Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reflections on Oral Allergy Syndrome

It never quite made sense. Some totally healthy foods can make my mouth react (bananas that are not totally ripe, walnuts, etc..). I could never figure out the pattern. Then I stumbled on some information about "Oral Allergy Syndrome" and the pieces to the puzzle fell into place. According to Wikipedia:

Oral allergy syndrome or OAS is a type of food allergy typified by a cluster of allergic reactions in the mouth in response to eating certain (usually fresh) fruitsnuts, and vegetables that typically develops in adult hay fever sufferers.[1] Another term used for this syndrome is '"Pollen-Food Allergy."' In adults up to 60% of all food allergic reactions are due to cross-reactions between foods and inhalative allergens.[2]

Until I moved to Utah, I never noticed having pollen sensitivities, but the same not-quite-a-cold occurred each year when pollen counts rose in the spring (tree pollens) and/or in September (wildflower pollens).  I was a bit stubborn--for years, I believed I was immune from pollen allergies, even though both of my parents had them. Food allergies, yes. Pollen allergies, not me! 

Working with Tess made it a little more obvious, since we react to some of the same things (wheat, dairy in particular); she would keep pointing out the high pollen counts and the number of people suffering, including herself. Okay, so pollen was not only a nuisance on my windshield, so what?! It was temporary. I could tough it out for a week or so and boost my vitamin C intake dramatically, so no big deal.

What's been interesting to learn is that mouth reactions to raw, fresh foods can be related to pollen reactions (the inhaled proteins are structurally related to various food proteins, hence the cross-reaction). Mother Nature is tricky, eh? 

When I was on the big wheat/dairy/eggs/soy/almonds/lima beans/cranberry elimination diet for a year, I used fresh garlic in much of my cooking and also took fresh garlic potions when I felt under the weather for any reason. It's possible I overdid it, as raw garlic can now produce one of the meanest reactions (swelling and pain) in my mouth of any food. Nose wrinkled, wanting to pout, I have to keep realizing that my body is just plain sensitive and that overdoing anything is likely to put me out of balance. 

I've found success in rotating foods in my diet, taking plenty of vitamin C (antihistamine effect), and working at keeping my intestinal walls strong with glutamine (to prevent pesky food molecules from slipping into my bloodstream and being attacked by my hypervigilant immune system) helps me most. 

Some Oral Allergy Syndrome sufferers, however, have more life-threatening reactions, with their windpipes shutting down. If someone you love complains of funny reactions to foods we normally consider healthy, encourage them to learn about Oral Allergy Syndrome. It will be comforting as many people ignore or dismiss their complaints! 

Drop a line here if you have personal experience with Oral Allergy Syndrome. No commercials, please, just personal experiences and stories!