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Seasonal Pollen Allergens and Cross-Reactions with Foods


I recently had a patient consult with me for his long-term allergy symptoms of hay fever and sinusitis, along with an unresolved cough and throat clearing. His allergies had significantly affected his energy, mood, and weight due to a lack of motivation to eat well and exercise (which was an essential mental health management tool). He also mentioned that he had recently found that raw carrots, celery, and avocado caused severe tingling on the roof of his mouth. This clue helped me consider the possibility that he had birch tree allergies and potential cross-reactions to certain foods.

Birch tree pollen is a common allergen that can cause hay fever symptoms in some individuals. Additionally, some people with birch tree pollen allergies may experience cross-reactivity to certain foods, known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS) or pollen-food syndrome.

OAS occurs because certain proteins in some fruits, vegetables, and nuts are structurally similar to the proteins in birch tree pollen. When a person with birch tree pollen allergy eats these foods, their immune system can mistake the food proteins for pollen proteins, triggering an allergic reaction. It’s important to note that not everyone with birch tree pollen allergies will experience OAS, and the specific foods that cause reactions can vary from person to person.


Raw carrots, celery, and avocados are among the foods commonly associated with cross-reactions in individuals with birch tree pollen allergies. If you have a birch tree pollen allergy, you might experience mild symptoms when consuming these foods, such as itching or tingling in the mouth, lips, or throat. The symptoms are usually localized and temporary, and they typically subside after a short while without causing severe reactions.

Cooking the foods may help reduce the risk of cross-reactions in some cases, as heat can alter the proteins and make them less similar to the allergenic proteins in birch tree pollen. However, individual reactions can vary, so it’s essential to be cautious and consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns about specific food allergies or reactions.

Naturopathic suggestions for treatment may include:

  1. Allergy Testing: I recommended a skin prick allergy test, a common method used to detect allergies by introducing small amounts of allergens under the skin and observing the body’s reaction. Sure enough, he did react to Birch pollen as well as Pine pollen and dust mites.
  2. Desensitisation (Immunotherapy): Consider desensitisation or immunotherapy as a treatment option. This involves exposing the individual to small, controlled amounts of the allergen over time to help the immune system build tolerance and reduce the severity of allergic reactions. In this patient’s case, the food sensitivities stopped after about one week, but the sinusitis symptoms got a little worse initially.
  3. Herbal Remedies: To help alleviate allergy symptoms, we used herbs such as Biacal Skullcap, Albizzia, Stinging nettle, Kudzu, and Magnolia.
  4. Nutritional Support: Dietary changes are often essential when treating allergies, particularly avoiding dairy and wheat as these proteins have a strong cross-reaction effect on the immune system. Nutritional supplements to support the immune system and reduce inflammation related to allergies, such as quercetin and bromelain, were also used.
  5. Lifestyle Recommendations: Environmental and lifestyle suggestions to manage allergies, including reducing exposure to allergens such as good dust mite management and improving indoor air quality, are essential in the early stages as well while the immune system resets.
  6. Probiotics: Probiotics to promote gut health. There is evidence to suggest a connection between gut health and the immune system, particularly with the probiotic Lactobacillus Rhamnosus (LGG).

If you are interested in exploring naturopathic treatments for your allergies, seek guidance from a licensed naturopathic doctor or healthcare professional experienced in integrative medicine. They can evaluate your health condition and provide personalised recommendations that align with your medical history and individual needs.

Additionally, if you have a history of severe allergies, it’s essential to have emergency plans in place and always carry prescribed epinephrine or antihistamines, as recommended by your primary healthcare provider.

Reine DuBois  is an Integrative Naturopath and Clinical Director at The Health Lodge. As an Integrative Naturopath, Reine possesses an exceptional capacity to see and understand the intricacies of the human system. She is well-known for uncovering complex health conditions and coordinating treatments for chronic health issues. 

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