Garlic is a member of the Allium family of plants. So, those who are allergic to garlic are most likely to develop an allergy to onions, chives, asparagus, leeks, and shallots, as they too belong to the Allium family.
If you are allergic to garlic, it simply means your body does not like garlic. So, when garlic is ingested, the immune system reacts abnormally, triggering an allergic reaction. Generally, the symptoms of allergy occur after eating raw or lightly-cooked garlic. Although garlic acts as a natural antiseptic and displays anti-inflammatory properties, it can be troublesome for those who have an allergy to it. Gastric allergy symptoms usually occur immediately after consuming it and may last for a few hours to even days, depending on the amount that has been consumed.
Causes of Garlic Allergy
Allergy, as we know, occurs when the immune system wrongly perceives a substance to be detrimental to health. This error in identification results in the immune system releasing IgE antibodies into the bloodstream to combat the ‘harmful’ substances (allergens). The IgE antibodies direct mast cells to secrete histamine. It is this histamine that causes an allergic reaction.
The allergy to garlic comes from alliin lyase, a specific protein present in this culinary herb. Alliin lyase, that has shown to have allergenic potential, exposure to which causes the releases of histamine which is responsible for a wide range of allergic symptoms.
Histamine release after exposure to the allergic components of garlic can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which are discussed here.
Nasal Allergy Symptoms
Having those garlicky dishes or simply getting exposed to garlic dust can lead to excess production of mucus in the nasal cavities in individuals who are allergic to this herb. When there is more than normal amounts of mucus, it makes the nose run. Apart from a runny nose, one may complain about itchy or watery eyes.
Instead of a runny nose, one may experience a stuffy, clogged-up feeling in the nose, indicating that the sinuses are inflamed and blocked with mucus. Garlic allergy sufferers may also suffer from a bout of continuous sneezing as soon as they are exposed to the allergen.
One can also suffer from post-nasal drip, meaning the mucus passes from the back of the nose and drips into the throat. This gives a lumpy feeling in the throat, often triggering a nagging cough and sore throat.
The stomach can turn on an individual if he/she is allergic to garlic. After having garlic or food containing garlic, one may experience a feeling of an upset stomach. It is observed that indigestion after eating garlic is common in those who suffer from this allergy. As such, having dinner that contains an entire head of roasted garlic means that the person in question is likely to spend the night complaining about nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, bloating, and gas. Garlic allergy can also interfere with normal bowel movement and cause diarrhea.
Allergic Skin Reaction
A skin rash may develop after eating garlic. This symptom can also occur when the allergen is simply in contact with the skin. A red, itchy rash is visible on certain areas of the body, particularly the legs, hands, and the face. The allergy can also cause the outbreak of hives, which is marked by swollen, red bumps on the skin.
This is a fatal allergic reaction that can result in dangerous breathing problems. Often described as anaphylaxis, this is a severe allergic reaction that causes shortness of breath due to sudden swelling in the throat. The swelling may also be visible on the lips, tongue, and around the face. One thing that can be done is to avoid chopping the garlic, and instead crushing the cloves, which helps get rid of its allergenic components.
The best way to treat an allergy is to simply avoid getting exposed to the allergen. In case of garlic, one needs to exclude this herb from his/her diet. Preparing garlic-free dishes ensures that the allergic reaction that causes quite a few bothersome symptoms never happens. Prepackaged foods like soups, sauces, and even frozen foods contain garlic. So, before buying any of these, one needs to carefully go through the labels that list the ingredients as well as the nutrients present in the prepacked food.
Considering its high medicinal value, people who are allergic to garlic would still somehow want to include the herb in their diet. Under such circumstances, cooking garlic is recommended, as it deactivates the alliin lyase, the allergic component of the herb. Although alliin lyase is destroyed after cooking, garlic is able to retain some of its health-promoting properties. Usually, small amounts of well-cooked garlic used in everyday meals is unlikely to trigger an allergic reaction. For instance, having fried garlic or sautéeing it until it turns brown may help keep any allergy symptoms at bay.