Foods To Avoid If You Have a Birch Pollen Allergy

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Last Updated on May 22, 2023

During the spring, birch tree pollen begins to spread throughout the world’s northern hemisphere. This pollen is one of the causes of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis or hay fever. Many people don’t know that you can mitigate your seasonal allergies if you know which birch pollen allergy foods to avoid.

birch pollen allergy foods to avoid

Birch Pollen Allergy Foods

Did you know if you are allergic to birch pollen that there are certain foods you may need to avoid? Yep, it’s true!

Unsuspecting foods like almonds, avocados, carrots, strawberries, and even wheat might trigger an immune response from people who experience allergies from birch trees. There are many more too!

There are also ragweed allergy foods to avoid and oak tree allergy foods.

But before we move on to which birch allergy foods to avoid, let’s take a closer look at what a birch pollen allergy is.

What is a Birch Tree Pollen Allergy?

A birch tree pollen allergy is a seasonal allergy that occurs during the time of the year when the birch trees release pollen. This is during the months of January through April.

About Birch Trees

The birch tree is a deciduous tree or shrub that belongs to the Betulacaea family. The plants live about a hundred years or more and are used for timber or ornamental trees and shrubs.

There are over forty different types of species belonging to the Betulacaea family. Birch trees are found in the cooler regions of the northern hemisphere and have smooth bark. The tree’s bark may be multi-colored or white, and the leaves are bright green and either egg-shaped or triangular.

The tree produces both a drooping male catkins flower and a female catkin that grows in a cone-like cluster. The male catkins produce the pollen that causes the birch allergy.

The wind then distributes the birch pollen from the male catkins to the female catkins. Since the amount of daylight affects to the production of pollen, bright sunny days will have a much higher pollen count than cloudy days.

birch trees

Why Birch Trees Trigger Allergies

One of the birch tree pollen proteins produced by the male catkins flower is often called the bet v (1). It triggers an allergic response in some people, about 8-16% of the general population. The beg v (1) protein is very similar to a protein found in human lungs called lipocalin 2.

Both proteins have molecular pockets to bind iron to themselves. If the proteins don’t bind iron, the person will develop birch pollen allergies or hay fever.

You can often mitigate the common symptoms of allergic rhinitis by staying indoors on days when the pollen count is high. Use a HEPA filter or air purifier to remove pollen allergens from the air.

If you must head outside to work or enjoy outdoor activities, shower and change your clothing immediately when you return indoors. This will reduce your exposure to birch pollen allergens and help prevent adverse reactions.

What Time of Year is Birch Pollen Highest?

Birch trees produce their pollen in the spring between January and April. The pollen appears as a fine yellow powder even though each individual pollen grain is too small to be seen with the naked eye.

The birch tree produces more pollen on sunny days than on cloudy days, so be cautious when heading outside on a beautiful spring day as the pollen count may be high.

The male catkin begins to grow during the summer months but doesn’t produce pollen until it’s mature. At this time, it will appear to be a yellow-green.

The amount of pollen produced by each tree varies dramatically from year to year by up to 400 percent. And each birch tree can produce as many as five million pollen grains. The wind then blows the pollen and distributes it around the area, where it fertilizes the female catkins hanging in their cone-like clusters.

The male catkin turns brown and falls off the tree once it has finished releasing pollen.

There are a few ways to avoid birch tree pollen and pollen-food allergy syndrome during the spring until the male catkin stops releasing pollen.

1.) The first is to remain indoors on sunny days when you know that the pollen count is high.

2.) A second way to avoid birch tree pollen is to shower and change your clothing when you enter your house after spending time outdoors to avoid spreading pollen all through your house.

3.) Also, don’t dry your laundry outside, as the wind will blow pollen onto your clothing.

male and female catkins

Can Birch Trees Trigger Food Allergies?

If you notice some throat itching or other allergic symptoms after eating certain foods, you might have a birch pollen allergy.

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The cause is that certain foods have similar proteins to the specific pollen produced by birch trees. The immune system can’t tell the difference between the proteins, so you may end up with symptoms of a food allergy which is often referred to as pollen-food allergy syndrome.

Or in other words, when your pollen allergies cause oral allergies. The good news is that the food allergies usually clear up when the pollen season is over.

Foods That Cause A Pollen Allergy Response

Some common foods that may cause adverse reactions are fresh fruits like apples, cherries, kiwis, and peaches. You may develop an itchy mouth or other oral symptoms.

Tree nuts like almonds or hazelnuts can also cause the pollen-food syndrome. Be careful; the tree nuts may cause a serious allergic reaction like anaphylactic shock.

Unlike an actual food allergy, you can sometimes avoid the pollen food syndrome by cooking raw fruits before you eat them. Heat damages or destroys the proteins causing the allergy. This means that you may be able to enjoy a bowl of applesauce even though you can’t eat a fresh apple.

