Five Reasons to Stop Eating Your Contact Allergens

We know that people with food allergies can become sensitized to their food allergen to such a degree that they can no longer even be around the smell of the food, or touch it, as for example with peanuts. What about the reverse? What if you have a contact allergy, preventing you from being around a chemical or other allergen, and that allergen is also present in food products? Should you avoid eating your allergen? Every allergen and the symptoms and methods of exposure are different, but here are five reasons why you might want to stop eating your allergen(s):

  1. Eating your allergens can sensitize you further to your allergen or to other allergens. People with contact allergies have learned that continuing exposure to an allergen can cause worsening of symptoms due to continuing inflammation and increased sensitivity to small exposures. Avoiding an allergen, by comparison, often tends to lead to increased resilience against small allergen exposures. Eating your contact allergens is a continuing exposure concern than can slow healing from reactions and cause continuing symptoms even after all traces of the allergen are removed from points of contact. The continuing inflammation can also cause increased reaction to your allergen or cause the body to start reacting to more allergens.
  2. Eating your allergens can cause both internal and external symptoms. You would think that external exposures would lead to external (skin, eyes, sinus, etc.) reactions and internal exposures could cause internal (digestive, etc.) reactions, but the mechanism of allergic reactions is much more complex than that. Ingesting an allergen can lead to stomach upset, throat reactions, sinus problems, skin issues, eye swelling, kidney function upset, and more, depending on the allergen and your sensitivity to it. You may not even notice or recognize all of the symptoms you were experiencing until you are no longer exposed.
  3. Eating your allergen can cause your digestive system to reject the foods in which the allergen was cooked. This can present itself by the passing of only partially digested foods within about 24 to 36 hours of eating the contaminated food. Aside from the unpleasant consequence of increased gas and bloating, if your body is working to get the food through you as quickly as possible and not digesting it properly, your body is not getting all of the nutrients it can out of the food and you could end up nutrient-deficient. This can cause a desire to eat much larger portions and result in weight gain or loss.
  4. Making appropriate food choices to avoid chemical allergens in food can lead to decreased chemical exposure through foods. This applies not just to a specific allergen, but to a lowered chemical load in general. For many who are living with chemical contact allergies, this drop in all chemical exposures is a welcome comfort, if not a direct health benefit.
  5. Your eating habits and genetics are shared with your children. While there are no definitive studies connecting allergies to heredity, there is anecdotal evidence of parents and children sharing similar susceptibility to allergies. This means that your children may have an increased risk of developing allergies if you yourself have allergies. In addition, family eating habits are shared with children, learned, and often carry through well into adulthood. The foods to which we become accustomed as children are the ones that we continue to eat as adults. Susceptibility to allergies could be at least partially hereditary, but environmental factors can reduce the likelihood of allergies manifesting, and healthy eating habits are environmental benefits to living with someone who needs to avoid chemicals. We should be wary of encouraging children to watch their diet closely, as that can lead to unhealthy mental habits regarding food later in life, but eating safer (less chemical-laden) foods on a regular basis as a part of normal family meals will expose your children to a healthier way of living.

Have you stopped eating a contact allergen? Did you notice any change in your allergy symptoms? Comment below.

8 Responses to “Five Reasons to Stop Eating Your Contact Allergens”

  1. Christie

    Thanks again for another awesome post. I decided to cut out propylene glycol a week ago because of your post about being allergic to natural flavour. It’s a tricky goal to keep, but my skin deserves a chance.
    This has led me to explore organic options because “natural flavour” in certified organic foods is free of PG.

    I’m clear on the fact that processed foods with “natural flavour” likely have propylene glycol and many creamy foods even label it right in plain sight. What I’m unclear about is artificial flavour and it’s connection. And also vanilla extract, I think I read something about it’s connection to PG, but not sure. Any clarification on these would be so helpful. Thank you.

    Best, Christie.

    • Hi Christie,

      I’m not so sure that “natural flavour” in organic foods really is PG free. Do you have references related to the regulation process that supports this assertion? I would love to see confirmation of that, as it would open up a few more food choices for me. Until then, I’m not going to make any assumptions.

