How to live with an allergy to sulfites

How to live with an allergy to sulfites

Sulfites, first discovered by Germans, is one among the useful preservatives and is therefore used in the preparation of many many alcoholic and other drinks. Moreover, it is now used in numerous food items in order to control the spoilage process and to prevent the color of fruits and vegetable slices turning brown etc. Besides being useful in various ways, it is rare for many people to be allergic to sulfites. As a result, it can cause some serious allergic-like symptoms, including the underlying allergic rhinitis and asthma etc. And the most common reactions can be tight chest, cough and wheezing etc. Therefore, it is better to take care of the allergy to sulfites in order to avoid its severe and irritating outcomes.

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Food and Drinks Containing Sulfites

There are some food items that contain sulfites. For Example, food items containing potassium metabisulfite, Sodium metabisulfite, Sodium Sulphite, Sulphur Dioxide, Potassium Bisulfite etc. All you have to do is, cut down the intake of the items containing these elements as much as you can. Given below is the list of the items:
– Bakery goods
– Soup mixes
– Jams
– Canned vegetables
– Pickled foods and vinegar
– Gravies- Dried fruit
– Potato crisps
– Beer, wine and cider
– Vegetable juices
– Sparkling grape juice
– Bottled lemon juice and lime juice
– Tea- Molasses
– Fresh or frozen prawns
– Guacamole
– Maraschino cherries
– Dehydrated – pre-cut or peeled potatoes

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How to live with an allergy to sulfites

Dry Fruits

Usually dried fruits contain portion of sulfites as a preservative. Therefore, check out the packaging of the dried fruits carefully and prefer to buy the ones dried through natural process.

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How to live with an allergy to sulfites

Be Careful while Dining Out

Many of the restaurants use sulfites in the making of various salads and potatoes items in order to prevent the color-changing process. Make sure to check out with the management of the restaurant while dining out.

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How to live with an allergy to sulfites

Prefer Organic Fruits and Vegetables

Always buy organic fruits and vegetables. Prefer to buy from the loyal seller, who offers sulphite-free products.

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How to live with an allergy to sulfites

Carry you Asthma’s Inhaler

The patients of asthma are very sensitive to an allergy to sulfites. Therefore, if you are an asthmatic patient, then do not forget to carry your inhaler with you so that you can treat the situation on time.

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How to live with an allergy to sulfites

Vitamin C Helps

Increase the intake of the food items that are rich sources of vitamin C as it helps in strengthening you immune system. As a result, you will be able to resist an allergy to sulfites.

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How to live with an allergy to sulfites

Drink Plenty of Water

Drink as much water as you can as it is the best natural solvent and therefore helps in flushing out the sulfites from your body.

If you have a Sulfite Allergy then you suffer from Allergies Type 1, also called Contact Allergies. Sulfites have been used for centuries as a preservative for drinks, foods and medication. They preserve the color and flavor and increase the shelf life by inhibiting bacterial growth. About 1 percent of the populations are allergic to sulfites. Sulfite allergy reactions tend to manifest in respiratory symptoms.

Prior to seeing any allergy specialist for testing you will need to stop taking any anti-allergy medication or over the counter antihistamines 2 to 3 days before the test are to be performed. Talk to the allergy specialist if you are unsure about any medications that need to be stopped and for how long.

Patients allergic to sulfite rarely show a positive allergic response to skin testing. The most reliable way to test for this allergy is commonly called The Food Challenge. You are told to avoid all sulfite-containing foods for several weeks.

Avoidance can be very difficult because sulfite is often hidden in other foods. Read the labels of every food that you bring into your home. Because the manufacturing processes change continuously re-read the labels each time you purchase a product. On January 1, 2006 a new law was passed stating that all labels should be designed in such a way that a 7-year-old child could read and understand the ingredients.

The doctor will then have you take pills containing sulfite under close supervision. If symptoms appear after ingesting the sulfites then you are allergic to sulfites and will need to avoid anything that has it on the label.

The USFDA requires the labeling of foods containing 10 ppm or more of sulfites and in 1986 the FDA banned the use of sulfites on fruits and vegetables that are eaten raw.

A growing awareness about food allergies is becoming well known in the United States. Food manufactures and restaurants are becoming more understanding and willing to accommodate people living with food allergies.

