Pseudoallergies: itching caused by additives

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Pseudo-allergies: Diet can cause itching

Many of the foods we consume today come from a can, pack, or bag. Frozen pizza, bag soup and Co. are practical, but not all people can tolerate the flavor enhancers they contain. It, as well as dyes and preservatives, can trigger pseudo-allergies with itching.

Symptoms like real allergy Itchy skin, runny nose and swollen throat: everything points to a conventional allergy. However, doctors often find no evidence of an allergic reaction. If so, a so-called pseudo-allergy could be behind the complaints. The symptoms correspond to those of a real allergy, but the symptoms have a completely different cause. They can be caused primarily by colorings and preservatives in food. The search for the exact triggers is often tedious for those affected.

Pseudoallergies are much rarer. The term pseudoallergy could suggest that the person affected only imagines allergic symptoms. But that is not the case. As Richard Raedsch from the Professional Association of German Internists (BDI) in Wiesbaden said, those affected often suffer severely. Even if the symptoms are the same in every detail, unlike real allergies, the immune system is not involved in pseudoallergies. In practice, pseudo-allergies are much rarer than real allergies. Studies assume that at most one in a hundred people will suffer from it. “When a patient comes to the practice with the typical symptoms, the doctor will therefore first do an allergy test. Most of them found the trigger for the symptoms, ”says Jörg Kleine-Tebbe from the German Society for Allergology and Clinical Immunology. "Only when the allergy test remains without a result does a doctor think about what may be behind it." Pseudoallergy is one option.

Patients expect lengthy diagnostics However, the suspicion of a pseudo-allergy is difficult to check. Raedsch, who works as the chief physician at St. Josephs Hospital in Wiesbaden, said: "There are no blood or skin tests that can be used to confirm a pseudoallergy." Patients and doctors have to prepare for lengthy diagnostics instead. “First of all, I let a patient tell me exactly what he has consumed. Then you can try to narrow down which additives a patient reacts to with symptoms, ”says Raedsch. After that, patients often have to go on an elimination diet. "This means that you have to completely avoid all ingredients that can trigger a pseudoallergy for a few weeks," explained Christine Behr-Völtzer, professor of nutritional science and dietetics at the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg. For the time being, many types of fruit, ready meals and sweets will be deleted from the menu. The nutritionist said you were on the right track if the symptoms improved with such a diet. "In the next step, you have to find out exactly which additive a patient with symptoms reacts to." For this, foods with certain additives are either reintroduced step by step according to a precise diet plan, or the patient takes in individual additives in the doctor's office or even in a clinic Tablet form to itself.

The number of possible triggers is enormous However, the number of possible triggers for a pseudo-allergy is enormous. "Preservatives such as sorbic acid, benzoic acid or sulfur dioxide are suitable," says Raedsch. “Flavorings in lemonade, in pasta fillings or ready meals are also triggers. In addition, there are artificial colors. ”Even though many of them have their E number on the packaging, some of the flavorings are also found in natural foods such as fruit. Raedesch emphasized that the multitude of possible triggers made the diagnosis so complex. And Behr-Völtzer said: "The goal in any case is to narrow down the triggers as closely as possible." After clarifying exactly what is causing the problems, the person concerned can learn from dietary advice which foods they can safely eat despite their pseudoallergy. "In the end, it is about a patient being able to eat largely normally again," said the nutrition expert.

Nutrition with a very high quality standard However, the experts warn against excessive caution in connection with artificial additives in food. "There are very few patients who cannot tolerate modern food additives," says Kleine-Tebbe. “Our diet has a very high quality standard. Nevertheless, more and more people are worried about suffering damage from modern nutrition. “Nowadays, many are simply over-cautious and already sense an intolerance behind every feeling of discomfort. Behr-Völtzer emphasized that some additives would also have great benefits: “Today we live in such a way that we rarely produce our food freshly. Without preservatives, long storage would quickly lead to serious illnesses after consumption. “So those who do not suffer from an allergy or an intolerance to such ingredients should not have to worry about their health.

Tricks and delusions when specifying food additives The current practice in the food industry when specifying additives does not make it easier for those affected, because many manufacturers advertise their products with information such as "Free from preservatives", although these are often only exchanged for other ingredients . Consumer advocates warn that this will mislead consumers. For example with the note "Free from flavor enhancers", which does not really deliver what it promises. Because, as Martin Rücker of the Foodwatch consumer organization told the dpa news agency last year, products sometimes contained yeast extract instead of flavor enhancers. "Before food law, this is not a flavor enhancer, but it does have a flavor-enhancing effect." "Free of preservatives" is also one of the tips that consumers could easily deceive. For example, acetic acid has been used to preserve food for thousands of years, but according to the law it doesn't have to be identified as a preservative, explained Silke Schwartau from the Hamburg Consumer Center last year. That is why it is contained in many products that bear the imprint “Free of preservatives”. (sb)

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