Garlic Allergy and Intolerance Guide | Lifelab Testing

Garlic Allergy and Intolerance Guide

Last Updated: 28th November 2022 · Written by Felicia Oladipo

Garlic is a bulbous plant that is used to enhance the taste of many savoury dishes, in all traditional cuisines around the world. Garlic has a pungent smell and a savoury flavour that it adds to meals. However, if you have a garlic allergy, the mere inhalation or its aroma can cause reactions all over your body. Garlic belongs to the allium family, meaning that if you’re allergic to garlic, you may also experience reactions to other spices like chives, leeks, and shallots. Garlic allergy and onion allergy are commonly linked because most patients experience an allergy to both bulbs as they contain specific similar allergens {1}. Garlic allergy is relatively uncommon compared to garlic intolerance, but it still does exist and can be life-threatening. If you’re allergic to garlic, this means that consuming raw or cooked garlic will cause the same reactions, and it’s only best to avoid this spice. Within this guide, we will discuss both garlic allergy and intolerance, including symptoms and ways of testing.

Causes of garlic allergy

Garlic allergy, similar to other allergies, occurs when the body comes in contact with a foreign substance, and your immune system reacts to it. When you have a garlic allergy, your immune system assumes that this substance is “harmful” even though, in reality, it’s not. When your immune system releases antibodies to fight something that’s not typically harmful to the body, it’s what we refer to as an allergic reaction. Food allergies are a specific type of allergy that can be triggered by even the smallest amount of the trigger object or food. Food allergies affect around 8% of children and 3% of adults.

The most common types of allergies are shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, and eggs. Compared to these, garlic allergy is among the rare allergies people suffer from. According to most clinical trials, garlic’s most common side effects are body odour, bad breath, and garlic allergy.

Garlic allergy symptoms

Garlic allergy symptoms are often experienced within a few minutes of contact with garlic, but for others it may take a few hours before they can witness them. The most common symptoms are those that affect the skin, like rashes and asthma. These garlic allergy symptoms can show up even after touching or inhaling garlic. Symptoms of garlic allergy can either be mild or severe depending on the individual’s reaction. Symptoms include:

  • Skin inflammation.
  • A tingling sensation of the lips, mouth, or tongue.
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose.
  • Itchy nose.
  • Sneezing.
  • Itchy or watery eyes.
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Hives, itching, or redness of the skin.
  • Swelling around the mouth, tongue, face, or throat.
  • Anaphylaxis.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Dizziness or fainting.

Differentiating garlic allergy and garlic intolerance

Garlic allergy, as seen above, can be very dangerous because when symptoms like anaphylaxis show up, this tends to be life-threatening and needs immediate medical help. On the other hand, garlic intolerance is not as serious and can’t be life-threatening. The severity of garlic intolerance increases with the amount of garlic you consume. Food allergies are often confused with food intolerance, which also applies to garlic. It is wise to note that garlic intolerance symptoms often dwell in the gastrointestinal tract. In contrast, garlic allergy symptoms often include skin reactions, like contact dermatitis.

While garlic allergy results from the immune system mistaking garlic for a dangerous substance, food intolerance is due to the body being sensitive to the proteins present in garlic or the body lacking enzymes required to digest proteins in garlic. When you suffer from garlic allergy, it doesn’t matter how much you consume; you will still experience the symptoms. However, the amount of garlic you often consume matters in garlic intolerance. Most people have some tolerance for the food they are intolerant to. So, if you consume too much of that food or ingredient, that’s when things go wrong, and you experience severe symptoms.

The symptoms of garlic allergy happen within a few minutes to two hours. In garlic intolerance, it may take up to three days to witness the symptoms, which makes it hard to pinpoint the cause to a specific food item or ingredient. Food intolerance symptoms take a long time to show up because food must reach the colon first before you can see or witness any signs.

Intolerance to garlic

complete-intolerance-front
Our Complete Intolerance Test Box.

Garlic intolerance is caused by the lack of certain digestive enzymes that are supposed to help break down or process garlic. Intolerance to garlic can also be caused by other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, or even stress. Intolerance to garlic and other foods is often a result of a myriad of issues, and that’s why we advise you to talk to your doctor to check for underlying problems before you can take our Intolerance Test kit.

When a certain food isn’t broken down in the small intestines, it gets pushed to the colon. Here, it ferments and forms gas, and that’s when you start hearing the stomach rumble, and you get gassiness and stomach cramps. Having garlic intolerance can be very uncomfortable because of these symptoms. It is common for these symptoms to subside and finally come to a halt once you’ve passed on the food, which in this case is garlic.

Garlic intolerance symptoms

Symptoms of garlic intolerance dwell in the digestive tract but are not limited to there. The symptoms of garlic intolerance often vary from one individual to the next based on your level of intolerance for that specific food item. Symptoms of garlic intolerance include:

  • Bloating.
  • Gassiness.
  • Stomach ache or cramps.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Coughing.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea.
  • A runny nose.

Garlic intolerance remedy

The best way to remedy garlic intolerance is by avoiding consuming garlic. The same applies to garlic allergy. It is possible to find substitutes for this flavour and add it to your meals to prevent experiencing symptoms after eating food loaded with garlic. You can also talk to your doctor (once you’ve proved you have garlic intolerance by taking an Intolerance Test). Under their supervision, they can help you go on a garlic-free diet for a couple of weeks, and after you’re finally feeling well, they’ll help you reintroduce it slowly. This method can help you know the amount of garlic you can use without experiencing a reaction. However, this method is not effective for garlic allergies, where the only remedy is to completely cut it out from your meals.

You may also notice that when you have a garlic allergy or garlic intolerance, you will also suffer from reactions when you consume foods from the same family as garlic. These include:

  • Onions.
  • Chives.
  • Leeks.
  • Shallots.

Garlic is part of the allium family, meaning you may be allergic or intolerant to the above foods. That’s because the proteins or allergens in these foods are similar to each other, and if you’re allergic, your immune system will react to them in the same way. This is known as cross-reactivity. You will also need to be careful about what you’re eating by asking for the ingredients or checking the ingredients list when food shopping. You’ll find that most soups, pre-made marinades, and mixed spices contain garlic, and you’ll need to keep away from these. An allergy to garlic means that you will always have to be careful to avoid any contact you may have with this spice. Sometimes people with garlic allergy can also experience cross-reactivity with pollen allergies like birch pollen {2}.

Testing for garlic allergy and garlic intolerance

If you suspect you may suffer from either garlic allergy or intolerance, you need to talk to your doctor about your history and symptoms. Doing so will help the doctor determine what issue you may be having and whether there could be underlying diseases. If there aren’t any, you can take an Intolerance Test or an Allergy Test. You can pick these depending on which symptoms you have based on what’s listed above, or read more on our page dedicated to allergies vs intolerances. But if you’re still unsure, you can take an Allergy and Intolerance Test to check for both.

These home-lab test kits are great at helping you determine what could be causing the symptoms. It could be a garlic allergy, intolerance, or other foods you consume regularly. These tests check for common allergens to help you determine what is the cause of your symptoms. You can order your preferred test kit online, have it delivered within three days, and once you’ve collected your sample, send it back to the lab for testing, upon which you’ll receive your test result within a week. Find out more about your body and health without even leaving your home!

References

  1. Almogren, A., Shakoor, Z., & Adam, M. H. (2013). Garlic and onion sensitization among Saudi patients screened for food allergy: a hospital based study. African Health Sciences, 13(3), 689-693.
  2. Asero, R., Mistrello, G., Roncarolo, D., Antoniottib, P. L., & Falagiani, P. (1998). A case of garlic allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 101(3), 427-428.

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