Living with any food allergy is no longer a major undertaking; it is now just a minor adjustment to your life-style. You will need to avoid baked goods, Soups, jams, canned vegetables, pickles, potato chips, dried fruit, trail mix, most condiments, shrimp, guacamole and anything that has sulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium bisulfite and potassium metabisulfite on the label.

Some of the common vitamins used to treat sulfite allergy symptoms are Vitamins C, Quercetin, and Bromelain.

Vitamin C is nature’s protective nutrient, essential for defending the body against pollution and infection and enhances the bodies immune system. Take 1,000 to 5,000 mg daily.

Quercitin is a well known flavonoid. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants and can reduce inflammation boost the immune system and strengthen blood vessels and improve circulation. Quercitin is also known for its ability to block the release of histamines, thus reducing or preventing allergy symptoms. Take 500 mg twice daily.

Bromellain will enhance the absorption of Quercetin. Take 100 mg twice daily.

Always consult your doctor before using this information.

This Article is nutritional in nature and is not to be construed as medical advice.

The premise of this blog is to gather and share information about sulfites and sulfite allergy. Please feel free to post your story or information you might have come across that would be relevant. Thank you.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

How to Live with Sulfite Allergy? summarizes well the main points plus lists: bromelain, quarcetin, vitamin C as helpful supplements.

Quarcetin : is a phytochemical (bioflavonoid) most abundant of the flavonoids; found in pigment of plants and fruits; has antihistamine effect which relieves allergic symptoms (namely releasing histamine from mast cells in presence of an allergent that leads to allergic reaction: asthma, hives, etc); is anti-inflammatory by inhibition of enzymes, such as lipoxygenase; is an anti-oxidant (neutralizes free radicals); as many other flavonoids, quercetin prevents the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol; may prevent breast, ovary, prostate, colon cancers. Reco dose: 500 mg/daily.
More info:

Bromelain : is a mixture of protein-digesting enzymes (protease enzyme ) found in pineapples (mostly concentrated in the stem); contains active substances that aid digestion and help reduce inflammation; among other uses is used to treat infections and arthritis, sinuses; enhances absorbtion of qercetin. Reco dose: 100mg/daily
More info:

Vitamin C : (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin which is necessary in the body to form collagen in bones, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels, and aids in the absorption of iron. Reco dose: 1000-5000 mg/daily

Vitamin C function as a coenzyme or as a cofactor in the body. It appears to be necessary for the normal function of cellular units and subcellular structures. In metabolism, vitamin C functions to accept and donate hydrogen. Vitamin C also plays an important role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, compounds which allow nerve impulse transmission between nerve axons.

Production of collagen, a protein substance in fibrous tissue, depends on ascorbic acid. Vitamin C maintains capillary integrity through the production of an intercellular cement substance. This function promotes the healing of wounds, fractures, bruises, some hemorrhages, and bleeding gums. Additionally, it reduces susceptibility to infections.

Vitamin C helps to facilitate the absorption of iron and calcium, and it is essential for the utilization of folacin.

Dietary sources of vitamin C include fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits such as oranges, kiwis, guavas.

Vitamin D : fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods; produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D obtained from sun exposure, food, and supplements is biologically inert and must undergo two hydroxylations in the body for activation. The first occurs in the liver and converts vitamin D to 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], also known as calcidiol. The second occurs primarily in the kidney and forms the physiologically active 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH)2D], also known as calcitriol.

Vitamin D is essential for promoting calcium absorption in the gut and maintaining adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralization of bone. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D sufficiency prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis.

Most people meet their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight. Ultraviolet (UV) B radiation penetrates uncovered skin and converts cutaneous 7-dehydrocholesterol to previtamin D3, which in turn becomes vitamin D3.

People with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 – 30 times as much exposure to sunlight as fair-skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D. That’s why prostate cancer is epidemic among black men — it’s a simple, but widespread, sunlight deficiency.

Chronic vitamin D deficiency cannot be reversed overnight: it takes months of vitamin D supplementation and sunlight exposure to rebuild the body’s bones and nervous system.

How to live with an allergy to sulfites

If you struggle with dizziness, wheezing, itching or an upset stomach within minutes of drinking wine or beer, you could have sulphite sensitivity.

Doctors have told HuffPost UK they believe most people with a sensitivity to sulphites might not even know they have it.

