Spice allergy: Sugar and spice and everything not so nice

November 8, 2012

Imagine a world where you could never dine away from home, wear makeup, smell of sweet perfumes or eat a large percentage of food on store shelves. According to allergists at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting that is kicking off today in Anaheim, Calif., that is the world for 2 to 3 percent of individuals living with a spice allergy.

Spices are one of the most widely used products found in foods, cosmetics and . The U.S. does not regulate spices, meaning they often are not noted on , making spices possibly the most difficult to identify or avoid. According to rough estimates, spice allergy is responsible for 2 percent of food allergies. However it is underdiagnosed, particularly due to the lack of reliable allergy skin tests or blood tests.

"While spice allergy seems to be rare, with the constantly increasing use of spices in the and a variety of cosmetics, we anticipate more and more Americans will develop this allergy," said allergist Sami Bahna, M.D., ACAAI past president. "Patients with spice allergy often have to go through extreme measures to avoid the allergen. This can lead to strict dietary avoidance, low quality of life and sometimes malnutrition."

In his presentation, Dr. Bahna noted that due to the wide use of spice in cosmetics, women are more likely to develop spice allergy. Makeup, body oils, toothpaste and fragrances can all include one or more spices. Those with birch pollen or mugwort (a traditional herbal medicine used to relieve ) allergy are also more prone to spice allergy.

Common spice allergy triggers include cinnamon and garlic, but can range from to vanilla. Several spice blends contain anywhere from three to 18 spices, and the hotter the spice, the greater the chance for allergy.

"Boiling, roasting, frying and other forms of applying heat to spices may reduce allergy causing agents, but can also enhance them depending on the spice," said Dr. Bahna. "Because of this allergy's complexity, allergists often recommend a treatment plan that includes strict avoidance which can be a major task."

An allergic reaction can be caused from breathing, eating or touching spices. Symptoms range from mild sneezing to a life-threating allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. According to Dr. Bahna, spice allergy should be suspected in individuals that have multiple reactions to unrelated foods, or those that react to foods when commercially prepared but not when cooked at home.

Even someone that is allergic to only one known spice can have a reaction to several spice blends. According to Dr. Bahna's presentation, there are several unique characteristics about spice blends, including:

  • A Five-Spice blend has seven spices, yet Allspice has one
  • The same blend name doesn't mean same components
  • There are several types of Curry, each is a different blend of many spices

Explore further: 'Apple allergy': Symptoms could be significantly reduced with apple-allergen treatment

Related Stories

'Apple allergy': Symptoms could be significantly reduced with apple-allergen treatment

October 19, 2012
The food allergy associated with birch pollen is a condition commonly found alongside an allergy to birch pollen. Sufferers are plagued by swelling and reddening or itching in the mouth and throat area, for example when they ...

New food allergy model for fenugreek developed

December 14, 2011
A mouse model to investigate allergy to fenugreek has been developed by Norwegian researchers. The model can also be used to study cross-reactivity to peanut, soy and lupin, major food allergens with public health relevance.

Antioxidant spices reduce negative effects of high-fat meal

August 10, 2011
Eating a diet rich in spices, like turmeric and cinnamon, reduces the body's negative responses to eating high-fat meals, according to Penn State researchers.

Many restaurant staff are undertrained and misinformed about food allergies

April 14, 2011
A new study published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy reveals that there is no association between a restaurant worker's knowledge of food allergy and his or her confidence in being able to provide a safe meal to a food ...

The Medical Minute: Food allergies -- testing and diagnosis

May 9, 2012
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Milk and cookies. Comfort food, or food to fear?

Recommended for you

Genetic immune deficiency could hold key to severe childhood infections

July 18, 2017
A gene mutation making young children extremely vulnerable to common viruses may represent a new type of immunodeficiency, according to a University of Queensland researcher.

What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma?

July 18, 2017
What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma in adults? This can be tricky because asthma can stem from several causes and treatment often depends on what is triggering the asthma.

Large multi-ethnic study identifies many new genetic markers for lupus

July 17, 2017
Scientists from an international consortium have identified a large number of new genetic markers that predispose individuals to lupus.

Study finds molecular explanation for struggles of obese asthmatics

July 17, 2017
A large, bouquet-shaped molecule called surfactant protein A, or SP-A, may explain why obese asthma patients have harder-to-treat symptoms than their lean and overweight counterparts, according to a new study led by scientists ...

Team identifies potential cause for lupus

July 14, 2017
Leading rheumatologist and Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Professor Betty Diamond, MD, may have identified a protein as a cause for the adverse reaction of the immune system in patients suffering from lupus. A better ...

Immunosuppression underlies resistance to anti-angiogenic therapy

July 14, 2017
A Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) research team has identified a novel mechanism behind resistance to angiogenesis inhibitors - drugs that fight cancer by suppressing the formation of new blood vessels. In their report ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.