Do You Have a Fruit Allergy?

When you think about fruit you often think about how healthy it is to eat; we are all recommended to eat 5 portions a day of fruit and vegetables. Fruit can cause problems for some people who can have a reaction within a few minutes of coming into contact with a particular fruit. Fruits that cause the most problems are cherries, apples, pears, peaches, bananas, plums, nectarines, apricots, strawberries and kiwi fruit.

Fruit allergies are often linked to pollen allergy, and it is often thought that fruit allergy is like getting “hay-fever of the mouth”. There are particular links between different fruits and different pollens. For example allergy to birch pollen often means that you are also allergic to the fruits mentioned above. However allergy to grass pollens is related to reactions to oranges, melons and tomatoes. The impact of these allergies will be worse during the pollen season so you may not have the problem all year round. Similarly there are links between fruit allergies and allergy to latex (natural rubber); approximately 30-50% of people who are allergic to latex also show reactions to certain fruits. Fruits such as avocadoes, bananas, kiwi fruit, peaches, tomatoes, and more recently goji berries, have been associated with this syndrome (latex-fruit syndrome).

These particular reactions to fruits are often called oral allergy syndrome (OAS) as symptoms include a burning sensation on the lips and in the mouth, swelling of the lips and tongue and a constricted feeling in the throat. It rarely causes anaphylactic shock or death but can be very scary. Some people have allergies to fruits without having the associated pollen or latex allergy. This is because there are proteins in fruits that are not present in pollens and latex and vice versa. It is interesting that these reactions are usually limited to fresh fruits and cooked fruits don’t seem to have the same effect. This means that if apples are bothering you, you may be fine with apple pie!

Some people have an intolerance to different fruits, with symptoms that are not severe or immediate. Often the symptoms of fruit intolerance are ongoing such as irritable bowel (IBS), bloating, headaches, migraines, tiredness, low mood and skin problems. The most common reactive fruits causing food intolerance are cranberries, blackcurrants, kiwi fruit, oranges and pineapple. However, these are rarely problematic on their own; those with food intolerances have, on average, reactions to 5 or 6 different food types which include grains, pulses, spices, herbs, meats, fish and vegetables as well as fruits.