Dr Kenny Livingstone, a registered GP and chief medical officer of ZoomDoc, explains that reactions to sulphites are uncommon and tricky to diagnose. “I suspect that most patients that have reactions to them are not even aware that these are potentially the cause,” he says.

Meanwhile Dr Clare Morrison, GP and medical advisor at Medexpress, believes sulphite sensitivity is “somewhat under-reported”, with symptoms being blamed on other causes such as asthma.

So what is it – and how do you know if you have it?

How to live with an allergy to sulfites

What Are Sulphites?

Sulphites have been used for decades in food and drink to preserve flavour and colour, and also to stop it spoiling. They are one of the 14 allergens that need to be labelled as part of the European Food Information to Consumers (FIC) Regulation – this is if the food contains sulphur dioxide or sulphites at levels above 10mg per kg or per litre.

They are found in wine vinegar, fermented foods, sauces, processed potato, Maraschino cherries, jams, jellies, some dried fruits, seafood and some bread, biscuits and pizza dough. They can also be found in processed meat, such as sausages and burgers.

Grape juice, some soft drinks, wine and beer also contain sulphites. They occur naturally, to help inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in those beverages.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sulphite Sensitivity?

The occurrence of sulphite sensitivity in the general population is thought to be less than 2%, but this rises to between 5-13% in asthmatics. Sulphite allergy is very rare, but those who are will have more extreme symptoms and reactions.

Those with asthma, eczema or hay fever may be more at risk of a sulphite sensitivity, according to Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, medical director for Bupa Health Clinics, and subsequently might experience symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, or hives, which is a red, raised itchy rash.

Other symptoms include general itchiness, upset stomach, rhinitis (a clear runny nose, sneezing, blocked or itchy nose), diarrhoea, flushing and dizziness.

Bodily reactions to sulphites can range from mild to severe, explains Dr Morrison, and can vary from person to person. There have been reported deaths, she says, though fortunately these are very rare.

How Is It Diagnosed?

It’s tricky to diagnose sulphite sensitivity or allergy. “Allergy testing for sulphite intolerance isn’t something that the NHS routinely offers, because such tests aren’t thought to be particularly reliable, or helpful,” says Dr Morrison.

Generally, the diagnosis is made by looking at what foods seem to trigger a reaction, she explains.

If you suspect you might be reacting to sulphites, both Dr Morrison and Amena Warner, Allergy UK’s head of clinical services, recommend keeping a food diary to show to your GP, which can help with the diagnosis.

“There are no validated tests for sensitivity apart from a trial elimination to see if the symptoms resolve.”

A food exclusion and reintroduction diet may be suggested, says Dr Thiyagarajan, which involves removing foods high in sulphites for a set period of time and then slowly re-introducing them into your diet to see if they cause symptoms.

“There are no validated tests for sensitivity apart from a trial elimination to see if the symptoms resolve,” adds Warner.

When To Get Urgent Help

If you have symptoms of sulphite sensitivity or allergy, read food labels carefully and avoid those containing sulphites.

In severe cases, sulphites can cause anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening if not treated quickly. People who experience a rash anywhere on the body, or symptoms such as swelling in the face, throat or mouth, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting, should seek emergency care immediately.

For more information on sulphite allergies and sensitivities, visit the NHS website.

How to live with an allergy to sulfites

Sulfites are found in many different foods. They are a common additive that does not usually cause problems for most people, but according to the Cleveland Clinic, sulfites may cause mild wheezing to serious asthmatic reactions. Usually, adults are affected by consuming sulfites in beer, wine, or other foods or drinks. Asthmatics can even be affected by breathing in the fumes from sulfites. These chemicals are frequently found in a variety of medications as well.

Many People Are Sensitive To Sulfites

Although most people who have a reaction after eating, drinking, or breathing sulfites have a sensitivity and not a true allergy to this substance, it is possible to have a sulfite allergy. Your allergist can perform a blood test, and if you have a sulfite allergy, you will have antibodies to sulfites present. A skin test is sometimes done in the allergist’s office, and if an allergy to this substance exists, a bump will develop on the skin. In some cases, doctors survey what a patient has eaten. They then evaluate how many times an allergic reaction occurs after eating foods that contain sulfites. If the patient develops an allergic reaction every time that a food containing sulfites is eaten, it is then presumed that the person has a sulfite sensitivity or allergy.

