Sulfites are used as preservatives that help some food products maintain their color and freshness. They are actually much more common in the food and drinks that you consume than you think. Sulfites have been added to wines for thousands of years to preserve its bold taste and rich red color. However, these chemicals have not been tested fully for safety in health. Some people’s immune system reacts aggressively to these chemicals and produces an allergic reaction. This allergy can be very subtle and unnoticeable while being very hard to avoid. Here is a natural sulfite allergy treatment that can help improve your general health and well-being.
What are Sulfites?
These diverse chemical compounds are mainly used to preserve foods and beverages for their aesthetic quality. They usually aren’t added to protect the food from pathogens, but they are added to protect the product from aging and the environment.
Sulfites are sulfur-based preservatives that are used to enhance the visual appearance of foods. For instance, they are used on shrimp and lobster to make sure that it keeps its white-red color rather than turning black and brown over time. The sulfites help maintain a delectable light pink color of the meat that looks delicious to seafood lovers.
The mechanism of action for sulfites is the chemical property that sulfur has to kill microorganisms and act as an antioxidant. (1)
Naturally, some foods will degrade over time and with exposure to oxygen. In the case of wine, this beverage will naturally lose its bright color and aroma over time. Without sulfites, wine would still be the same taste and quality as long as it is bottled and separated from oxygen. However, the wine will turn a visually disgusting brown-red color that doesn’t look appetizing to consumers. Nobody will be enticed to purchase it.
That’s why winemakers add sulfites to all their bottles.
Miscellanious Uses for Sulfites
Sulfites are also used in medications to help maintain their potency over time. They are the go-to preservatives used in pharmaceuticals because they have been proven to be least likely to cause health problems in people that consume them. This may be true, but some people react to them harshly and cause an immune reaction that may lead to chronic inflammation if consumed on a regular basis, which is very likely. (2)
On top of all this, sulfites are also used to bleach food starches, sugars, flours, and table salt. They can also be used on surfaces to prevent rust. Many food packaging companies that sell pre-cooked foods add sulfites to the water that they use to boil the food, notably vegetables, before they package it.
“Salad Bar Syndrome”
Sulfites are potentially toxic and harmful substances even in people that aren’t allergic or sensitive to them. They have been proven to cause nausea and diarrhea in large amounts. (3)
A phenomenon starting in the 1980’s known as “salad bar syndrome” particularly blames the excessive use of sulfites on the vegetables to preserve them in the presence of oxygen for a long period of time. Since food sits out at salad bars often for days at a time, the vegetables were drenched in sulfites to prevent browning and infection by pathogens.
Many people started to complain of severe symptoms from swelling, lung problems, and bowel issues to headaches and nervous system disorders during the time when salad bars started to become popular. The correlation between eating a salad bar and developing these symptoms was quickly made and then researchers started to examine the effects of sulfites on the body. (4)
Sources of Sulfites
Drinks: Cordials, some fruit juice, beer and wine, soft drinks, instant tea
Misc Drinks: Commercial lemon and lime juice, vinegar, grape juice
Commercial food: Dried potatoes, gravies, sauces, fruit toppings, cherries, pickled onions, maple syrup, jams, jelly, some biscuits and breads, pie, pizza dough
Fruit: Dried apricot, dried grapes, any dried or preserved fruit, coconut
Salads: Restaurants may add sulfites to vegetables to preserve color
Seafood: Sulfur powder often added to shellfish to preserve the meat’s color
Meat: Sulfites sometimes added to sausage meat, but this is illegal almost everywhere.
Topical Medication: Some eye drops and skin creams
Injectable medication: Epinephrine, isoprenaline, phenylephrine, some corticosteroids, dopamine, dental anaesthetics, some antibiotics
Research on Adverse Reactions to Sulfites
In the United States, more than 350 cases of severe immune reactions to sulfites have been reported. This includes anaphylactic shock, asthma attacks, urticaria, angioedema, nausea, diarrhea, seizures, and death. Six deaths have been associated with an overdose of sulfites preservatives.
Once consumed, sulfites will be immediately processed by your body because it is absorbed quickly into the blood stream. If you are sulfite allergic or sensitive, you will know that you consumed them within a few minutes because your body will start to react. (5)
Sulfites can trigger an immune response that triggers an IgE-mediated mechanism, which is associated with immediate inflammation that tries to rid the harmful particle from the body as quickly as possible. This reaction can be fatal, though.
Studies on adverse reactions to sulfites have recently determined that sulfites are not safe preservatives. Health organizations now strongly urge companies to use alternatives to sulfating agents. Citric acid one to two percent can prevent browning of vegetables almost as efficiently as sulfites. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is also effective and can extend shelf life of produce by up to 7 days. These natural alternatives can be considered to be advantageous to health because they are nutrients that can be used by the body and don’t trigger immune reactions. (6)
Sulfite Allergy Symptoms
For the past twenty years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States has started to require winemakers to display the warning “contains sulfites” if the levels exceed the threshold for acceptable and healthy amounts of sulfites. Many companies voluntarily add this warning to the label of their products as well.
Sulfite allergy symptoms that some people can develop after exposure include:
- Severe headache and migraine
- Swelling of the lips and mouth
- Wheezing and trouble breathing
- Asthma attacks
These reactions are very dangerous. If you have determined that you have a sulfite allergy, it is very important to avoid sulfites whatever it takes.
Sulfite Sensitivity Symptoms
Aside from being fully allergic to sulfites, your body may produce mild inflammation that is not fatal. Although, these symptoms can impact your physical well-being dramatically and you should definitely try to avoid sulfites as well.
Symptoms of sulfite sensitivity in certain individuals can include:
- Itching skin or rash
- Hay fever symptoms
- Worsening of asthma
- Swelling lips or throat
Recognize Sulfites on Ingredient Labels
If you think that you are sensitive to sulfites, check for these ingredients on food labels so that you can avoid them. The closer that these ingredients are to the front of the list indicates how much of it is in the product. If it is the last ingredients, there will likely be smaller amounts of it in comparison to the others.
- 220: Sulphur dioxide
- 221: Sodium sulfite
- 222: Sodium bisulfite
- 223: Sodium metabisulfite
- 224: Potassium metabisulfite
- 226: Calcium sulphite
- 227: Calcium bisulfite
- 228: Potassium bisulfite
Natural Sulfite Allergy Treatment
Quercetin is a natural flavonoid that is used for its anti-histamine properties. It is excellent for naturally treating all kinds of allergies and sensitivities. It has been proven safe to consume and won’t cause any undesired side effects. This would make quercetin a great sulfite allergy treatment.
Garlic is very effective in treating and preventing the symptoms of sensitivities. Although it won’t provide any relief for sulfite allergies, it can do wonders for those with sensitivities. In addition, garlic will cleanse your digestive tract and bloodstream of infectious pathogens that cause illness. The benefits of garlic have been proven thoroughly over thousands of years. It is best taken in high doses in supplement form for sulfite allergy treatment.
One of the most recommended ways to treat and cure the root causes of any allergy is with the help of symbiotic organisms. These probiotic bacteria will help regulate your bodily processes and digest anything that comes down through your mouth. If you have a healthy amount and variety of intestinal flora, these organisms will prevent allergic reactions and produce many nutrients for you as a “thank you” for being their home. Here’s a world famous probiotic that has been proven to survive stomach acid and colonize the intestines easily. It will help tremendously for sulfite allergy treatment.
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