Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What is Oral Allergy Syndrome?

I love the season of fall. After the godforsaken sweltering heat of the summer, I love the cool clean air in the morning. The smell of the leaves piled on the ground, Halloween, and my favourite holiday, Thanksgiving. And of course, apples are in season. What could be better than a crisp red apple, fresh from the tree? I love to take a juicy bite...but I guess not. I have oral allergy syndrome, and thus, fresh apples + me are a recipe for hours of coughing and abdominal pain.

What is Oral Allergy Syndrome? To me, the answer to that question is a long one. The short version is this: for years, every time I have eaten certain foods, I have developed a terrible stomachache, coughing, chest pain, and general misery.

It started about 12 years ago with bananas. I remember the day before my wedding, I ate a banana at lunch. About an hour later I could barely move due to an excruciating stomachache. Everyone said to me, "Oh, you're just nervous about tomorrow." Actually, I wasn't nervous in the slightest. I just had a stomachache!

After my son was born, I was trying to be healthy with my diet, in an effort to pass on the good stuff to the baby. I had a salad for lunch almost every day. And without fail, almost every afternoon I suffered severe abdominal pain. The general armchair diagnosis from people around me said it was stress. I was supposedly stressed from the demands of my newborn baby. It was not stress, I wasn't stressed out at all, Jamie was a delightful baby and I was very happy to have him to take care of. After several trips to the doctor and even a laparoscopy (a surgery that took me a week to recover from, and found nothing) I gave up and just suffered. One time I ate an orange, and was convinced a few minutes later that I was having a heart attack. Jamie, the then two-year-old, actually brought me the phone. It was terrible. The pain went away in a little while but I was pretty scared.

Of course, there were the persnickety bunch of people who thought I was just trying to get out of eating my vegetables. Hmm. Somehow I think getting out of eating an entire food group could be expected from someone attending preschool, but not a grown woman who just wants to be healthy and not in pain!

Last summer I went to a new GP who sent me to an allergist. He had the answer in two minutes: Oral Allergy Syndrome. What the hell is that? Here is an edited description courtesy of Wikipedia:

"Oral Allergy Syndrome or OAS is a type of food allergy typified by a cluster of allergic reactions in the mouth in response to eating certain (usually fresh) fruits, vegetables, and nuts that typically develops in adult hay fever sufferers. In adults, up to 60% of all food allergic reactions are due to cross-reactions between foods and inhalative allergens. However, unlike other food allergies, the reaction is limited to the mouth, lips, tongue and throat."

In other words, I am allergic to almost every fruit and vegetable on the planet. Some nuts and fresh herbs too. The doctor also found me interesting because my case is more severe than is typical, the allergic response I experience goes all the way to my stomach as opposed to being limited to the mouth and throat. Lucky me. It makes getting that 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables difficult. The good news is, if the food is cooked I can usually eat it without incident. Some exceptions occur, but usually it is fine. This is because the heat alters the proteins in the food sufficiently that the allergens are not effective.

At first, I was in denial. Really, no raw fruit or vegetables for the rest of my life? Come on. No sweet berries in the summer, no more crisp spinach salads, no more yummy protein smoothies? But it is true, and there is no treatment, other than avoiding the offending food or cooking it to death. This is pretty much okay for vegetables, not so okay for fruit. Having apple pie every day would be great for the fruit, but my waistline would not thank me. And I refuse to microwave a banana, that is just disgusting!

So that's where this blog comes in...I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, and have zero qualifications except being a sufferer of this relatively unknown condition. This will be a resource for reasonable recipes that someone can actually do, as opposed to using cookbooks which tend to be for people who have a lot of time on their hands for cooking. My goal is to eventually have a simple recipe for every fruit and vegetable that is readily available in North America. So fresh apple, sorry, I will be cooking the devil out of you. And liking it, whether I like it or not!


  1. What an interesting blog! I also have OAS - and am also allergic to basically all fruits and veggies (plus some nuts). And I get pretty severe stomach and abdominal pain as well. I've recently been wondering if eating these foods cooked is actually very good for me - it's easy for me to tell that what is bad when raw (hives, tingling/swelling lips/mouth, etc.), but a bit more difficult when they're cooked. Those symptoms aren't as immediate, and it's more difficult to figure out what's the cause. I'm thinking I'm going to have to take more severe steps to figure out what I can and can't eat cooked, because I suspect that there is more than I realise that I can't eat.

    But one of the biggest things for me is being able to find good things to eat - I hope that you're still continuing this blog, because I'm definitely going to follow it!

