How ‘Spicy’ is Your Allergy?!

Shop with spices in Morocco

Allergies to spices affect millions of people around the world, but not everyone might ever know that these are allergies. A lot of sufferers might feel that their digestive system gets upset when they eat certain foods. Sometimes it is difficult to determine that the reason for these conditions are spices.

Allergies to spices like onion, garlic, black pepper are common in the United States, but the most common culprits are found within ethnic groups and diet. Spices known as allergy triggers are also paprika, cinnamon, anise, turmeric, cumin, coriander, vanilla. Spices are usually found in small amounts in food, but it is enough for those who are sensitive to that specific allergen. Spices can make matters worse if they are mixes, e.g. curry. There are several types of curry, each is a different blend of many spices. Several blends contain anywhere from three to 18 spices, and the hotter the spice, the greater the chance for allergy. The Five-Spice blend has seven spices. Allspice has only one. However any spices and herbs can cause allergic reactions any time.

Spices at central market in Agadir (Morocco) F...“I strongly believe that spice allergies are markedly under-diagnosed because of the great difficulty in identifying it.” says Sami Bahna, chief of allergy and immunology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport. “Patients with spice allergy often have to go through extreme measures to avoid the allergen. This can lead to strict dietary avoidance, low quality of life and sometimes malnutrition.”

When we hear about spices we usually think about food, but spices are everywhere. They can be found as hidden ingredients in cosmetic products, such as makeup and body oils, dental products such as toothpaste, spice-scented air fresheners or in decorations such as  cinnamon scented pinecones at Christmas holiday.

Allergies can be triggered by digesting the allergen or by breathing them in or even just by touching them.

It is important to know that many reactions to spices, such as runny nose or sneezing are not always allergic reactions, says Stanley Fineman, president of the allergy college and a physician at the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic. They act by irritating the mucus membrane in the nose.

A true allergic reaction to any food  involves the immune system. Some of the symptoms include hives, swelling of the throat and skin, rash, stomach ache, diarrhea, indigestion, asthma, vomiting itching of the tongue, lips, face. In rare cases severe lowering of the blood pressure, trouble breathing and the risk of unconsciousness or death known as anaphylaxis can occur.

Different food processing can influence the effect of that particular spice. “Boiling, roasting, frying and other forms of applying heat to spices may reduce allergy causing agents, but can also enhance them depending on the spice,” said Dr. Bahna.

spicesSpices are widely used in food and different products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate spice labeling, making it more difficult to identify and avoid them. Therefore close attention to ingredients is absolutely necessary. Approximately 2 percent of food allergies are triggered by spices. However it is underdiagnosed, particularly due to the lack of reliable allergy skin tests or blood tests.

If you have a known spice allergy, you should avoid the allergy trigger spices from your diet. Do your research before you order any food in a restaurant, and read the label before you buy processed food  any kind. If you have any doubt, call the manufacturer for more information.

The best way to be  safe is by  cooking your favorite dishes at home.

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