Living Sulfate Free: Diet
Having Weird Allergic Reactions to a Variety of Foods?
You may be allergic or have an intolerance to sulfates or sulfites - or even both! Some people - though rare - can be allergic to any product that happens to have a -sulf- in the ingredients, In fact, there is no concrete ways of testing for a sulf- allergy due to the confusion that surrounds it. Unfortunately, most people have to go through a trial and error process before they can discover the intricacies of their reactions.
Allergies to sulfa- are often classified as intolerance's or sensitivities. Sulfa reactions can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, from anaphylaxis to hives to asthmatic symptoms. Typically if you have asthma, the feeling of being short of breath, wheezing and a tightness in the chest will occur. If you do not have asthma, symptoms can be: nausea/vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and rashes.These are the most common reactions - though other reactions may occur. ( One time I was prescribed eye drops that happened to contain sulfites. Within one minute of the eye drops being put in my eye - my eye started to bleed. It looked like I was bawling blood. Horrifying when you're 6 years old. Anywaaaayssss.... )
*** Personal Experience *** I have been allergic to sulfa- all my life - from sulfates to sulfites and I even get reactions from asulfame potassium! When I was younger, my reactions were mainly abdominal cramping and digestive stress. After I started smoking ( yes, horrible habit don't pick it up ) my reactions quickly became respiratory, with lethargy and hot flashes. I'm not sure if there is a connection - I only know that my reactions to sulfa quickly became more frightening. ***
So, the issue is - why don't you just avoid it? Sulfiting agents and other sulf- containing ingredients tend to be hidden in food - and it often takes a lot of perusing the ingredients to find out if it contains anything that may result in a reaction. In addition - because sulf- ingredients aren't a type of food - like peanuts or wheat - it takes a lot of learning and trials to acquire common sense about what foods might contain sulf-. For example? Wine and Wine Coolers contain enough sulfites to put anyone with a sensitivity to bed because not only is it naturally occurring in the fermentation process - they also ADD sulfiting agents to the wine.
Due to sulf-'s nature of sneaking into foods, here are a few tips to avoid a reaction: both at home and out and about.
What to Look For in the Food You Buy for Your Home
Here is A Quick List of Ingredients to Look for When Searching for Sulf-free Foods:
*** THESE ARE FOOD ADDITIVES if you find a brand that has these ingredients ( example: some breads contain many different types of sulfates, where some may only contain one or two. Depending on the severity of your sensitivity - your body may be able to handle a brand that uses fewer sulfates )
1.) Ammonium Sulfate - Dough Strengthener and Conditioner
2.) Calcium Sulfate - Yeast Nutrient
3.) Ferrous Sulfate ( Iron ) - Nutrient
4.) Caramel Color - Color Additive
5.) Asulfame Potassium ( Asulfame-K) - Sweetener - does not commonly illicit a reaction, but may
6.) Sulfur Dioxide
7.) Sodium Bisulfite
8.) Potassium Bisulfite
9.) Sodium Metabisulfite
10.) Potassium Metabisulfite
11.) Sodium Sulfite
13.) Sulfiting Agents
A Quick List of Foods To Avoid
1.) Dried Fruits
2.) Dry Potatoes ( potatoes from a box )
3.) Grape Juice
5.) Wine Based Vinegars
6.) Some alcoholic beverages: The FDA requires that any alcoholic beverage that contains more than 10 ppm of sulf- has to put it on their labels. Sulf- is a naturally occurring outcome of the fermentation process, but sometimes companies are able to keep these sulf- ingredients under 10 ppm. Check the label! ( *** Mike's Hard Lemonade falls well below the required 10 ppm. This is the only malt beverage/ "wine cooler" type drink that I have been able to find that has a sulfate ratio low enough for me to not have a reaction )
7.) Most Processed Foods
8.) Pizza/Pie Crusts - store bought
10.) Beet Sugar
11. ) Molasses/Syrups
12.) Some Jams and Jellies
14.) Powdered condiment mixes ( Like Gravies and Soups )
15.) Grape Juice/Fresh Lemon or Lime Juice
Some people may even experience acute reactions to simple sulfur, If you happen to be one of these people - but you still enjoy your eggs: The highest sulfur content in an egg is in the egg WHITE. Eating a breakfast of only egg whites can induce a reaction.
Eating Out can be frightening for the sulf- sensitive. You can never be sure of what brand or type of foods/additives they are using in their ingredients.
Here's Some Helpful Hints:
- Take a non-drowsy antihistamine before your go - or keep a one on hand. If you choose to keep one on hand, I suggest the kind that melts. If your reaction is bad enough where your throat closes you may not be able to swallow an entire pill.
- Avoid mashed potatoes and other potato products that could come from a box! Boxed Potatoes are the sulf-sensitives nightmare.
- Talk with your server! Though it may be embarrassing to send the server back to look at the ingredients listed on the products you're hoping to be able to eat - Remember: You're there to have a good time. The last thing anyone in that restaurant wants is for someone to have an allergic reaction. Your server wants a tip, your friends and family want to enjoy their night, and you want to be carefree.
- Stick with alcohol drinks and ingredients that you know - under no circumstances will contain sulfates/sulfites. If you're eyeing that Pomegranate Martini - remember that flavored liquors often contain sulf- to preserve the flavor. Ask what brands/the precise names of the liquors the bartender uses to mix their drinks and check each ingredient yourself to see if any contain sulf- ingredients within them.
What The Government Has Done To Protect Sulf-Sensitives
Alert Program for Undeclared Sulfites: ( Will Result in a Require Recall )
Restricted Use of Sulfites Due to High Sensitivity
Links for More Information
- What Is Sulfite Sensitivity?
Get information about sulfite sensitivity and where sulfites can be found.
- Sulfite Intolerance; what is the big deal with sulfites
What is the big deal with sulfites? Information on sulfite sensitivity. What foods contain sulfites? You'll need to avoid dried fruits, wine, soups, shrimp, sauerkraut, and many other foods.
- U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page
Home Page for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)