Pseudoallergies - Triggers, Pseudoallergic Syndromes

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Pseudoallergies - Triggers, Pseudoallergic Syndromes
Pseudoallergies - Triggers, Pseudoallergic Syndromes
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Pseudo allergies

Pseudoallergy is another term for intolerance. It is therefore an “apparent” allergy, the symptoms of which can nevertheless take on a pronounced character. The symptoms associated with a pseudo-allergy / intolerance, such as breathing difficulties, nettle rashes and skin rashes, sudden reddening of the skin on the face and throat, and complaints in the gastrointestinal area, can simulate a real allergy, but they are never as dangerous. In contrast to the "real" allergy, the immune system is not involved in a pseudo-allergy.


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In the case of a pseudo-allergy, larger amounts of the trigger are usually necessary to cause symptoms; small amounts are often tolerated. Since no allergy-specific immunoglobulins are formed in a pseudo-allergy, diagnosis is more difficult than in an immediate-type allergy. Pseudo allergies to food are more common than real food allergies.

What are the causes of a pseudo allergy?

Pseudo allergies can be triggered by:

  • Naturally occurring substances in food such as biogenic amines (e.g. tyramine or histamine), salicylic acid and benzoic acid esters. Biogenic amines are substances that arise when protein is broken down. The content is particularly high in herring, caviar, certain types of cheese, grapes, sauerkraut, canned fish, red wine and tomatoes. Probably the best known representative of a pseudoallergy is the reaction to the biogenic amine histamine, the histamine intolerance.

    High amounts of salicylic acid are found in berries, oranges, apricots, pineapples, cucumbers, olives, grapes and wine.

  • Food additives such as preservatives, colorings and flavorings as well as flavor enhancers; The so-called " China Restaurant Syndrome " is known. In this pseudo-allergy, sensitive people react to the flavor enhancer (monosodium) glutamate. This additive is used in large quantities, especially in Asian dishes. Minutes to hours after consumption, those affected react with headache, flushing, neck stiffness, sweating, breathing difficulties, dizziness and even racing heart.
  • Some people are also sensitive to sulfur compounds: To avoid discoloration in food, sulfites and other sulfur-containing compounds are added as antioxidants. For example, dried, sulfurized apricots stay orange and do not turn brown. High amounts are found in wine and dried fruits in particular. Hypersensitivity leads to asthmatic symptoms, facial redness and swelling or itching.

According to current EU law, additives must be listed on food labels - either by name or as an E number. Only aromas, which can consist of different chemical and protein components, do not have to be declared more precisely, the umbrella term "aroma" is permitted. Exception: If there is an allergenic substance in the aroma, this must be explained in detail (e.g. celery aroma).

What are the symptoms?

If the symptoms of a pseudo-allergic reaction are similar to a real allergy, it is still not an allergy in the immunological sense. There is a particularly frequent pseudo-allergic reaction to certain additives and biogenic amines such as histamine in food.

Pseudo-allergy to additives

trigger for example contained in possible symptoms
Benzoic acid, benzoate (preservative

E 210–219)

various drinks (e.g. lemonades) and spirits (<15 percent alcohol by volume), shrimp and crab products, herring (matjes, Russian), liquid whole eggs or egg yolks, marinated vegetables, delicatessen salads, mustard; outside of sausage and ham products to preserve their color; naturally also in fruits, vegetables, tea and cocoa Hives, rash, asthma
Sulphites, sulfur dioxide


E 220-228)

Wine, fruit juice, dried fruit, marinated vegetables (especially onions and garlic), sauerkraut acute asthma, flushing of the face, hives, itching, swelling of the face (angioedema)
(Monosodium) glutamate (flavor enhancer

E 620–625)

salty ready meals, especially in Asian dishes Headache, feeling of tension in the face, sweating, chest pain, dizziness, tingling in the fingers, shoulder and neck area (so-called China-Restaurant-Syndrome)

Pseudo-allergy to biogenic amines

trigger for example contained in possible complaints
histamine fermented foods such as sauerkraut, matured raw sausages (e.g. salami), anchovies, sardines, canned tuna, sour milk cheese attack-like reddening of the skin (especially décolleté), rash or itching, headache, drop in blood pressure
histamine-releasing substances

(histamine liberators)

Chocolate, haddock, strawberries, tomatoes, peanuts, wine, pineapple, pork like with histamine
Tyramine Cheeses such as cheddar cheese, camembert; Brewer's yeast, Chianti wine, canned fish Headache (migraine-like), reddening of the skin and rash
Phenylethylamine Chocolate, long-aged cheese, red wine Headache (migraine-like)
  • Further information can be found under Labeling ingredients in food.
  • You can find a list of all E numbers used throughout Europe on the website of the Lower Austrian Chamber of Labor.
  • Further information on allergen labeling can be found in the brochure of the Chamber of Labor "Food Labeling".

Further information on biogenic amines is available from AGES

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