Common Symptoms of a Sulfite Sensitivity

If you consume one of the foods or drinks that contain sulfites, you might develop skin problems like a rash, hives, or itchy skin. Some people have nausea, stomach cramps, or diarrhea after eating or drinking items with sulfites. Another reaction can be respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, or tightness in your chest. The serious reaction, anaphylaxis, has also been reported in a few people who have had a serious allergic reaction to sulfites.

How to live with an allergy to sulfites

Sulfites refer to a group of chemical ingredients that are added to processed foods and drinks mainly to serve as a preservative.

Sulfite-containing ingredients can go by several names, including:

· Sulphur dioxide
· Sodium sulphite
· Sodium metabisulfite
· Calcium sulphite
· Potassium hydrogen sulphite

Sulfites are used to prevent browning/preserve color of foods, bleach flours, increase shelf life of processed foods, and maintain freshness.

Where are sulfites found?

Sulfites are commonly found in the following food and drink products:

· Dried fruit
· Shrimp & processed seafood
· Soup mixes
· Jams & jellies (sulfites present in pectin)
· Baked goods & refrigerated/frozen ready-to-bake dough products (sulfites used as dough conditioner)
· Canned fruit & vegetables
· Shredded coconut
· Molasses
· Pickled foods
· Beer & wine
· Prepackaged citrus juice (those cute little lemon-lime shaped bottles!)
· Grape juice
· Gravies
· Potato products – pre-cut, frozen, and dried, such as instant mashed potatoes
· Chips

Sulfites are also naturally occurring in some fresh foods, including:

· Fermented foods, like sauerkraut and sourdough
· Grapes
· Some cheeses, like packaged shredded cheese

Sulfites can even be found in some medications and personal care products!

Be sure to check ingredient labels and inform your healthcare practitioners and pharmacists if you suspect you’re sensitive or trying to avoid added sulfites.

What is sulfite intolerance – and are sulfites actually bad for you?

Government agencies consider sulfite ingredients as “generally recognized as safe” for human consumption at low concentrations. In most countries, like Canada, Australia, and the US, sulfites are required to be listed on all food and beverage labels.

However, Health Canada includes sulfites as a priority allergen. Although they do not cause true allergic reactions (IgE antibody reaction), they are still grouped with the priority food allergens because sulfite-sensitive individuals may react to sulfites with allergy-like symptoms. Because they do not illicit an IgE antibody reaction and can’t be considered a true allergy, there is no allergy testing available for sulfites.

The most at-risk population for sulfite intolerance are individuals diagnosed with asthma. It’s estimated that 3-10% of asthma sufferers are also sensitive to sulfite-containing products.

Those with impaired liver and/or kidney function may also be sensitive to sulfites. This is because the liver and kidneys normally contain high amounts of sulphite oxidase – the enzyme responsible for converting sulfites to the sulfate form for excretion. If you have decreased kidney function or your liver is sluggish, your ability to process the sulfites will be reduced.

The most commonly discussed symptoms related to sulfite intolerance can range from mild to severe and include:

· Inflammatory skin reactions, like hives, redness, and swelling
· Respiratory distress, like wheezing, coughing, and congestion
· Constricted airflow and/or asthma attack
· Anaphylactic shock
· Stomach upset and diarrhea

The effects of sulfur intolerance are much more expansive in their symptomology that listed above. Additional symptoms of sulfur intolerance include:

• Ammonia-smelling breath
• Egg-smelling and foul-smelling gas
• Diarrhea
• Frequent headaches
• Itchy skin
• Joint/ muscle – seizure and pain
• Difficulty controlling Candida / yeast overgrowth despite taking anti-fungals and probiotics
• Brain fog (most common symptom)
• Fatigue
• General malaise
• Difficulty breathing
• Hay fever like symptoms
• Seizures
• Nausea
• Problems – blood pressure
• A history of asthma and shortness of breath
• Bloated, gassy, and/or experiencing abdominal pain
• Often experience headaches, anxiety or tendency towards anger outbursts
• Experiencing flushing, sweats, or tend to have hot hands and feet
• A history of skin problems such as rashes, acne, eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis hives and other skin reactions
• Symptoms worsen when you consume alcohol or when you eat cruciferous greens and other sulfur containing foods such as garlic, onions, legumes and eggs
• Allergy to ‘sulfa-drugs’ / sulfonamides (certain antibiotics)
• Adverse reactions to supplements that contain a lot of sulfur, such as MSM, N-acetyl cysteine and TMG

If you notice any of the above symptoms following ingestion of sulfite-containing food or drink, you’re likely sensitive to sulfites, and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner for further testing.

