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Archives ~ May 2012 Entries

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Seasonal Allergies and Oral Allergy Syndrome

Judi Epstein MSN ARNP // Seasonal Allergies, Food Allergies


Springtime in the Northwest… We live in an amazing bioregion, the sun is shining on most days, the birds are singing, the pollinators are doing their job and there is an explosion of plant life!

However, springtime is also a time when environmental allergies return, with nasal congestion, sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes, headache, flu-like symptoms and fatigue.

If this describes your springtime experience, you may be suffering from Oral Allergy Syndrome, also known as OAS. This is a type of food allergy classified by a cluster of allergic reactions in response to eating certain foods that can typically develop in folks with environmental (inhalant) allergies.

OAS is a common food-related allergy that occurs due to cross-reactivity between certain foods and tree and weed pollens. Common reactions are an itching or burning sensation of the mouth, lips, tongue, ear canals and throat. In some cases there is a swelling of the lips and tongue and tightness in the throat. Occasionally, there can be an occurrence of wheezing, difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis. Other reactions can also be triggered in the skin (rash or hives), the eyes (watering and discharge), the nose (congestion, sneezing and runny nose). Trigger foods can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms if the allergen is not destroyed by stomach acids, and a histamine release can cause nausea, severe indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea and cramping.

OAS is an IgE-mediated immune response, where the body’s immune system produces antibodies against certain pollens that cross-react with foods with structurally similar proteins. OAS sufferers are often reacting to more than just pollens. The reactions are often instigated by pesticides or other contaminants.

Generally, symptoms occur within a few minutes of eating a trigger food, although delayed reactions can also occur as well. OAS can occur at any time of the year but symptoms are most prevalent during times of high pollen.

An elimination diet, followed by a food challenge, along with an accurate history, can usually provide the information needed to avoid trigger foods. There are also food immunology tests that can be administered as an adjunct for diagnosis.

Here is a list of possible food-pollen cross contamination:

·         Alder pollen: almonds, apples, strawberry, rasberry, celery, cherries, hazelnuts, peaches, pears, parsley.

·         Birch Pollen: almonds, apples, peaches, pears, plums, prunes, strawberries, avocado, bananas, carrots, celery, coriander, fennel, potatoes, soy, wheat, peppers, fig, kiwi.

·         Ragweed: cucumber, zucchini, artichoke, dandelion, banana, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, sunflower seeds/oil, green pepper, hibiscus, chamomile.

Other reactions to food can be caused by gluten intolerance, celiac, other food intolerances, and “leaky gut.” These individuals are unable to metabolize naturally occurring substances (ie. proteins) and will exhibit symptoms of OAS as well as other systemic symptoms.

I am happy to work with you to determine the root cause of your seasonal allergies and create an individualized treatment plan.

Judi Epstein, MSN, ARNP has been in practice for nearly 20 years. She practices Holistic and Functional Medicine at Sky Valley Healing Arts in Snohomish Washington. Please visit Judi’s website at or

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