WE are well into hayfever season now with grass and flower pollens filling the air.

Hayfever can begin at any stage of life (I had it for the first time last year when I turned 40) and equally, you can grow out of it at any stage too.

The characteristic symptoms of stuffy nose, itchy sore eyes, and scratchy throat, sneezing and wheezing are caused by immune cells being irritated by pollen and releasing masses of histamine in response.

Histamine is an important part of the immune system. It also works in the digestive tract, and as a neurotransmitter carrying vital messages in the central nervous system. We need to have a certain amount of histamine; the problems start when we produce too much and can’t process it quickly enough.

Stress interferes with histamine levels and the rate at which we can process it. As can hormonal changes: some women find histamine-related symptoms to be worse around the time of their periods, or during menopause.

Alongside hayfever, histamine is also linked with range of other symptoms including migraines, rashes, and food sensitivity reactions.

Certain foods are naturally quite high in histamine; foods which are aged, fermented, pickled, or smoked contain higher amounts. This includes wine (beer is slightly lower in histamine but does still contain some) cheese, preserved meats like salami and pepperoni; sauerkraut, kefir, tinned fish, vinegars, and pickles.

Other foods are thought to trigger histamine release. There’s an extensive list of such trigger foods (it includes bananas, avocado, and strawberries) but not everyone reacts to all of these foods and the research about their effects is mixed.

There are still plenty of foods that can be eaten when dealing with high histamine! Fresh meat and fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, pulses and most wholegrains are all suitable.

Foods naturally rich in vitamin C can help process histamine: opt for watercress, broccoli, citrus fruits, blueberries, parsley, and peppers. Other key nutrients for histamine detoxification include magnesium (found in almonds, buckwheat and dark green veggies) and vitamin B – fresh poultry, fresh fish, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts are all good sources.

If hayfever is really getting you down this summer, try swapping the high-histamine foods for these alternatives and see if it makes a difference.

Sally Duffin is a Registered Nutritionist (MBANT). Find her online at nutritioninyork.co.uk or join the Facebook group ‘Nutrition in York’.