Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"You can get anything you want, at alice's restaurant"....well except for sulfite free food, of course

first, i  will give you a list of the names for  the sulfites that are added to foods to keep them fresh and looking gorgeous- ready for their close up, you might say. this is not a complete list, and some foods have naturally occurring sulfites, but i will get to that later. here is a list of some commonly used sulfite preservatives: sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisufite, potassium metabisulfite, calcium sulfite, and calcium bisulfite. sulfites have been used since , well forever, to prevent browning, control growth of microorganisms, to act as bleaching agents, as well as being antioxidants. in an article by the university of florida IFAS extension( Grotheer, Marshall and Simonne) sulfites have been used since 1664( yep, that is not a typo), and have been approved for use in the united states since the 1800s.

they are used on fruits and vegetables to prevent yucky browning, on seafood- especially shrimp- where they are used to prevent something called" black spot". they are used in dough as a conditioner. sulfites are also used in certain food starches as a bleaching agent. in wine, sulfites are used to inhibit bacterial growth. there is a double whammy with wine though. grapes, especially while undergoing the fermentation process, produce "naturally occuring sulfites". this is unfortunate- i used to like to have a glass of red wine( supposed to be good for you) every once in a while. also unfortunate, is the use of sulfites in some pharmaceutical medicines to maintain stability and potency. i know of a few medications ( i found out the hard way on these) which i will list. i would also mention here that it is nearly impossible to find out which medications contain sulfite preservatives. i have called companies using my " i am a pharmacist" card, and sometimes found it impossible to get correct information. the medications that I KNOW contain sulfites are: brand name synthroid, advair inhalers, long acting steroid injections ( like you would get at the physician's office for a bad knee), and my all time favorite, the Epi pen. yes, an injection for an allergic,or anaphylactic reaction contains sulfite preservatives. this makes things really interesting for me as well as other people who have not just sulfite sensitivity, but go on to have full blown anaphylaxis after ingesting sulfites. i will also add here that cosmetics, body washes, hair spray, shampoo, moisturizers,etc   contain sulfites for stability and preservative purposes.

in an article on the website " about allergies" by Judy Tidwell, she reports that one person in a hundred are sulfite sensitive. the author also says that anyone can become sulfite sensitive at any time in his/her life and that no one is sure what triggers the sensitivity. in my case, when i was sulfite sensitive, i had much milder symptoms that the anaphylactic reactions that i have now. if a person is sulfite sensitive, that person might have stomach upset, digestive problems, a mild headache,etc. there is no treatment for sulfite allergy, unfortunately. one must just avoid all foods that may contain sulfite preservatives. i have hydroxyzine on hand for the reactions, as well as some sulfite free epinephrine injection for more severe reactions. i might add here that the sulfite free epinephrine is not being made anymore, to my knowledge.  i do not like the idea of injecting myself with sulfites to treat a sulfite allergy, but hopefully i will be able to find some more sulfite free epinephrine injection soon.

it would be a shorter list if i listed the foods that DO NOT contain sulfites. basically, organic foods are safe for the most part. but as i said, grapes naturally produce sulfites, as do onions and garlic. as you can imagine, if i want to be reasonably  sure that i am not going to have a sulfite reaction, i need to cook my own meals. i have not eaten out in a restaurant in over fifteen years.even if i am careful,  it is still not a given that i will not have a reaction. i had three last month. one reaction was after i ate a piece of seafood. the person at the seafood market assured me that the fish had not had any preservatives added, but i did not go by one of my rules: if it is too white, or is something that can spoil easily and looks too good, then it is too good to be sulfite free.

you may be wondering why i am talking about sulfite allergies on a thyroid/breast cancer blog. it took me several tries to finally find an allergy doctor who sucessfully diagnosed my problem. i started going to her in about 2009. at that time, she told me that i was one of the few patients that she saw that had the more severe anaphylactic reaction to sulfites. she also told me that she believed that i had cancer somewhere in my body that was causing my immune system to be overloaded, leading to a more serious reaction to sulfites. in 2010 my thyroid cancer was diagnosed. i do not believe that this was a coincidence. i am not saying that this holds true for everyone with a sulfite allergy- especially those who have the sensitivity, and not full blown anaphylaxis. i just believe that the sulfite allergy damaged my immune system, and had some part to play in me having cancer. i did ask her if by successfully treating my cancer ( surgery and chemotherapy) would reverse my sulfite allergy and she said probably not. once allergy pathways are established, they are with us for the long haul.

there are several take- aways from this blog. first, i wanted to inform others about sulfites and sulfite allergies. someone might be struggling out there with digestive issues, headaches, shortness of breath,etc  after eating  sulfite containing foods( or using sufite containing cosmetics or medications ) and not have a clue as to  what may be causing these problems. avoidance of known sulfite containing foods, etc  is the only safe way to determine if this might be your problem. one allergist who i did not see for long, said that he could give me a "large dose" of a sulfite preservative and "observe what happens ." since no one knows exactly what a lethal dose of a sulfite compound might be, i said no thank you and found another doctor! besides, i know exactly what happens to me after i ingest sulfites, as do my family members.

i do not feel sorry for myself. but it is challenging to travel anywhere for any length of time, as i have to be able to obtain and cook my own food. my husband and family are amazing and very supportive. they eat what i eat. and if we  go out to a restaurant  for a special occasion, i either bring along a little something to eat, or i just sip some tea that i bring with me. i will admit that this was awkward at first. we usually have family dinners at home  anyway, but it does limit my interaction with others to some degree. people have a hard understanding just how limited my diet is. they do not understand that while i would LOVE to have some of their wonderfully prepared food, i would HATE to have an anaphylactic reaction. one of the symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction is the "overwhelming feeling that you are going to die". this must be part of the "fight or flight" mechanism. i was relieved to read about this in an article on allergic reactions. i was also  relieved that it was just not me- that others feel this as well.

so that is sulfites 101 in a nut shell, as the saying goes.  many things happen to our bodies when we have cancer,chemotherapy, treatments, scans,etc. . it is not a "one and done" type deal. we are dealing with anxiety, major changes in our bodies, life style changes, and so much more. at this point, i am dealing with " cancer  survivor"  type issues. i am trying my best to make positive changes in my health care. in the care of me. cancer has been sort of a wake up call. yes, i am important,too and i need to tend to myself, as well as tending to  others.

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