Gluten, soy, and dairy aren’t the only allergies that could be causing your misery
Your best friend’s gone gluten-free, another avoids dairy, and your coworker swore off soy years ago. Thanks to skyrocketing diagnosis rates, hyper-awareness of food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities is now at fever pitch.
That’s a good thing for anyone plagued by food allergy-induced headaches, digestive woes, or fatigue. But although the solution seems simple—all you have to do is cut out the offender, whether it’s gluten, soy, or dairy—it’s not quite so straightforward.
“As we eat more processed foods, we’re unknowingly consuming all kinds of ingredients, making it harder to pinpoint what’s bothering you,” says New York dietician Tamara Freuman, R.D., who specializes in medical nutrition therapy for digestive disorders. So if eliminating gluten, soy, and dairy hasn’t alleviated your stomach troubles, consider removing one of the following foods that could be the true culprit behind that funny feeling in your gut.
If you have seasonal allergies or are irritated by environmental allergens like pollen, fruits and vegetables including apples, peaches, pears, fennel, parsley, celery, and carrots could also spell trouble. “Pollens have very similar proteins to some plant foods,” Freuman says. “When your body eats them in fruit form, it gets confused and thinks it’s encountering the environmental allergen.” This problem, called oral allergy syndrome, affects about 70 percent of pollen allergy sufferers. If you suffer from the condition, you don’t have to swear off these foods entirely. Instead, eat them cooked, as their allergy-causing proteins are heat-sensitive.
It may not be the bread in your sandwich making you feel funky—it could be the meat. [Tweet this fact!] Smoked ones such as ham and bacon are high in histamines, naturally occurring compounds that can trigger an onslaught of allergy-like symptoms in people whose bodies can’t properly process them, says Clifford Bassett, M.D., medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. That might mean headaches, a stuffy nose, stomach discomfort, and skin woes. According to a recent study, histamines can prompt rashes, itchiness, eczema, acne, and even rosacea. To see if you’re sensitive, see how you feel after switching to fresh meats rather than aged or smoked varieties.
To stave off natural discoloration and keep their hues vivid, some dried fruits are treated with sulfur dioxide, a preservative that stops natural browning. But the compound—which also shows up in sulfured molasses and most wines (look for “contains sulfites” on the back label)—can lead to discomfort. “Eating sulfur dioxide can make some people feel headache-y and nauseous,” Freuman says. “And if you have asthma, it can trigger a serious attack.” Even if you spent your entire childhood noshing on dried fruit, it’s not uncommon for sulfite intolerances to develop later in life, up to your forties or fifties, according to a 2011 article published by University of Florida researchers.
A racing pulse, flushed face, or itchy skin after a glass of merlot or cabernet may be signs that you are sensitive to lipid transfer protein (LTP), which is found on the skin of grapes. In a German study of 4,000 adults, nearly 10 percent reported experiencing allergy-like symptoms including shortness of breath, itchiness, swelling, and stomach cramps after drinking a glass of vino. Hold onto your corkscrew, though: White wine, made without grape skins, doesn’t contain LTP.
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Aged or fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi are high in the enzyme tyramine. According to a 2013 study published in the journal Cephalalgia, tyramine might be a migraine culprit for people who aren’t able to metabolize it properly. “The longer a food ages, the more its proteins are broken down. And the more proteins are broken down, the more tyramine is formed,” says Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet. Swap fresh cabbage slaw for an aged ‘kraut to see if your head reacts better.