7 Foods That Can Make Your Allergies Worse
Wine, spicy wings, and other surprising things that you may want to cut back on during allergy season
Can your diet amp up your allergies?
It’s already a pollen storm out there, and the last thing you want to do is make your allergies worse. But if you eat or drink the wrong things, you can inadvertently add to your misery, says Tania Elliott, MD, a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. These are some common offenders you may want to take off your plate when your seasonal allergies are in full-swing.
Wine is high in histamines, one of the chemicals the body pumps out when you have allergies. “During allergy season, your body produces chemicals that trigger an allergic response, the most predominant one being histamine, and it’s largely responsible for itching, redness, swelling, and congestion,” explains Dr. Elliott. “Eating histamine-containing foods in high quantities can increase the levels of histamine circulating in your body, and contribute to a symptom flare.” Wine also packs other substances that can make you stuffed up and miserable. LTP, a protein in the skin of grapes, can trigger congestion, notes Dr. Elliott, as can byproducts of bacteria, yeast, and sulfites in some wines. Take it slow with the pinot, and avoid the 30 worst tips allergy doctors have ever heard.
If you’ve ever felt stuffed up or had a runny nose after eating aged cheeses like parmesan, gouda, and manchego, it’s not your imagination. Blame histamines in the cheese, not dairy, says Dr. Elliott: “There is no evidence to suggest that dairy makes your phlegm or mucous thicker.”
You take a bite out of a fresh peach, an apple, or a handful of cherries, and suddenly your mouth is itchy. What gives? Is it a food allergy? Chances are you have oral allergy syndrome. It’s a reaction to a protein, generally on the skin of the fruit, that resembles pollen. “Imagine chewing on the leaf of a tree you are allergic to—you’d get localized allergy symptoms of itchy mouth,” says Dr. Elliott. That’s what happens from fruit when you have OAS.
Luckily, cooking the food breaks down the protein, allowing you to eat it without a reaction. “That’s how you can distinguish oral allergy syndrome from a true food allergy,” Dr. Elliott adds. “Many people say, ‘I get an itchy mouth from eating peaches, but canned peaches or peach pie is just fine.’” If that’s the case, you don’t have a true food allergy—and you don’t have to worry about a severe, anaphylactic reaction. However, Dr. Elliott recommends seeing an allergist for confirmation. Make sure you know these 13 dangerous food allergy myths you shouldn’t believe.
Cocktails of any kind
Drinking any alcohol can cause stuffiness, though this isn’t an allergy. “Alcohol causes dilation of the blood vessels, which can contribute to flushed skin and congestion,” Dr. Elliott says. When you’re having an allergy flare up, however, the last thing you need is something that adds to that itchy-stuffy feeling. Incidentally, drinking booze can also make an allergic reaction to food more severe—just reason #879 to drink in moderation.
Ever noticed that your nose gets runny after you get the four-alarm chili? “Spicy foods can help clear out the sinuses and the nasal passages and thin out mucus, which is a good thing,” says Dr. Elliott. But if your symptoms are dramatic and annoying, there may be another issue: “There is a syndrome called gustatory rhinitis, in which people actually develop allergic irritation from spicy foods and end up with sneezing or a runny nose when exposed to spicy foods,” Dr. Elliott explains. Your best bet is swearing off the hot stuff. Check out these 20 other bizarre things you probably didn’t realize you could be allergic to.
You know what’s in that fragrant blend? Plants and flowers that can make you sneeze. “Many people confuse the terms ‘all natural’ and ‘allergy-free,’” points out Dr. Elliott. “Herbal teas are made from plants. Trees and grasses (that cause hay fever) are plants too. So, if you are having an herbal tea, it is possible that the tea leaves can cross-react with plant pollen.” Chamomile and thyme, for example, cross-react with mugwort pollen, which is the prominent weed pollen produced in the summertime. Echinacea can also trigger a reaction. If your cup of tea brings on symptoms, switch to a different variety.
Alpha-gal allergy is a severe, sudden allergy to red meat that is believed to be transmitted by ticks and other insects. Experts believe that ticks can pick up a sugar molecule called alpha-gal from its prey, and then transfer it to its next victim. If that’s you, your body can react to alpha-gal and you end up with an allergy to red meat. While the typical food allergy reaction happens within minutes to a few hours, alpha-gal reactions occur several hours or even half a day later, says Dr. Elliott. This allergy is on the rise. It’s been reported not only in the United States but in Europe and Australia. One study by researchers at the University of Tennesee Health College of Medicine found that alpha-gal may be to blame for a large percentage of previously unexplained anaphylactic reactions. If you notice any symptoms like hives, nausea, or difficulty breathing after eating meat (beef, pork, lamb), make sure to see an allergist and carry an epinephrine device. Don’t miss these 11 other things that can make your allergies worse.