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Vinegar is a fermented condiment that packs a flavorful punch. But some peeps say it can cause some not-so-rad reactions.
But can you actually be allergic to vinegar?
A bad reaction to vinegar is a symptom of a food intolerance or sensitivity. It’s not an allergy. A legit allergy will trigger an immune system response.
Here are the deets on vinegar intolerances.
With a true allergy, your body will produce immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These are meant to protect you from an allergen, but can also cause severe symptoms.
Vinegar can cause some symptoms that are similar to a real allergic reaction (e.g., swelling of your tongue, throat, or lips). But it won’t be caused by an antigen-specific immune response.
Generally, peeps aren’t intolerant to vinegar as a whole. You might just have a sensitivity to one or more of its ingredients. These include:
- acetic acid
The difference between allergies and food sensitivities comes down to your immune system and digestive system, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.
When you’re intolerant to food, your body can’t digest it properly. But when you’re allergic to food, your immune system sees it as a threat and reacts.
Here’s a deep dive into what might behind your vinegar sensitivity.
Salicylate is a type of salicylic acid that’s found naturally in foods. Synthetic versions can also be found in medications and skin care products. Salicylate levels in vinegar vary from brand-to-brand.
Your chances of having a salicylate sensitivity are higher if you have:
- inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- nasal polyps (noncancerous growths inside your nose)
Histamine is a naturally occurring compound that helps your immune system respond to potential threats. Vinegar can contain high amounts of histamine and can even make your body produce more of it.
Histamine intolerance still isn’t 10/10 understood. But a research review showed there are some factors that might play a part. This includes:
- enzyme deficiencies
P.S. A small study found that unbalanced levels of gut bacteria could contribute to histamine intolerance as well.
Sulfites are common food preservatives. They’re added to tons of foods to bump up their shelf life. Fermented foods and bevvies can also contain natural sulfite levels.
Sulfites are common in:
- pickles and relishes
- some alcoholic beverages (like cider, wine, and beer)
Generally, small intakes of sulfite won’t lead to any issues. But consuming concentrated amounts could cause a reaction.
BTW, about 70 percent of folks with sulfite sensitivity also have asthma, according to the Gastrointestinal Society.
Acetic acid intolerance
According to Public Health England, a typical vinegar is about 4% to 18% acetic acid. This is a byproduct created during the fermentation process.
Acetic acid intolerance isn’t very common. But you might experience it if you down beaucoup vinegar in one sitting.
Reactions to acetic acid can also occur when you drink alcohol or are exposed to certain cleaning products that contain it.
Can you be intolerant to balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar?
Yup. Balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar are both fermented products. That means they could trigger a reaction like vinegar.
Vinegar reactions can totes vary from person-to-person. It all depends on what specific compound(s) you don’t tolerate well.
Here’s a breakdown of what symptoms could be linked to each ingredient.
|Salicylate sensitivity||Histamine intolerance||Sulfite sensitivity||Acetic acid intolerance|
|nasal polyps||stomach discomfort||stomach pain|
|swollen mouth, tongue, or lips||congestion||itchy skin|
|rapid heard rate||shortness of breath|
Alas, there’s currently no cure for vinegar intolerances. But they can be managed!
The first step is making sure vinegar is behind your symptoms. Your doctor or an allergist will work with you to analyze your symptoms. You can also do a DIY food intolerance test at home (but these might not be as reliable).
Keep in mind, vinegar contains a lot of different compounds. Pinpointing which one(s) you’re sensitive to can be tricky.
Sometimes limiting your vinegar intake can reduce your risk of a flare-up. But you may have to cut it out of your diet altogether.
There’s also a chance you’ll need to ditch other foods that contain sulfites, salicylates, histamine, or acetic acid.
Kicking vinegar to the curb may sound easy. But it’s in many foods you wouldn’t suspect. Here are the fermented facts.
Avoid these foods with vinegar
Vinegar pops up in a ton of foods and drinks. Common culprits include:
- pickled foods
- salad dressings
- soups and stews
Sub these foods for vinegar
You don’t have to say goodbye to vinegar’s forceful flavor. Some great substitutes are:
- tamarind paste
- tart cherry, grape, or cranberry juice
- citrus juice (e.g. lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit)
Your doctor or a registered dietician can help you come up with more subs that work with your specific sensitivities.
PSA: A simple switcheroo won’t always stave off your symptoms. Popular condiments like soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce contain some of the same compounds as vinegar. Always check the product label before chowing down.
Vinegar can trigger symptoms similar to an allergic reaction. This includes a swollen tongue, asthma, stomach probs, or itchy skin. Folks with asthma or gastrointestinal conditions might be at a higher risk of developing an allergic reaction.
Your doc or an allergist can help analyze if vinegar might be to blame. If you are sensitive to it, there’s a chance you can still enjoy it in small doses. But you may have to ditch it from your diet for good.