      “Organic” does not mean that the product cannot contain any man-made chemicals; it only means that the food ingredients were raised/grown and processed without man-made chemicals. You will see things like non-organic xanthan gum as ingredients in organic foods. If xanthan gum was classified as a food-based ingredient, it should be able to be organic (but is not). If it is classified as a chemical additive, then the organic food is not 100% man-made chemical free.

      Natural flavours and artificial flavours are exactly the same thing. They contain identical flavouring chemicals, the only difference is whether the chemicals are man made or derived from natural sources. The actual chemical is the same. Both can contain PG as a stabilizer and carrier.

      Anything listed as a flavour or colour can contain propylene glycol. Caramel colour, annatto colour/flavour, vanilla flavour, “natural” vanilla flavour, etc.

      This page ( explains a lot about vanilla extracts and flavours. Propylene glycol is both an alcohol and a carbohydrate (sugar is also a carbohydrate), and can help to stabilize foods and other products. Glycerin/glycerol, sometimes used instead of propylene glycol and a potential cross-reactor, is directly classified as a sugar alcohol.

      The stabilizer mentioned near the top of the page can be partially propylene glycol, as can the alcohol. (Propylene glycol is found in some vodkas, as you may find if you research alcohols, so if a small producer says that they use pure vodka there is no guarantee it will be PG-free.) In pure vanilla extract the alcohol or stabilizer cannot be mostly propylene glycol because then it would not qualify as an “extract”, but this doesn’t mean it might not be present in small quantities. Caramel colours, which can contain propylene glycol, are also occasionally added to vanilla extracts.

      Keep questioning. 🙂 It’s through questioning that we learn about our world, both the good and the bad.

  2. christie

    From Quality Assurance International:

    B. Non-flavor constituents and other ingredients
    Natural flavors authorized for use in NOP or COR “organic” or “made with organic”(70-95%) products must not contain any synthetic carrier systems or any artificial preservatives, including but not limited to, propylene glycol, polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, mono-, di-, and tri-glycerides, benzoic acid, polysorbate 80.

    I hope this is helpful. Let me know what you think.


    • Thank you for that document. It’s quite a conglomeration of regulations they’ve stuck on that one form. Some things I’ve determined from it, along with some practical interpretations:

      – “Made with organic” means that the product needs only have 70-95% organic ingredients, meaning that herbicides or pesticides containing propylene glycol and other chemicals could have been used on some of the food ingredients prior to them being used, as well as adding other chemicals to the mixture.
      – “Organic” “natural flavours” are allowed to have carriers that come from natural sources. This means that they cannot contain propylene glycol but they can contain glycerin, which is a potential cross-reactor for propylene glycol, and maltodextrin. If someone has concerns about eating glycerin, then sticking with only organic natural flavours will not mitigate their concern.
      – “Natural flavours”, under both the Canadian and American definitions, only guarantee that the flavouring material itself is from a natural source. It does not regulate additives.
      – “Non-synthetic” means that the flavouring material was extracted using natural materials but does not regulate the additives to the materials after they are extracted from the initial food source.

      • christie

        Thank you for helping to make sense of this tangled web of regulations. I also learned in the Facebook Glycol Group that corn-derived propanediol can often be added to more “natural” foods in place of PG. Unfortunately, they can affect glycol allergy sufferers the same way as they have the same chemical structure. Forgive me if you already outlined this (or something related to it) in one of your posts. It is tricky to keep all this information straight and to understand it all. I wish I had payed better attention in chemistry!

  3. christie

    And another one:

    What about “organic” natural flavors?
    For “organic foods,” the natural flavor must have been produced without synthetic solvents, carriers and artificial preservatives. According to the Natural Flavor Questionnaire from a large organic certifier, the additives not allowed in natural flavor in organic foods include propylene glycol, polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, mono- and di-glycerides, benzoic acid, polysorbate 80, medium chain triglycerides, BHT, BHA, triacetin. In “foods made with organic ingredients,” food processors have greater leeway to use synthetic extraction or carrier solvents.


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