There's Food in Your Medication - And You Might Be Allergic

Food allergies only occur from foods you eat, right? Wrong!

We all tend to forget that many medications and supplements are made with food products. It makes sense that if you have a food allergy that even if it’s in your medication you may have an allergic reaction. The problem is that so many people are unaware of the food substances put in medications or supplements.

In the June 2014 issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Dr. John Kelso, an expert on adverse allergic drug reactions, goes in detail on what medications have foods components in them.

Let’s start with the dangerous peanut allergy. Any child or person with peanut allergy knows to avoid many foods that may contain peanuts: cookies, ice cream or cakes. It’s very important that post-menopausal woman who need hormone replacement be aware that progesterone capsules contain peanut oil. Women want to prevent hot flashes, but you don’t want to trade that for an anaphylactic(a severe allergic) reaction. I tell patients that want to take progesterone that have a peanut allergy to get it specially compounded at a Compounding pharmacy without peanut which can be done.

Shellfish is another common food allergy. I had an interesting case many years ago, where a patient came to me complaining of urticarial(hives). I did a food evaluation on him to find a cause of his urticarial, and he came back positive to crab. He then acknowledged to me he knew he was allergic to crab and made sure to stay away from it. However, when I was reviewing his list of medication and supplements for arthritis, I noticed he was taking Glucosamine. Glucosamine has been heralded as the wonder supplement in the book, TheArthritis Cure. Glucosamine is made from the exoskeleton of crabs- meaning their shells. He was ingesting the high protein component of the crab. Once I got him to stop the Glucosamine his urticarial resolved.

Important distinction: if you are allergic to fish you can take Fish oil supplements. These oils are highly refined and there have not been reports of allergic reactions.

Milk allergy also can be found in medications and supplements. Probiotics that are important for digestive health can sometimes contain casein. Casein is another code word for milk protein. So if your stomach is hurting after taking a probiotic check to see if it contains casein. You can find Probiotics that don’t contain casein.

Egg allergy can be present in common vaccines. The Influenza vaccine is probably the best known vaccine that contains egg. However, the past year new vaccines were made and are available for patients that are egg allergic. The MMR vaccine(measles, mumps and rubella) contains egg protein. The more rare vaccines made with egg protein are rabies and yellow fever.

Finally, Asthma patients that use inhalers should be aware that these inhalers can contain soy or lactose. Remember, even though inhalers are meant to be inhaled they are partially swallowed and end up in the stomach. I did have a very sensitive patient that swore she couldn’t use certain inhalers because she was severely lactose intolerant.

Medications, Vaccines and Supplements all can be valuable to your health, but if you have food allergies, you have to know what’s in them!

- Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC

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