Why does broccoli makes my mouth itch??

bowl of vegetables

“Mom can you please not put raw broccoli on the salad? It makes my mouth itch.” My daughter said to me one evening when she saw me making a salad for dinner. I needed to go to the grocery store so I was tossing little bits of everything I had on the salad hoping it would be enough to feed my crew: radishes, 3 piece of salami, 1 yellow pepper, pepperocinis, feta cheese, 1 tomato, 1/2 a cucumber, a handful of mushrooms, proscutto, and some walnuts. Sans broccoli. She asked me, “Why does it do that to me? You eat raw broccoli and it doesn’t hurt you, right?”

I get asked questions about food sensitivties all the time. “If it is a food allergy what kind of reaction should I watch for?” “What are the foods you can have a reaction too?” “Could _________ (food/ingredient) be something I am having an issue with?” “Is __________ (insert symptom here) a sign something is bothering me?”

Allergy vs sensitivity/intolerance

Before I dive into answer these questions I think it’s important to take a step back and talk about what is an allergy? A true allergy causes an immediate response (generally within 15-30 minutes) and produces an IgE antibody (called allergens). The common reactions to these food or enviornmental factors are asthma, hayfever, & eczema but this is the type of reaction that is capable of causing anaphylactic shock.

A sensitivity/intolerance can look very different. The food or enviornmental factor that causes the reaction creates a chemical reaction in the body called an antigen. This may be a result in IgM, IgG antibodies, or no antibodies at all. They do not cause anaphylactic reactions. These reactions often look more like chronic health conditions and a reaction can happen immediately or up to 72 hours later. 1 Due to the long term chronic conditions they illicit it can be much harder to nail down what the culprit is in the case of these hypersensitivties.

How do we figure it out?

If you go to your doctors office and get allergy tested the typical test that is done is only checking on those IgE reactions. In other words, it will be able to tell you if you are celiac or what food/enviornmental factor is causing hayfever or anaphylaxis but not if you are experiencing joint pain as a result of consuming almonds. This is also yet another factor that makes it tricky to identify a hypersensitivity. As a result it doesn’t always tell us the whole story.

But there are two really good options at your disposal to identify what are your triggers. If it is an enviornmental allergen you may notice it gets relieved, or flares up, when you go somewhere new, inside, outside, or on a trip. Seasonal allergies often get rolled up into this group but cleaning products, fumes that are released from new bedding, carpet, scents in bath products/soaps/laundry detergent, etc. can all be problematic for some people. Sometimes just being aware that these different products can have ingredients that cause reactions is enough to help us hone in on what our body is trying to tell us.

ball point pen on opened notebook

Foods can be tricky. Espcially when eating a lot of packaged foods or going out to eat. A simple exercise that may help to identify what could be the problem is to keep a food journal for a few days. While writing down everything you eat be sure to also include how you feel each day throughout the day. If you go out to eat, or eat with some friends, and notice a reaction to something make a note of it and as you gather more information that may help you identify more information. The key here is not to let yourself get discouraged because you don’t have all the information. Just record your reactions and move on. Overtime you will find a trend that you can dig into. It is important to note that when you eliminate a food that is causing problems and then reintroduce it you may have a more severe reaction as you reintroduce it. This is normal. It can be due to the fact that you are more able to hear what your body is saying. Or you may notice new reactions to things you didn’t know were a problem. Again this is normal. If you have identified and eliminated a key trigger of inflammation as your body calms down the other triggers are able to communicate to us more effectively. In other words, you feel the effects of them more accutely, whereas before it was lost in the malase of, “I don’t feel good when I eat period.”

Another thing you can do is have a food panel allergy test done that checks for all the differernt types of Ig antibodies. These are typically tests that needs to be paid for out of pocket but the good news is they aren’t super expensive. I have one that I run in my practice for my clients that tells a lot of the story that is hard to nail down. For example, I had a client I was working with that knew dairy and enriched grains were a problem for her. What she didn’t know, that became apparant through the allergy test, was that cumin was also a problem for her. She eliminated all of them and after a month noticed some pretty drastic composition changes in her body, including going down an entire pant size!

Listen to your body!

In summary, if you believe you have food allergys/sensistivites and you aren’t sure, start by being aware that almost any food, and any ailment, can be a result of a food reaction. We are all unique and the ways our body’s respond to things is too. There is not a typical food that causes a ______________(typical reaction). But don’t ignore things either! If you are hurting, in pain, or uncomfortable that is your body’s way of saying, “All is not well.” A whole host of new issues can result if we ignore our bodies and continue consuming/interacting with things that cause flare ups. So learn to be a better listener to your body! Don’t settle for feeling crummy any longer!

If you feel stuck and not sure how to proceed reach out to me! This is something I help people with when we meet for nutritional therapy. I have free discovery calls and am always happy to chat and talk about what we could do to support your body!

  1. Nutritional Therapy Association Immune Student Guide

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