Allergy Detectives: Elusive Not-Necessarily-Allergens

IMG_1728 (1)I’ve been having odd allergy symptoms for a while now. It seems that soon after eating a certain grocery store crust (for making your own pizzas), eating certain gluten-free bakery cookies, and eating certain gluten-free hamburger buns from the same bakery I have horrible redness and itchiness around my mouth (outside my mouth, on the outer lips and upper chin) that subsides within a day. What on earth would all these things have in common other than being baked goods?

What to do? Automatically I thought of conversations had while camping recently. One person claimed they had no food allergies, but couldn’t have xanthan gum or high fructose corn syrup. Before finding a full list of ingredients for the three products above, that seemed as good as any place to start.

High-Fructose-Corn-SyrupHigh Fructose Corn Syrup

Commonly listed as HFCS, fructose syrup, glucose/fructose syrup, corn syrup, and other variations. High fructose corn syrup is made by separating the sugars from corn and concentrating those sugars into a thick syrup. While an allergy or intolerance to corn could mean a reaction to high fructose corn syrup, I could not find any commentary showing someone could be allergic to only high fructose corn syrup. I did find that a general fructose- or sugar-processing disorder could be affected by HFCS, but that shouldn’t cause an allergic-type reaction.

$(KGrHqVHJE4FJVfg00i2BS,Myk10Hw--_32Xanthan Gum

This product has caused a lot of internet controversy. Xanthan gum is the dried and powdered outer coating of bacteria when fed sugars. Typically for xanthan gum production, these sugars are derived from corn, wheat, or dairy. Because allergies are based on reaction to a protein, and proteins aren’t sugars, it is unlikely that an allergic reaction to corn, wheat, or dairy could cause an allergic reaction to xanthan gum, but those with highly-sensitive allergies are warned away due to cross-contamination possibilities. Some celiacs will have issues with wheat-sugar-derived xanthan gum, leading to issues with all xanthan gums. Also, a reaction to xanthan gum may (oddly, since the source is entirely different) cross-react with guar gum. Normally, xanthan gum seems to be perfectly safe for healthy adults, with only barely statistically-significant increase in occasional soft stools. In fact, it can help ease symptoms for those suffering from IBS. Allergy to only xanthan gum appears to be either rare or nonexistent.

Obviously those aren’t my answers. Looking once more for the ingredients in the three products to which I react, it turns out that the only things they have in common are salt, water, sugar, and vegetable oils (not the same ones – soybean in one case, palm and canola oils and shortening in the others). Two contain yeast. Two contain non-gluten flours and thickeners such as rice flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, and flax seed. Two contain soy. Talk about a mystery. Obviously I’m having a minor allergic reaction to something, but I certainly don’t think it’s salt or water, and sugar seems unlikely.

file0001589820136I think for now this one will have to remain a mystery. I’ll keep the ingredient lists for my three reactive food products, and look for pizza crust and hamburger bun alternatives. I certainly don’t NEED an alternative to gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, since I’m not celiac, I just need to get off my butt and make some myself with egg and dairy replacements.

Have you had any reactions like what I describe, or reactions to the products above? What were your symptoms/reactions? Comment below.

3 Responses to “Allergy Detectives: Elusive Not-Necessarily-Allergens”

    • I have not personally experienced this as I have been using mostly organic cane sugar for some time now, but with regard to sugar I have learned that sugar beets can indeed be heavily treated with pesticides and herbicides, which in turn often contain PG as a carrier. Sugar cane, as well, should not need to be treated with pesticides and herbicides, as it grows like a weed, but I did read that propylene glycol can be applied to increase sugar content just prior to harvest. Organic cane sugar will not be treated in this way.

      As for salt, I also have not had issues, but I have been eating sea salt only for some time. No particular sea salt; himalayan is not best, for example. What I have specifically done, though it only buy salt which is 100% salt by the ingredient list. Many table salts contain sugar, which then puts you into the issues above with sugar.

      I’d be happy to look at any further information you find, especially about salt.

      • christie

        Thank you for your feedback! I haven’t had any issues with adding salt to food. I will be avoiding seasoning salt though, unfortunately.
        As far as sugar, my main interactions with it have been in processed foods, which I am now cutting out. What I usually use sugar for is making cookies, but I think the vanilla will be the main issue with that in the future.

        Have you considered joining the Facebook Glycol group? Your voice would be so valuable for the community.

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