Since it is National Allergy Awareness Week, I thought I would bring to a light a less commonly talked about or even known about allergy, one that I have suffered with my entire life only in recent years understanding what the heck was actually wrong with me.
As a little girl, I often felt like my teeth would itch when I ate peaches, sometimes carrots and always apples (especially Red and Golden Delicious).
And the apples would not only make my teeth itch but my lips and mouth would feel weird leading down into my throat with a heavy feeling in my chest.
I couldn’t even cut up an apple for my son because somehow I would touch my face without washing my hands first and my eyes would swell up requiring Benedryl. Who thinks to wash their hands after slicing an apple?
The interesting part was that if the apples were cooked in a pie, if the peaches were canned in light syrup, I had no issue eating them.
It made no sense and when I tried to explain these little facts to my family, doctors and friends, people just thought I was insane and left it at that.
A few years ago I learned about Oral Allergy Syndrome and my life suddenly made sense.
Oral allergy syndrome or OAS is a type of food allergy classified by a cluster of allergic reactions in the mouth in response to eating certain (usually fresh) fruits, nuts and vegetables that typically develops in adult hay fever sufferers.
Welcome to my reality! I am allergic to tree pollen, specifically Birch and Alder so finally, my raw fruit and vegetable allergies made sense.
OAS is perhaps the most common food-related allergy in adults. OAS is not a separate food allergy, but rather represents cross-reactivity between distant remnants of tree or weed pollen still found in certain fruits and vegetables.
Because the allergenic proteins associated with OAS are usually destroyed by cooking, most reactions are caused by eating raw foods. The main exceptions to this are celery and nuts, which may cause reactions even after being cooked.
The most common reaction to uncooked fruits and vegetables (and some nuts) is an itching or burning sensation in the lips, mouth, ear canal, and/or pharynx.
Sometimes other reactions can be triggered in the eyes, nose, and skin. Swelling of the lips, tongue, and a sensation of tightness in the throat may be observed.
It can seldom result in anaphylaxis.
Allergies to a specific pollen are usually associated with OAS reactions to other certain foods:
Alder Pollen: almonds, apples, celery, cherries, hazel nuts, peaches, pears, parsley, strawberry, raspberry
Birch Pollen: almonds, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, carrots, celery, cherries, chicory, coriander, fennel, fig, hazel nuts, kiwifruit, nectarines, parsley, parsnips, peaches, pears, peppers, plums, potatoes, prunes, soy, strawberries, wheat – potential: walnuts
Grass Pollen: fig, melons, tomatoes, oranges
Mugwort Pollen: carrots, celery, coriander, fennel, parsley, peppers, sunflower
Ragweed Pollen: banana, cantaloupe, cucumber, green pepper, paprika, sunflower seeds/oil, honeydew, watermelon, zucchini, Echinacea, artichoke, dandelions, honey, hibiscus or chamomile tea
Possible cross-reactions to any of the above: berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc.), citrus (oranges, lemons etc.), grapes, mango, figs, peanut, pineapple, pomegranates, watermelon
As I have gotten older, I have developed more sensitivities on the oral allergy spectrum.
Or, it is quite possible that since I am no longer a picky eater, I am learning what I can and cannot eat.
Most birch pollen fruits such as peaches, pears, plums, grapes, sometimes cherries…As for vegetables, celery can bother me, carrots only on occasion, raw peapods in a vegetable tray and even edamame if it isn’t super super cooked.
Nuts are interesting. I have learned to avoid raw walnuts and almonds. In fact, I can’t even eat raw peanuts.
Thank goodness I can consume peanut butter. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t.
Candied or roasted walnuts are pretty much safe and symptom free for me but over time I am figuring out to avoid almonds at all costs.
I can eat cookies and things that have almond paste involved but actual pieces of nuts or anything with almonds as the first or second ingredient gives me that heavy feeling in my throat which I really don’t enjoy and to be honest, sometimes scares me.
You see me eat apples quite often and must be wondering what gives.
Here’s the situation – when it comes to Granny Smith apples or even Pink Lady, as long as I eat them on a regular basis, I can tolerate them without issue. It’s like a desensitizing of some sort.
On rare occasion, they will bother me but for the most part, I am good especially if I warm the apples first which we know I love.
Lately I am noticing more fruits being added to the I really shouldn’t consume this list. Pineapple, watermelon and maybe even strawberries; I really don’t wish to talk about it.
A few years ago I discovered that I could eat apples and other raw fruits like a normal person (meaning no itching in mouth or heaviness in throat) while I was taking Zyrtec for hay fever.
It makes sense actually since Zyrtec treats your symptoms associated with seasonal allergies which is the same pollen the body reacts to in the raw fruits and vegetables.
I don’t advise taking allergy medication just to be able to eat things even though I have been known to do it. It doesn’t remove the problem, it just treats the symptoms. Your body is still reacting, you just don’t notice.
As a fruit and vegetable lover and especially a vegetarian, this is not the allergy to have.
Even though OAS seldom causes anaphylaxis, you just never know which time the triggering food will affect you worse than just irritating your mouth, especially the nuts.
It isn’t easy to see everyone else giving up dairy milk in favor of almond milk, using almond meal in their baking recipes and adding walnuts and almonds to their snacks for the healthy fats because I can’t.
However, this just gives another example of how different we all are and how we must customize and tailor our lifestyles according to our own bodies.
And really, I am just grateful to be able to eat peanut butter.
Click here for more information about Oral Allergy Syndrome.
Anyone else have this allergy?!?!?
What are you allergic to?
Do you eat things that sometimes you know you shouldn’t?