• By Deanna Segrave-Daly
  • In 2017
  • July 12, 2017

Seasonal Allergies and Nutrition

by Zachari Breeding, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND

A simple Google Search can prove just about anything. Add a little bit of media sensation, word of mouth, or common belief and you can just about make anything seem the truth. But when something comes your way that could seem believable, what do you believe?

There are a lot of articles on the internet that boast “nutrition therapy” for seasonal allergies. Can this be? As seasonal allergy sufferers know, there is little relief, even from the array of allergy and sinus medications (over the counter and prescription) on the market today. Some people even need to pair up nasal sprays with medications and still have no relief. Is it possible that eating certain foods can provide the relief you need?

Quercetin: These articles: http://healthyliving.msn.com/diseases/allergies/9-foods-that-fight-seasonal-allergies  and http://lifehacker.com/eat-an-allergy-friendly-diet-to-keep-seasonal-allergies-474885180/all claim that quercetin, a type of polyphenol ( a potentially beneficial compound found in food) known as flavonols, reduced the inflammation and production of histamines. Histamines are the major culprit in allergic reactions, so reduction of these compounds in the body is greatly beneficial. However, actual research is unclear. While quercetin is seen as a natural, harmless substance when consumed in food sources (such as tea, citrus, broccoli, and berries), absorption is low when ingested. It does have benefit when consumed in high enough quantities.

TAKE AWAY: Eat more of these foods, but take your allergy medication regardless (1, 2).

Local Honey: Those seeking a natural remedy for allergies are likely to take the word-of-mouth advice of consuming honey grown in his or her area in order to build tolerance for allergens. They think, eating honey that contains the same allergens in the air will reduce my symptoms as I get used to them. A simple Google Search will prove this wrong, as seen in this article: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Allergies/alternative-allergy-remedies-fact-fiction/story?id=18792233. In fact, it could even be likely that people who have allergies to certain flowers/plants could even be ALLERGIC to honey from those same flowers/plants. Evidence shows that the particles bees carry for honey are larger than the ones flying around causing allergies, so the thought that honey could provide benefit is ill-informed.

TAKE AWAY: Enjoy honey in moderation, as long as you don’t get an allergic reaction from it.

Of course, your best bet for relieving your allergies is by going to a specialist, getting allergen testing, and taking recommended medications. As nice as taking natural remedies sound, there is simply limited evidence to suggest anything works beyond medications. In most cases, there is a research-based nutrition therapy recommendation to coincide with a medical condition. Allergies, however, are just not one of them. So grab your tissues this spring, take your meds, and enjoy your foods (even if they don’t change your allergy symptoms.)

Happy Eating!

(2) Rogerio, A P, et al. Anti-inflammatory effect of quercetin-loaded microemulsion in the airways allergic inflammatory model in mice. Pharmacological Research. 2010:61;288-297.

Zach Breeding, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, is a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian nutritionist, professional chef and clinical dietitian at Drexel Medicine. He is the author of The Slice Plan: An Integrative Approach to a Healthy Lifestyle and a Better You. Connect with Zach on his website, The-Sage: Nutritious Solutions, and on Facebook and Twitter.


(1) Shaik, YB, et al. Role of quercetin (a natural herbal compound) in allergy and inflammation. Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents. 2006:20;47-52.
(2) Rogerio, A P, et al. Anti-inflammatory effect of quercetin-loaded microemulsion in the airways allergic inflammatory model in mice. Pharmacological Research. 2010:61;288-297.