Good To Nose Baraka Blog

Food and Sinus Congestion

Written By: Sue
October 27, 2015

Hearted EggplantFood Allergies and Food Sensitivities. What’s the difference?

Over the years, I’ve spoken with hundreds of people who have chronic sinus problems. While most of them have an idea of what causes their problems, few of those ideas include the gut. After all your stomach and intestines are halfway down your body so how can that relate to your nose?* Believe it or not, a lot! While we could talk about many aspects of the gut in relation to the nose, I want to focus on food -specifically food allergies and food sensitivities/intolerance. They are not the same and are often used interchangeably.

Food allergies always involve the immune system- which reacts to the presence of a particular food by releasing histamine into the body. The histamine triggers such symptoms as runny/stuffy nose, sneezing, asthma, swelling, itching, hives even anaphylaxis. Stomach aches, nausea and headaches can also occur. You’ll know it’s an allergy because you get the same physical reaction every time no matter how that food is prepared. For example, if you are allergic to dairy you will respond the same way whether you eat ice cream or cheese.

The most common food allergies are:

Milk (mainly in children)



Tree nuts like walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pecans


Wheat and other grains with gluten

Fish and shellfish (mainly in adults)

Food Sensitivities/Intolerance, on the other hand, do not involve the immune system and can happen for a number of reasons.

  1. The inability to breakdown particular foods -maybe that person is lacking an enzyme
  2. Certain foods irritate the digestive system
  3. Foods that cause the body to release histamine when they are ingested or foods high in histamine
  4. Some individuals become symptomatic without any known medical reason

Symptoms for food sensitivities include poor concentration, hyperactivity, unexplained tiredness, bloating, stomach pain, runny/stuffy nose, itching, or swelling. Quantity plays a part in food sensitivities more than it does food allergies. The larger the quantity that someone eats, the more severe the symptoms.

Foods High In Histamine

Alcoholic beverages, especially beer, cider and wine

Cheeses, especially aged or fermented ones

Dried Fruits

Fermented foods such as sauerkraut


Processed meats such as sausage, hot dogs

Sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, yogurt

Smoked fish

Soured breads

Nightshades such as tomatoes or eggplant

Vinegar or vinegar containing foods


Foods That Cause The Body To Release Histamine







Papayas, pineapples, strawberries



With this in mind, you can now imagine how foods can create a physical response that causes your nose to get irritated. What I often suggest to folks with chronic sinus problems is that they pay close attention to their nose after they eat a meal or a snack or even after they’ve met their buddies for happy hour. Tracking yourself after you eat doesn’t have to be complicated. Just make a mental note of the food and then what’s happening to your nose. I think it will become clear in a short period of time which food is irritating you.

*Western medicine has done a good job of convincing us that our body parts are separate. For example, ENTs don’t often work with GEs. Traditional medicine like Chinese or Ayurvedic don’t divide us into parts but think of the body as a whole.

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