  2. Sheena, your allergist can do a skin test with cooked foods. I am having this done in two months and will post about it after it happens. I will be continuing with this blog come September - stay tuned! :)

  3. This wouldn't have been a problem when in our mother's day - all vegetables were cooked to certain death.

  4. Sorry- that sentence does not need the "when" - rough night and not for the typical NYE reasons - child (man-boy) with the flu!

  5. Ha! I have, unfortunately, had to emulate mother's cooking style when it comes to vegetables. No crisp green beans for me! Actually, no green beans at all. :(

  6. I am so, so, SO excited to find your blog!!! I've suffered with this since childhood when there wasn't a name for it.

    I'm trying to lose my baby weight and it's extremely hard without fruits and veggies. You've convinced me that I need to cook my own fruits and veggies. Thank you! And you absolutely SHOULD do a cookbook. More and more people get diagnosed with this daily.

    Thank you for creating this blog, I feel less alone.

  7. I promise Iman, I will try harder to keep up with this blog, now that I know it is actually helping someone! Life just gets in the way sometimes. More to come in August. I am trying to lose some weight also and it is definitely very difficult when you have to eliminate all the good stuff.

  8. I concur with the others! Please keep up with this blog! I found it via a post on, and I am THRILLED to have found it. I am THRILLED at the idea that I might actually be able to eat fruits and veggies again! PLEASE post some recipes!

  9. I would love to have a cookbook for OAS... I have not yet been diagnosed (appointment is on the 22nd) however have had the abdominal pain- swelling of lips and mouth...and the "heavy chest" feeling as if something is sitting on my chest and hard to swallow. I also do great with cooked fruit and veggies- I have been trying to eat better to lose weight after my girls were born and I am finding it sooo difficult. I do kickboxing and I have to listen to all of the girls talk about their recipes and salads and raw veggie and fruits they eat for snacks...and I cant eat any of this. So depressing and so glad im not the only one... P.S. I am thinking this is cousin aunt and father all have the same symptoms (but have not been to an allergy dr to be diagnosed) Oh and Im also allergic to Peanuts- LOVELY!

  10. I'm excited to hear some recipes!! I also have OAS. I got it after having my first child 20 years ago. Same time I got allergies. I have been on a search for years now to find SOMETHING that will heal me. I refuse to believe that whatever happened in my body on that one day cannot be reversed. Maybe I'm just stubborn like that. Lol. I have found a ton of videos on youtube about EFT- might want to check into that. It sounds nutty and crazy BUT, it's free and costs NOTHING- Not even your pride if no one knows you're doing it!! LOL i have tried it with no results yet, but I'm not giving up yet. Still need to tweak and try again.
    I'm Llergic to all raw fruits and veggies, soy, anything with vinegar in it, all nuts, and raw seeds. Freezing them does nothing for me- they have to be cooked. I have an apple slicer/corer/peeler, so I can use that to slice up an apple, lay the pieces on a plate, nuke it for about 50 sec. Then dash to the sink, throw it in a collinder and run cold water on them to stop them from cooking or they end up like mush. This way, they are still crunchy, Nd I have no reaction to them!! I cannot eat corn, whether cooked or not, and my husband makes brown sugar carrots that are to die for. Just slice up carrots in a pan, add some brown sugar, and cook the hell out of them on the stove! Lol not as healthy, but... It works. I love the idea about cooking the fruit on the stove and then freezing it in ice cube trays to use later!! I usually nuke mixed frozen fruit to put over my french toast or pancakes but after reading about how microwaves destroy food too.... I don't like to do that either.
    I feel like this allergy is sooooo unfair. I find myself crying sometimes watching my 5 kids eating fruit all the time. I try to turn it around and be thankful that at least they can eat them. Then I worry about getting cancer cuz.... You know their motto.... 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day keeps cancer away..... Ya. Well.... I'm so worn out and tired lately that I'm going to the doctor on March 26th just to make sure I'm ok. It just scares me all the time.
    So... I'd love to hear some more recipes soon!!

  11. Hi, I have one concern with the cooking of all fruits and vegetables, and that is: Don't you loose a lot of the nutrition's ?

  12. I have lived with OAS for years and just recently diagnosed after my mild symptoms (slight swollen lips and itchy mouth) slowly progressed to facial swelling with every fruit, veggie or nut I consumed. I thought it was a little fluke and I could get by. Turns out I can't. Losing weight is the most difficult part because I have a sweet tooth and I cannot just grab a piece of fruit to subside my sugary needs! Salads are out the question. I need help! I have a busy life and hardly any time to sit down to think about myself. Having a quick guide to recipes for OAS would be something I would cherish!