Posted By Karin on March 7, 2010
Written by Karin DuBois
28-year-old Robin of Vancouver, BC loves to cook. She is the health-conscious type, often wandering over to the local farmers market for fresh goods. Whether it be rhubarb pie made-from-scratch or fusion stir-fry, her demanding taste buds keep her busy trying new and varied foods.
But 10 years ago, her passion for food led her to discover an unpleasant truth: a food allergy. After biting into a store-bought apple, her mouth and throat became tingly and itchy. “It was like chewing on poison ivy” she recalls.
Robin was especially surprised as she had previously enjoyed apple pies and compotes with no adverse reaction.
Over the next few years, she noticed similar reactions to other foods, including kiwis, plums, walnuts, and raw carrots and celery. And as with the apples, her symptoms were non-existant when the foods she consumed were cooked.
Robin’s symptoms correlate with a specific food allergy known as oral food allergy.
According to Dr. Anthony Pong, a paediatric allergist in Ottawa, these reactions often occur in people who suffer from hay fever. He says the allergies can occur at any time of the year, but may be more severe during pollen season.
An article published by the Department of Dermatology and Venerology in Germany suggests that a majority of food allergy reactions occurs when inhalitive allergies, such as pollen, interact with foods, forming proteins that the immune system reacts to.
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the allergenic proteins involved in oral food allergy syndrome are destroyed during heating and canning. This explains why those who suffer from oral allergy syndrome, like Robin, can consume apples and other vegetables when cooked or canned without developing a reaction.
“I had no idea that my hay fever allergies could cause food reactions. It makes me sad.” Robin says. “It’s disappointing. I try to be healthy, and this allergy limits my food variety. I like kiwi and other fruits; I just can’t eat them. It sucks.”
Oral food allergy is associated with specific types of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Fruits belonging to the apple, plum, and kiwi family are often affected, as are vegetables in the potato and parsley family. Certain nuts, legumes, and seeds can also trigger reactions. Those who suffer from oral food allergies often react to some — but not all — of these food types.
Dr. Pong suggests avoiding eating foods that result in a reaction, and instead consuming “safe” replacement fruits and vegetables, such as berries, citrus, spinach, and green onions.
For more information on oral food allergies, visit the Canadian Health Inspection Agency website.