Through the BIE (BioEnergetics) Process, we can determine how your body reacts with sulfur, sulfites, and sulfates to see if this is in part what is causing your symptoms and help bring your body back into balance.

If you want to find out more on the BIE Process and if you have a sulfur based sensitivity that is affecting your health, book in your free 30 min consultation with me below:

Sulfites in red wine causes headaches, right? How to live with an allergy to sulfites

Actually, the jury is still out on what exactly is to blame for the commonly-reported red wine-induced headache.

Wine contains significantly fewer sulfites compared to other products, such as dried fruit. If you don’t experience a headache after eating dried fruit, it’s unlikely sulfites in wine are causing your headache.

However, other ingredients in wine, such as histamine and tannins CAN cause headache. Of course, the alcohol itself found in wine may also cause a headache 😉

If you experience headaches after drinking wine, make sure you’re properly hydrated, or you may just need to avoid wine altogether!


So, should you avoid sulfites?

If you or a family member has asthma, you may want to consider removing sulfite-containing products from your home to minimize the risk of adverse reactions.

If you’re on a mission to improve gut health and/or trying to eat mostly natural foods without added chemicals, you’ll certainly want to avoid sulfite-containing foods.

The good news is that focusing on a whole foods diet made up of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats automatically eliminates exposure to most sources of sulfites!

(Just another perk your health can benefit from when you cut back on the amount of processed foods in your diet!)


Adverse reactions to the sulphite additives, Gastroenterology and Hepatology from Bed to Bench, 2012.

Background: Sulfites are in widespread use as preservatives/antioxidants. There is increasing recognition of allergic contact dermatitis caused by sodium metabisulfite; however, contact allergy to sodium sulfite is less well recognized.

Objectives: We sought to establish the prevalence of positive patch test reactions to sodium sulfite in our patient population and investigate its relationship with sodium metabisulfite.

Methods: Over a 4-month period, 183 patients referred for patch testing were tested with sodium sulfite 1% pet. in addition to sodium metabisulfite 1% pet., which already forms part of our baseline series.

Results: Positive allergic reactions occurred to sodium metabisulfite in 5.5% of the tested patients and to sodium sulfite in 3.8% of the tested patients. Sixty per cent of patients with a positive reaction to sodium metabisulfite were positive to sodium sulfite. Only 1 patient (0.6%) with a negative reaction to sodium metabisulfite showed a positive reaction to sodium sulfite.

Conclusions: This study shows that the majority of patients with positive reactions to sodium metabisulfite are also positive to sodium sulphite. Routinely patch testing with sodium sulfite is probably unnecessary, as most patients with positive reactions will also react to sodium metabisulfite. Clinicians should consider advising patients to avoid sodium sulfite and other sulfites when a positive allergic reaction to sodium metabisulfite occurs.

A: Sulfites get the lion’s share of blame when people have an allergic reaction to wine (or have a next-day reaction from overindulging), but according to allergist Neil Kao, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, only 1 percent of the general population has a true allergy to sulfites. That goes up to about 4 to 5 percent among people who have asthma. Kao says that an allergic reaction to sulfites would begin with tingling, redness, itching and a swollen tongue, and then depending on the severity, progress to hives or an asthma attack. For more information on other potential allergens read our previous Q&A on red wine headaches and the latest research on allergens in wine.

But none of this is particularly helpful to know if your guests want to avoid sulfites in wine and you need to serve them something fitting that bill. Here’s the deal: the fermentation process for wine produces very low levels of sulfites naturally, so there are few wines with no detectable sulfites. Many winemakers also add sulfites to wine after fermentation to increase the wine’s shelf-stability and prevent undesirable bacteria and yeast growth, but some don’t and they (or their importer) occasionally advertise themselves as such. One shortcut if you don’t want to do your own research: in the U.S., the certified organic label indicates that the wines were made without added sulfites (but note that that is different than wines with the “made with organic grapes” label, which can contain added sulfites). U.S. law requires that all wines with sulfites in excess of 10 parts per million be labeled with the disclaimer “contains sulfites,” but some people with sulfite allergies may be sensitive to wines with less than that amount.

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