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Hayfever Season: Diet can help!

Hayfever symptoms are due to an inflammatory immune reaction to pollen. This involves the production and release of histamine from mast cells, which are part of your immune system. This is the same histamine that your body produces when responding to foods it is reactive to, contributing to leaky gut.

Some foods are known to have a high histamine content. If you want to keep your histamine burden lower during hayfever season, you might want to avoid higher histamine foods in your diet and replace them with lower histamine ones. 


Foods high in histamine, to avoid:


  • Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, olives

  • Smoked foods, such as ham, bacon, smoked salmon

  • Cured meats, such as salami, prosciutto, sausages

  • Aged cheeses and processed cheeses 

  • Soured milk and cream, yoghourt

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Some fresh fruits: citrus fruits, strawberries, bananas, pineapples, plums

  • Some vegetables: eggplant, avocado, tomatoes, spinach 

  • Dried fruits and nuts

  • Dried legumes

  • Coffee and tea (but not herbal teas)

  • Tuna, mackerel, anchovy, sardines, or any fish not gutted within ½ hour of being caught

  • Shellfish

  • Fermented condiments, such as soy sauce, mustard, miso, Asian cooking pastes, seaweed

  • Vinegars, pickles

  • Many food additives

  • Leftovers: they increase in histamine levels over time in the fridge, due to invisible but inevitable growth of bacteria and mold.

Foods generally low in histamine, to use liberally:


  • Most fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, with the exceptions of those listed above. And the fresher the better: if they are moldy, or even old and wrinkly, their histamine levels will be higher! 

  • Most gluten-free grains, such as quinoa, rice, buckwheat

  • Fresh salad greens

  • Fresh green herbs

  • Ginger and garlic

  • Eggs

  • Most poultry and unaged meat, if freshly cooked and not ground meat

  • Freshly caught, gutted and frozen fish

How you cook food can also make a difference to the histamine content. Frying and grilling tend to increase histamine levels, whereas boiling and steaming tend to have little effect or even decrease them.

Histamine is heat resistant so it isn’t cooked out of foods, but cooking kills the bacteria and mold that are histamine producers.

As you can see, if you are preparing yourself for hay-fever season through diet, you are looking to eat very fresh, unprocessed, completely natural food, raw or simply cooked.


People who have food sensitivities as well as pollen allergies often find they have less trouble during hay-fever season, if they are careful to avoid foods they know will trigger a reaction. This is another way of reducing their total histamine load at that time. If you suspect that you have food sensitivities but don’t know what they are, a naturopathic doctor can help you figure that out.

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