Interestingly, pollen food syndrome doesn’t occur in young children. Instead, it happens in older children, teens, and adults who have developed hay fever even if they’ve been eating these foods for years without any adverse reactions.

A child usually doesn’t develop hay fever until they’re over three and have developed an allergic reaction to the pollen proteins.

What are typical birch tree pollen allergy symptoms?

During the spring allergy season, pollen allergens will cause a lot of people to suffer from hay fever symptoms like sneezing, runny noses, or red or watery eyes. In addition, you may find that you have a headache, are tired, and suffer from red skin.

Also, since the food proteins are similar to the types of pollen proteins found in birch pollen, you may also experience pollen food allergy syndrome. The pollen food allergy syndrome is usually confined to one area of the body that came into contact with the food, unlike a true food allergy where the adverse reaction is spread throughout the body.

This means that specific foods will cause allergic reactions ranging from mild allergy symptoms to severe reactions. Among the most common foods that cause cross allergy symptoms are raw apples, avocados, and hazelnuts.

Some fruits, nuts and vegetables could cause allergy symptoms in people with birch pollen allergy:

  • abdominal pain
  • congestion
  • coughing
  • diarrhea
  • gastrointestinal symptoms
  • itchy eyes and nose
  • nausea
  • reddend skin
  • roof of mouth itching
  • runny nose
  • scratchy throat
  • sneezing
  • symptoms similar pollen exposure
  • vomiting
  • watery eyes

birch pollen allergy

Birch Pollen Allergy Foods to Avoid

There are certain foods that have a cross-reactive relationship with birch pollen. Some of these foods may cause reactions in people who suffer from birch allergies.

If you experience symptoms similar to hay fever after eating foods on this list, it’s probably best to avoid them.

You may have only mild symptoms after eating the foods, but you might also discover that you suffer from severe symptoms because of the food allergens in the trigger foods. The best way to avoid all allergy symptoms is to avoid the triggers.

The birch pollen allergy foods you will need to avoid include tree nuts like almonds and hazelnuts. You will also need to avoid fresh vegetables like carrots, celery, and parsnips. Some fresh fruits on the list include apricots, peaches, and plums.

You will also want to make sure that you thoroughly rinse all fruits and vegetables you bring into the house under running water. Birch pollen floats in the air and contaminates other types of fruits and vegetables.

Rinsing the food will ensure you aren’t accidentally exposing yourself to the pollen.

Even if you plan on peeling the fresh fruit or raw vegetables before you eat them, you will still need to rinse the produce first. Sometimes the pollen will fall onto the flesh of the produce you plan on eating while you’re peeling, causing contamination.

To be sure you’re safe, carefully clean the produce before peeling it.

What foods cross react with birch?

This is an exhaustive list of the high-risk foods that cross-react with birch. Remember that these specific foods have similar protein to the birch pollen protein. Your immune system will overreact to the foods on this list and cause an allergic response. The response may be an itchy mouth, or you may experience more severe allergic reactions.

If you drink plant based milk, you’ll want to avoid the ones that are made with a food on the list below, such as almond milk, hazelnut milk, peanut milk, or soy milk.

  • almonds
  • aniseed
  • apples
  • apricots
  • avocados (including avocado oil)
  • buckwheat
  • caraway
  • carrots
  • celery
  • cherries
  • chicory
  • coriander
  • dill
  • fennel
  • fig
  • green peppers
  • hazelnuts
  • kiwi
  • lentils
  • nectarine
  • parsley
  • parsnips
  • peaches
  • peanuts
  • pears
  • plums
  • prunes
  • soybeans
  • strawberry
  • tomatoes (especially raw)
  • wheat

Final Summary

Birch trees are deciduous trees common in the cooler areas of the northern hemisphere with multi-colored or white bark. The birch trees produce pollen in the spring, starting in January and ending in April. The wind distributes the yellow pollen.

During this time, people may suffer from allergic rhinitis as a result and have allergic symptoms that vary from itchy eyes, sneezing, and a runny nose. They may even suffer from something known as oral allergy syndrome.

Oral allergy syndrome is caused by specific foods with a protein very similar to the protein in birch pollen. The most common symptom is an itchy mouth. You may even have swelling of the lips. But in rare cases, children or adults may suffer from serious reactions that cause swelling of the throat or anaphylactic shock if they eat the trigger foods.

If you have a birch pollen allergy, your immune system is triggered by the proteins and causes an oral reaction. The best way to prevent yourself from suffering from pollen food allergy syndrome is to know the list of birch pollen allergy foods to avoid.

This will help you avoid the high-risk foods that may cause pollen food allergy syndrome, such as strawberries, tomatoes, pears, carrots, and even parsnips.

Foods to Avoid With Other Allergies

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