My Unusual Food Triggers

I was having a bit of a difficult time deciding what to write about this month. I usually come up with ideas that I source from the website forums and trending Google searches. This month, I found myself experiencing a bit of writer's block.

So I turned to the ever-helpful email with suggestions from our editors and saw an abundance of topic suggestions around food that triggers atopic dermatitis (eczema) flares.

Reading this got me thinking about my lack of experience and understanding of food-related eczema triggers. You see, I don’t experience this type of trigger myself anymore. I realized I knew almost nothing about food and its relationship with atopic dermatitis.

What was my experience with food allergies?

As far as I know, I have only experienced one “food” allergy, and only during my childhood. It is quite an odd one as far as food allergies go. It’s a chemical colorant compound called tartrazine, or yellow #5.1

How did we pinpoint the allergy?

We found out it was tartrazine by process of elimination. Our family doctor instructed us to keep a diary of everything I ate and record when symptoms occurred. Doing this over time would illuminate any patterns that may be hard to notice.

After a few months, a pattern began to emerge that would lead us to the discovery of my tartrazine allergy. The diary showed that I often had symptoms starting on Sunday that extended into Monday and Tuesday. This same situation would happen every week when we went for brunch after church on Sundays. I always ordered different meals but would have orange juice each time.

I didn’t seem to have symptoms come up other than when I would have Vicks's throat lozenges during the winter when I would get sore throats – orange-flavored Vicks throat lozenges.

How was my eczema related?

After about a year of experiencing symptoms and tracking my diet, my doctor decided that tartrazine was the likely culprit and to be mindful of consuming products that contained it.

Once I cut out the weekly orange juice with my brunch and learned to identify tartrazine in ingredient labels, the stomach upsets and skin rashes it caused stopped. Looking back, it seems that there was a relationship between my tartrazine allergy and my atopic dermatitis. Hindsight is 20/20, I guess.

Have I had orange juice since?

I will admit that the experience did cause me to develop quite an aversion to orange juice and citrus throat lozenges for several years. Probably a decade after my last tartrazine reaction, I buckled and had some orange juice. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I did not have to endure a rash or stomach cramps after.

Hesitantly, I tried it a few more times and found my allergic symptoms continued to stay dormant.

Am I still allergic to food dye?

It has been many years since tartrazine has bothered me as it did when I was young. I still find myself being mindful about reading ingredients – especially when eating orange, red, or yellow food products. Nowadays, my eczema triggers are mainly environmental and autoimmune. I don’t have any food sensitivities anymore, so I count myself lucky. Navigating around a specific ingredient is time-consuming.

I thought I knew nothing about food triggers when I began writing this article. Then, as I began thinking more about it, memories of my experiences with tartrazine came flooding back! Memory is funny that way.

Do you have any unusual food triggers? Let me know in the comments!

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