skin and digestive problems.

Eating foods with a high histamine content can make concomitant allergies worse if you have a histamine intolerance. You may want to experiment with avoiding them (ie histamine elimination diet) to see if this helps.

pickled vegetables - Hay fever and diet

At a glance: high histamine foods

  • alcohol like wine and beer
  • fermented foods like sauerkraut
  • yeast extract or Marmite
  • dairy products such as yoghurt
  • foods that contain vinegar-like pickled vegetables
  • cured meats like bacon and salami
  • shellfish sourced  foods such as sourdough bread soured cream or buttermilk
  • aged food including cheeses like Blue, Roquefort and Parmesan
  • nuts and dried fruit (these may contain mould)
  • tomatoes, avocadoes, spinach and aubergines.
low histamine foods - Hay fever and diet

At a glance: low histamine foods

  • Most fresh fruit (except citrus ones) and vegetables (except the ones mentioned above)
  • fresh meat, poultry and fish (except shellfish)
  • most fresh herbs and spices
  • dairy milk (assuming you have no intolerance to dairy)
  • gluten-free oats
  • eggs
  • dairy substitutes like coconut milk and almond milk
  • gluten-free grains like quinoa and rice
  • olive oil

A day in the life of a typical low histamine diet:

Alison Cullen, Nutritional Therapist for A.Vogel suggests:

Breakfast – fresh fruit except for bananas and strawberries OR eggs on gluten-free bread (gluten-free in case of intolerance which can exacerbate symptoms)

Lunch: Fresh fish, meat or poultry (plainly cooked) with asparagus OR an onion and garlic omelette OR sweet potato pancakes OR beetroot soup

Dinner: Rice or quinoa or millet with fresh vegetables OR a vegetable stew incorporating broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and butternut squash

Who can benefit from a low histamine diet? 

Anyone who is sensitive to histamine-containing foods can benefit from a low histamine diet but other factors that can make you more susceptible to histamine intolerance include certain nutritional deficiencies (e.g. vitamin B6 or zinc).  Vitamin C has natural antihistamine properties, so ensure that you keep up your fruit and veg intake (just avoid the fermented forms!), and maybe add a regular low-dose supplement. 

Some hay fever and allergy sufferers who have reduced high histamine foods and drinks from their diet say it has helped to reduce their symptoms. You will still need to use your usual hay fever medication – an anti-histamine like Cetirizine, or non-drowsy herbal medications such A.Vogel Pollinsoan Tablets (£6.95 (80 tablets), £9.75 (120 tablets)   and Luffa Nasal Spray  (£7.99  (20ml) which can be used together to treat hay fever as well as other allergies.

For itchy irritated eyes try the new Pollinosan Hay fever Eye Drops, £12.99 (10ml drops) from www.avogel.co.uk and independent health stores and pharmacies. Combining hay fever medication and choosing lower histamine foods in conjunction may help manage symptoms. Plus, it’s worth checking the pollen count before you go anywhere with the A.Vogel Pollen forecaster.

If you found Hay fever and diet – avoid discomfort by knowing what you eat helpful, you’ll find more advice for dealing with allergies on our Health channel.

Last modified: April 7, 2022

Written by 4:38 pm Health, Nutrition

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