08 Dec 2021

Healthy Living: How your diet can help relieve your hayfever symptoms

With Debbie Devane

Healthy Living: How your diet can help relieve your hayfever symptoms

File photo

Are you one of the many people who dread the good weather, because when the sun comes out along comes Itchy, watery eyes, constantly sneezing, and feeling downright miserable.

If you are unfortunate to be one of the many hayfever suffers you may be surprised to know that changing your diet can have a big impact on the severity of your symptoms.

It has been shown that 1 in 5 Irish people suffer from allergic rhinitis (the medical term for the condition), an allergic reaction to pollen. Symptoms can start as early as March when the tree pollen season starts. Then there’s the grass pollen season, followed by the weed pollen season, which can go on into September or beyond.

Symptoms of hayfever can range from mild to severe with symptoms such as, itchy, red or watery eyes; runny or blocked nose; sneezing and coughing; itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears; loss of smell; earache; headache; and feeling exhausted.

You may have tried every anti-histamine available over the counter and only got a couple of hours relief or none at all, or you may be one of the lucky few who found something that works!

Have you ever looked at your diet to help relieve symptoms?

Diet can be key to help manage your symptoms and can increase the effectiveness of prescription medication. there are some foods will make the symptoms of hayfever worse, so try to cut these out or reduce them as much as you can during hayfever season.

Other foods are naturally anti-inflammatory, so you’ll want to ensure you’re getting plenty of these in your diet.

Foods containing high levels of histamine can intensify symptoms. These include chocolate tomatoes, aubergines and many fermented foods like vinegar, sauerkraut, yoghurt, miso, soy sauce and canned fish.

There are also foods that, while they are not high in histamine themselves, they can trigger your cells to release histamine. These include strawberries, pineapple, bananas, citrus fruits and egg whites.

Foods containing wheat such as, bread and pasta, cakes and pastries, can also be problematic for people with grass pollen allergies.

Dairy products like milk and cheese stimulate the body to produce more mucus, making blocked noses or ears much worse. Matured cheeses also tend to contain high levels of histamine. And of course, poor old sugar which always gets a bad rap from me anyway, causes your body to produce more histamine, which can further exacerbate your symptoms.

Foods to add in or increase when you have hayfever

Some foods are anti-histamine foods and they disrupt or block histamine receptors, helping to reduce allergy symptoms. These include foods that contain the plant chemicals quercetin and beta carotene, and those high in vitamin C (see below).

Local honey also may be helpful because, although it contains trace elements of pollen, over time it may help your body become more familiar with the pollen entering your system and reduce the inflammatory response it makes.

Quercetin containing foods

Onions, garlic, goji berries, asparagus, all berry fruits, apples, kale, peppers, plums and red grapes.

Beta carotene containing foods

Sweet potato, carrots, butternut squash, red and yellow peppers, apricots, peas, broccoli, dark leafy greens like kale, and romaine lettuce.

Vitamin C containing foods

Blackcurrants, blueberries, peppers, kale, collard leaves, broccoli, kiwis, mango, courgettes, and cauliflower.

What to drink

Drink plenty of water. Keeping well hydrated is helpful for all aspects of health. In the case of hayfever, it thins the mucous membranes and reduces that ‘blocked up’ feeling.

Green tea is packed full of antioxidants, which are helpful for the immune system generally. It has also been proven to block one of the receptors involved in immune responses.

Ginger tea has been shown to help reduce allergic reactions by lowering your body’s IgE levels (the antibody involved in the specific immune reaction associated with hayfever).

Peppermint tea is worth trying because peppermint contains menthol, a natural decongestant that may help improve sinus symptoms.

Nettle tea is known for its ability to relieve inflammation of the upper respiratory tract and ease nasal congestion, sneezing and itching. Personally, I love peppermint and nettle tea that I get from my local health shop.

An anti-inflammatory approach

Hayfever is an inflammatory condition and may be further helped by including other types of food that calm the inflammatory response. Top of the list are foods containing anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. These include all types of oily fish (like salmon, mackerel, sardines, halibut and cod) as well as flaxseed and walnuts.

Coconut oil is another anti-inflammatory oil and can be used in cooking and baking or added to smoothies.

As well as adding flavour to your food, herbs like parsley, sage, thyme, oregano and basil have anti-inflammatory properties as do many spices, including turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, fennel and nutmeg.


Some people may benefit from a particular probiotic, supplementing with Bifidobacterium longum strain BB536 during the pollen season has been shown to significantly decreased symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, nasal blockage

If you struggle to get these foods into your diet, you may benefit from a supplement protocol from a Nutritional Therapist like myself, however if you are buying supplements yourself and are on any prescription or over the counter medications for any health condition, it is important to always check with your GP or pharmacist for any contraindications.

My clinic is back open and I am taking bookings for new and existing clients, so just pop me a message if you would like to schedule an appointment. contact details below.

Debbie Devane from The Nutri Coach is a qualified Nutritional Therapist and health & lifestyle coach, Debbie runs her clinic from the Glenard Clinic in Mountmellick and also offers one to one and group online consultations. Debbie is also Nutritionist to the Offaly GAA senior footballers. For more information or to make an appointment email Debbie at

Ph: 086-1720055

Facebook: The Nutri Coach @debbiedevanethenutricoach

Instagram: the_nutricoach

For more information go to

To continue reading this article for FREE,
please kindly register and/or log in.

Registration is absolutely 100% FREE and will help us personalise your experience on our sites. You can also sign up to our carefully curated newsletter(s) to keep up to date with your latest local news!

Register / Login

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.