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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Danger of “antibacterial”

Bio-Tag - Triclosan

An antibacterial chemical, called Triclosan, found in toothpaste and other personal care products may increase the risk of allergy development in children. Triclosan has been used since 1972, but was recently associated with allergies in children.

What is Triclosan?
Triclosan is an antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral agent. Triclosan has been in use for decades in a variety of common household products, including soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, mouthwashes, dish detergents, hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies, and toys. It is also a component in some pesticides, mattresses, insulation and underlayments used under flooring such as laminate, wood, carpeting in order to stop the growth of bacteria, fungi, and mildew. In the United States, manufacturers of products containing triclosan must indicate it on the label.

How can Triclosan affect our health?
Triclosan can change the bacterial flora in the mouth, on the skin and in the intestines. The change in the delicate balance between beneficial and “bad” bacteria in the body can lead to immune system dysregulation, causing an increased risk of developing allergies (hygiene hypothesis). The researchers found link between the growing incidence of allergies and the increased use of products containing triclosan. The study does not demonstrate that the antibacterial chemicals themselves cause the allergies but instead suggest that they play a significant role in immune system development. Several studies have shown that triclosan may alter hormone regulation in laboratory animals or cause antibiotic resistance.
According to the FDA, triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans, but a number of scientific studies emphasize the need to review the manufacturer’s guidelines on the use of this chemical in consumer products.

About the study
Researchers have found that children with high urinary levels of triclosan have a twofold higher risk of environmental and food allergies. The higher urinary levels of the chemical were associated with increased levels of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody, which is elevated in the blood of people with allergies. According to the study the probability of food and aeroallergen (especially rhinitis) sensitization is significantly higher with increased exposure to triclosan.
Comparison of the Norwegian and U.S. summary of the studies show approximately 50 per cent of the Norwegian children had detectable levels of triclosan in their urine, while 80 per cent of American children had measurable levels. Children from both groups had approximately the same amount of triclosan exposure.
The triclosan study is a collaboration between the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo University Hospital and the National Institute of Health Sciences (NIEHS) in the U.S. The study was published online on November 2012 in Allergy, the official journal of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

What is the problem with Triclosan?
Triclosan is linked to inhalation and liver toxicity. Low levels of triclosan may disrupt thyroid function. Due to the uncompleted waste water treatment, the chemical, which is very toxic to aquatic life, ends up in our lakes, rivers and water sources.

How to avoid Triclosan?
There is no evidence that household use of antibacterial products provides benefits over plain soap and water, and the American Medical Association recommends that triclosan not be used in the home, as it may encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Watch the label for triclosan (and triclocarban) in personal care products. Read ingredient labels carefully.

Avoid “antibacterial” products.  Triclosan is used in everyday personal care products like toothbrushes, toys, plastic containers, and cutting boards that may be labeled “antibacterial,” or make claims such as “odor-fighting” or “keeps food fresher, longer”.              

Use simple detergents and soaps with short ingredient lists and avoid antibacterial products with triclosan for home use.

Triclosan can be found in these products: soap and dishwashing liquid, towels, mattresses sponges, personal care products, shower curtains, toothbrushes, phones, kitchenware, and plastic food containers, shoes, flooring, and carpets, cutting boards, clothing, fabrics, and toys.

References:

http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/triclosan_fs.htm

http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(11)02347-5/fulltext