Cross Reactivity – Change Your Diet in Pollen Season?

Most of the allergy-related articles you read in the spring time cover avoiding your exposure to those pesky pollens.I have written several posts myself about what to do to minimize your exposure and reduce your allergic reactions if you have seasonal allergy.

Once thing that hasn’t been mentioned is the phenomenon of cross reactivity or oral allergy syndrome.

This occurs when a person has been sensitized to proteins found in certain tree pollens that are very similar in structure those found in foods.

For example, the birch tree (a big pollen producer and the enemy of many a hay fever sufferer) produces a pollen called Bet v1 that is similar to plants in the apple, plum, and parsley family. Because the chemical structure of the protein in the pollen is so close to the structure found in the food, your body gets confused and thinks that juicy apple is a nose full of birch pollen.  For the botanically challenged, that means apples, pears, plums and prunes, peaches, apricots, cherries, almonds, carrot, celery, fennel, parsley, and parsnip may be seen by your immune system as birch trees.  The reaction is a result of cross reactivity, not a true allergic reaction to the food.

During the birch pollen season, you might want to reduce or eliminate your consumption of these in their raw state. In the case of oral allergy syndrome, you will want to eliminate them year-around.  The good news is that like all proteins, these cross reacting pan proteins can be denatured (or broke down).  Now that doesn’t mean that you can spray your food with ADMS Spray to denature the way you would with dust mite allergy.  What is does mean is that you can apply heat to break that protein down.  So, while a raw apple might cause symptoms, apple sauce, apple juice, or apple pie might not.  That is because the cooking process (whether stove top, oven or microwave) will raise the temperature of the food high enough to neutralize the pesky protein.

None of this is “new” news.  A study done back in 1998 and published in The Journal of Immunology determined that alder pollen was just as bad as birch pollen. It just doesn’t seem to get much attention, so I thought I would bring it up.

Do any of you have any problems with oral allergy syndrome or do your pollen allergies make it harder to eat certain foods?  I’d love to hear your stories and how you cope with it..

Til Next Time

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