Garlic can be a delicious seasoning for some but bad news for those who are allergic to it. The spice, prized for its flavor, is added to numerous foods making it difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.
About two percent of the population is allergic/intolerant to spices, such as garlic. Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach ache, vomiting, indigestion, breathing problems, asthma or in severe cases, anaphylactic shock. Garlic can produce allergic reactions whether it’s dried or fresh. Some individuals have mild symptoms and can tolerate some, while others must totally avoid it.
Garlic allergy is rare but that doesn’t lessen the problem for those with it. Try to find condiments or other ready-made foods free of garlic. It’s like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Many foods that the average person adds to their grocery cart without a second thought can spell disaster. Imagine marinara or pizza sauce without garlic, or what about salsa or ketchup? Garlic is commonly added to restaurant entrees as well as frozen meals, soups, pickles and Asian sauces. In some cases, onions and chives, which are in the same food family, must be avoided.
Many individuals with food allergies can find “alternative” products at health food stores. That is not the case with garlic. Health food shoppers want the spice in their products because garlic is valued for its health-promoting properties.
The problem is further compounded by labeling laws which allow food processors to list the all-encompassing term, “spices,” without being specific. For instance, chili powder contains garlic but may not have it on the label. Eating a product with such labeling would be like playing Russian roulette, especially for someone who is severely allergic. Should you eat the item and hope nothing happens, or give it a try and possibly suffer the consequences?
Those who suspect they have issues with garlic can try eliminating it from their diet for at least two weeks. Of course, that may be easier said than done. The second option is to have a blood test to measure the immune system’s response to certain foods, spices, herbs, and/or inhalants. The results will indicate no reaction or one that is delayed, sometimes hours or even days after exposure. The third kind of reaction is immediate, as in anaphylactic shock.
I had a blood test several years ago because I have multiple food intolerances. The blood test helped me pinpoint which foods were the culprits. One of them was garlic which was totally off my radar. I am still able to enjoy garlic in small amounts because my sensitivity is mild. It took me awhile to figure out exactly how much my body can tolerate without consequences.
Take action if you would like better labeling laws to protect individuals sensitive to spices. Call or write food manufacturers who do not name garlic or other spices in their ingredients. Let them know their lax labeling may be harming individuals. Inform them that you cannot buy their products unless garlic-free versions are made available.