The Northern Hemisphere is starting to enjoy the beginnings of springtime in bloom and getting ready for summer fun. An unfortunate side effect to that spring and summer bloom, however, is the reaction it causes in many who struggle with pollen allergies. Luckily, we have some tips on nutrition for allergies. You can boost your diet to support your system, and hopefully reduce your body’s reactions to allergens in the air. 

Physiology of an Allergic Reaction

Typical summer allergies to pollen or plants are considered Type I allergic reactions. Type I allergic reactions are mediated by IgE antibodies released by the immune system. IgE antibodies trigger the release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals. The biological purpose of this reaction, and inflammation in general, is to widen the blood vessels and call more immune cells to the site of infection. There, these specialized cells quickly disable, kill, and flush out invading pathogens. The system works well when the invader is in fact a pathogen, but unfortunately, some bodies recognize harmless molecules from air or food as a threat, even when they are not. This is the case with pollen. 

Because pollen is in the air, it can enter your body through your eyes, nose, and mouth. An allergic system will send histamines to the mucous membranes in your eyes, nose, and respiratory system in response. Your itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and coughing are all symptoms of your body’s inflammatory response working overtime to rid you of something that is not actually a threat to your health.

Can I Reduce the Severity of My Allergies?

Depending on the severity of your allergy, a reaction may require a trip to the hospital and medication. Seek emergency services if you have difficulty breathing or a drop in blood pressure due to an allergic reaction. On the other hand, maybe your symptoms are mild and more of a nuisance than an emergency. These are the cases where some nutritional options that may help to mediate the severity of your body’s inflammatory response to allergens.  

Vitamin C

When it comes to nutrition for allergies, vitamin C is a great start. Vitamin C has natural histamine-balancing properties. It appears to mediate histamine secretion by white blood cells and increase histamine detoxification [1]. In one particular study, two weeks of vitamin C supplementation led most subjects to fewer runny noses, less stuffiness, and less swelling [1]. Interestingly, patients with natural nasal pH’s closer to 8.0 (more alkaline/basic mucus) seemed to respond more favorably to vitamin C treatment [1]. Because vitamin C is non-toxic and has very few side effects, this is a very safe option for supporting your system against pollen allergies. 

Another study found that oxidative stress appears to play a key role in allergic reactions, and often, those with allergies also have low vitamin C levels [2]. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It also helps to support healthy inflammation without hindering the immune system from fending off true pathogens [2].

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are also on our list of good nutrition for allergies. They are known to support healthy levels of inflammation. They are found in cold water ocean fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel) or can easily be taken as a supplement.

Among the long, long list of health benefits omega-3s provide, the current scientific thought is that fish intake during pregnancy, infancy, and childhood may have some association with the risk of developing atopic allergies (asthma, hay fever, dermatitis, etc.) [3]. Another study suggests that the effect may extend to adults, as participating women who ate more fish had lower levels of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) [4]. 

A large epidemiological study in Greenland has shown an association between intake of omega-3s and healthy respiratory function [3]. There appears to be a common dysregulation of chemicals related to inflammation in people with severe respiratory challenges [3]. This data points to a possible mechanism for the benefits provided by omega-3’s activities in mediating inflammation [3].


Probiotics are certain species of microorganisms that, when residing in the human gastrointestinal tract, provide a host of benefits to the body in which they live. Benefits range from improved digestion and increased absorption of dietary nutrients, to boosting mood and the health of the immune system. As a part of their relationship to immune health, probiotics may support a healthy response to allergens by supporting healthy levels of inflammation [5-8]. 

It is worth noting that the efficacy of different probiotic species will likely change depending on the allergen. For example, there is alink between Lactobacillus acidophilus supplementation and reduced perennial allergic rhinitis caused by dust mites and birch pollen [5,6]. There is also link between Lactobacillus GG and relief for those allergic to Japanese cedar pollen, but it may be ineffective against birch pollen [7,8].

Local Honey

We would be remiss not to mention honey in our list of nutrition for allergies. It is a common topic to debate. The research is mixed on whether local honey helps you head off allergies. The thought is science-based: pollen from honeybees has been shown to inhibit IgE-mediated activation of mast cells that secrete histamines [9].

Honey may have inflammation-balancing properties [10]. Some science suggests that eating local, unpasteurized honey is somewhat akin to immuno-therapy. As in, taking an ultra-low dose of the allergen over time, allowing the body to build a tolerance for it. When it comes to research findings, however, they are somewhat contradictory.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try. Just make sure it is honey made in the area where your pollen allergy is set off. And, that it is unpasteurized and not commercially-processed honey. 

Back to Nutrition Alert