An article in yesterday’s New York Times entitled “Could You Be Allergic to Additives in Food or Drugs?” is a must read for people with persistent, recurring, unexplained allergy symptoms like hives.
Allergists generally doubt that synthetic food additives like dyes, preservatives, and emulsifiers can cause true allergic reactions. As Dr Scott Sicherer, professor of pediatrics, allergy and immunology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai says:
It’s very, very rare to see hives from a chemical that’s a food additive, because these are small molecules that typically don’t trigger allergic reactions. No one’s saying it doesn’t happen, but the reports in the literature are handfuls — they’re not in the thousands.
But in recent years, with consumer demand for natural foods on the rise, many food manufacturers are making the switch from synthetic additives to natural ones derived from plants, insects, and animals.
These natural additives include substances like a red food dye called carmine or cochineal extract, which is made from insects; a yellow dye made from the fruit of the annatto tree; psyllium, a source of dietary fiber derived from seed husks; and guar gum, which is made from a bean and is used as a binder and emulsifier in food and drugs. All of these have been implicated in rare cases of anaphylaxis.
You are encouraged to read the article to learn more about the trend toward more naturally-derived food additives that may introduce proteins that were previously less common. It could lead you to that clue that helps explain the unexplainable.