Solving the Mystery of Mild Allergy Symptoms After Eating Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
As a dietitian, I firmly believe that eating fruits and vegetables is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health and reduce your risk of disease. Even those of us who enjoy eating fruits and vegetables can always eat a wider variety, more often.
But do you ever find yourself avoiding certain varieties of produce, be it melon, banana, avocado, apples or celery? Have you ever experienced an itchy mouth or throat after consuming certain fresh fruits or vegetables and wondered why? I have personally experienced these types of reactions since childhood, but only in the past several years of practicing dietetics did I discover the reason.
If you notice mild reactions from some fresh produce items, you may have oral allergy syndrome (OAS), also known as pollen-food syndrome. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology explains OAS as being â€ścaused by cross-reacting allergens found in both pollen and raw fruits, vegetables or some tree nuts.â€ť If you are a seasonal allergy sufferer, you may be having a cross-reaction with certain foods, stemming from your pollen sensitivity. But if youâ€™re like most OAS sufferers, only certain foods will elicit this reaction, making the situation even more confusing.
This can be explained by studying the different groupings of foods that tend to be higher in certain types of pollen. If you are most allergic to birch pollen, for example, you are likely to have problems eating fresh apples, carrots and kiwi. For grass pollen, you may be unable to tolerate fresh peaches or tomato. You may have noticed that your trigger foods tend to gravitate toward one of the following three groups:
- Birch pollen: apple, almond, carrot, celery, cherry, hazelnut, kiwi, peach, pear, plum
- Grass pollen: celery, melons, oranges, peaches, tomato
- Ragweed pollen: banana, cucumber, melons, sunflower seeds, zucchini
Food allergies may be affected by many factors. Because pollen proteins are broken down by heat, you may be able to eat cooked forms of these foods, or even canned or dried versions since they are exposed to heat during processing. Though OAS rarely progresses beyond local symptoms in the mouth, tongue and throat, these reactions may be severe in a small number of individuals. If you think you may be suffering from OAS, make an appointment to speak with an allergist to help narrow down your individual sensitivities and conduct food challenges as needed. Once you have identified your triggers, make an appointment with a registered dietitian to further clarify your individual needs and help you plan healthy meals that still include fresh fruits and vegetables.