Garlic can be a delicious seasoning for some but bad news for those who are allergic or intolerant 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. Most people experience intolerance while garlic allergy is rare. If the problem is intolerance, it may be because you lack the digestive enzymes needed to digest foods, like garlic, high in fructans.
Fructans are carbohydrates that are completely malabsorbed which leads to bloating, gas and digestive pain. Those with garlic intolerance are likely to be sensitive to onions, wheat and miscellaneous other veggies and fruit, high in fructans.
Symptoms of intolerance may include diarrhea, stomach ache, vomiting, indigestion or burping. Those with an intolerance/sensitivity to garlic will have milder symptoms and may find they can tolerate some, but not a lot.
Allergy may result in breathing problems, asthma or in severe cases, anaphylactic shock. Garlic can produce reactions whether it’s dried or fresh.
Individuals lacking the enzyme for fructans are not having an allergic or autoimmune reaction. To assess your sensitivity, eliminate garlic and other fructan-containing foods for 6-8 weeks and then slowly reintroduce one test food every four days. If you react to a food, do not test another for two weeks.
Shopping for ready-made foods free of garlic or eating out will pose problems whether you have an allergy or intolerance. When eating out, ask for no garlic and bring your own salad dressing. If you have intolerance, you can get the taste of garlic without the garlic. Saute garlic in oil (works for onion too) and then discard the garlic.
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.
Those who suspect they have issues with garlic can try eliminating it from their diet, or the second option is to have a blood test to measure the immune system’s response to certain foods, spices, herbs, and/or inhalants.
I had a blood test done 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.
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.