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Are you allergic to grass pollen? It may be genetic.

Summer has arrived in full force! It’s time to clean up the lawnmower. Many people experience watery eyes, runny noses, and itching as the smell of freshly cut grass fills the air.

Speaking of smelling the grass… Did you know that some people can’t smell the odor of freshly-cut grass? A genetic variant (not covered by 23andMe data) prevents some people from experiencing that wonderful summertime smell.

Grass Allergies and Genetics:

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Allergies are often due to a mix of genetic susceptibility and exposure to certain triggering molecules. Several different gene variants have ties to an increased risk of grass pollen allergies.

Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to an allergen, such as seasonal pollen. This hypersensitive immune reaction causes the release of proinflammatory cytokines. T cells are activated, producing IgE, which activates mast cells. Mast cells then degranulate, releasing histamine and other inflammatory molecules. Histamine causes a runny nose, watery eyes, and itchiness associated with allergies.[ref]

A study found an upregulation of MC1R in the noses of people with grass pollen allergies.[ref] If that gene sounds familiar, it is the same gene that codes for the melanin receptor, in which variants cause red hair.

Grass Allergy Genotype Report

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Vitamin D:
A study on children with seasonal pollen allergies compared the effects of 1,000 IU of Vitamin D daily vs. placebo.[ref] The study found that the vitamin D group had reduced allergy symptoms compared to the placebo group. Another study looked at vitamin D combined with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (probiotic) on children’s allergies and found the combo effective.[ref]

Neti Pot:
Nasal rinsing is effective for grass pollen allergies.[ref] The easiest way to nasal rinse is by using a sinus rinse kit or a neti pot.

Preemptive measures:

If you normally take antihistamines for pollen allergies, this study suggests that taking the antihistamines for three days before the exposure prevented the histamine 1 (H1) receptors from increasing expression in the nose. In an allergic response, your body releases histamine as a signaling molecule, and then the receptors for histamine cause the reaction to occur. H1 receptors are involved in your typical seasonal allergy reaction with a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. So the study showed that without the increase in histamine receptors, there were few allergy-type symptoms. The antihistamine prevented the body from upregulating the H1 receptors.[ref]

Low Histamine Diet: Reducing the amount of high histamine foods you consume during allergy season may help with decreasing your allergy symptoms. (More on this in the member’s section below)

Related article: Histamine Intolerance genes

Supplements for Hay Fever:

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Related Articles and Topics:

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About the Author:
Debbie Moon is the founder of Genetic Lifehacks. Fascinated by the connections between genes, diet, and health, her goal is to help you understand how to apply genetics to your diet and lifestyle decisions. Debbie has a BS in engineering from Colorado School of Mines and an MSc in biological sciences from Clemson University. Debbie combines an engineering mindset with a biological systems approach to help you understand how genetic differences impact your optimal health.