Potato Allergy Guide | Lifelab Testing

Potato Allergy Guide

Last Updated: 6th February 2023 · Written by Kate Young

Potatoes are a staple in the western diet, found in snacks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They can merge easily into any meal of the day. Compared to nuts and other types of allergies, potatoes are a lesser-known type of allergy affecting fewer adults and children. However, it can be severe to the extent of being life-threatening in some people. Avoiding potatoes when you’re suffering from potato allergy can be quite a task, as potato derivatives are used in most packaged foods and snacks. We’ll explore what it means to have a potato allergy, including symptoms, cross-reactivity and how to complete an allergy test.

What is a potato allergy?

A potato allergy, just like all food allergies, occurs when the body mistakes certain compounds for “harmful” substances similar to bacteria and viruses. So, upon consuming potatoes, your immune system gets alerted that these compounds or proteins are in the body, thus releasing antibodies and histamines to fight them. When antibodies and histamines are released due to an allergic reaction, they result in the typical allergy symptoms we observe when someone’s allergic to something they’ve consumed. An allergic reaction occurs when the body is susceptible to a chemical sensitivity or when the immune system reacts to proteins present in the food you’ve consumed. In the case of potato allergy, two main culprits are the primary triggers for potato allergy symptoms. These are patatin and solanine:

  • Solanine: This compound is a semi-poisonous toxic alkaloid, and the plant produces this as a defence mechanism against animal predators. Solanine is commonly present in most potato varieties and other agricultural nightshades. It is safe to consume solanine in moderation except when consumed as “green potatoes”, which are often a result of improper storage and are often full of toxins. While solanine poisoning often dwells in the gastrointestinal tract, some people can experience severe reactions (allergy) to potatoes and other nightshades.
  • Patatin: This storage protein is present in potato varieties and is the most common cause of potato allergy. While solanine can also cause potato allergy, multiple studies tag patatin as the most common cause of potato allergy. It mainly triggers potato skin allergy symptoms like rashes, hives, eczema, dermatitis, and other skin conditions.

Potato allergy symptoms

Potato allergy symptoms vary in severity between different individuals. While some people may experience mild symptoms, others must visit the emergency room. These allergy symptoms can take between forty-five minutes to an hour after consumption or contact. One can have symptoms of potato allergy by peeling, touching, or eating potatoes. Common potato allergy symptoms include:

A man sneezing
A man sneezing.
  • Sneezing.
  • Sore or scratchy throat.
  • Itchy skin or an eczema-like rash.
  • Runny nose.
  • Watery, swollen, or itchy eyes.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of the mouth, tongue, or throat.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Tingling on the lips.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • A drop in blood pressure.
  • Anaphylaxis.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Wheezing.
  • Vomiting.

According to a 2017 study on potato allergy, of 2000 people in a hospital, 10.1% were sensitised to potatoes {1}. Many of them were only allergic to raw potatoes and not cooked potatoes. So, it is possible to be only allergic to raw potatoes and tolerate cooked ones.

If your symptoms are more mild, you may be experiencing potato intolerance. You can find out if you have an intolerance to potatoes by taking a simple at-home intolerance test.

Other symptoms of potato allergy

While rare, some people develop a condition known as anaphylaxis upon consuming potatoes. Anaphylaxis is a condition that has an acute onset, with symptoms appearing immediately and escalating fast. Treatment for anaphylaxis often requires the use of an EpiPen, intravenous antihistamines, and oxygen which helps lower the body’s allergic response, reduce inflammation of the air passages, and improve breathing. When one suffers from anaphylaxis, they require immediate medical care. The symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the throat, mouth, eyes, or face.
  • A rapid drop in blood pressure.
  • Dizziness or loss of consciousness.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty catching one’s breath.

Difference between potato allergy and sweet potato allergy

Even though these are both tubers and share the name “potato”, they are entirely different types of tubers. Sweet potatoes, also known as Ipomoea batatas, belong to a family of plants known as Morning Glories or Convolvulaceae. Sweet potatoes and potatoes have varying glycemic indexes and antioxidants. Even though there aren’t any cases of allergy caused by sweet potatoes in literature, there were three cases of anaphylaxis in adult patients after they consumed potatoes {2}. Scientists still don’t know the allergens present in sweet potatoes, but they don’t have the same allergens in common potatoes (patatin and solanine). However, it is possible for people to have an intolerance to sweet potatoes.

Potato allergy foods to avoid

If you have a potato allergy, it is recommended that you avoid these vegetables for the long term. Avoiding potatoes can be tricky since many processed foods contain potato-based derivatives like yeats, enriched flours, and baking powders. Even though we may not exhaust the entire list of potato derivatives, here are some things you need to look out for:

  • Potato crisps: Potato-based salty snacks are obvious products to avoid.
  • Gnocchi: Potato-based pasta, like gnocchi, should be avoided.
  • Casseroles: Like croquettes and other prepared foods that contain mysterious combinations of foods, are among the foods you need to consume cautiously.
  • Shredded cheese: Some processed and packaged cheeses contain potato starch.
  • Dried potato flakes: These are often used as a thickener for canned soups, stews, and purees.
  • Potato flour: This is a common gluten-free substitute for wheat flour. Potato flour is found in various baked goods like bread, muffins, and cookies. You’ll also find it in consumer packaged goods like crisps, crackers, gluten-free snack foods, etc.
  • Vodka: Potatoes are the main ingredient in making different types of vodka.
  • Yeast: Countless types of beer, bread, and baked goods use yeast derived from potatoes.
  • Modified potato starch: This hidden ingredient is commonly found in sweets.
  • Herbal medicines: When visiting a pharmacist, let them know of your potato allergy since potatoes are an ingredient in herbal medicine used to treat an upset stomach.

Since potatoes are common ingredients, you need to be careful when reading labels and eating out to avoid meals containing potato derivatives.

Potato allergy cross-reactivity

When different foods or non-food substances (like pollen) share similar proteins, it can make you have an allergic reaction to more than one substance or food. For example, people with a potato allergy may also experience a cross-reactive allergic reaction to certain edible foods and pollen. Potatoes are a part of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Due to the similarity in proteins found in potatoes and these other plants, a person with potato allergy may also be allergic to other plants from the Nightshade family. Some of these plants include:

  • Goji berries.
  • Tobacco.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Eggplant.
  • Tomatillos.
  • Bell peppers.
  • Pepino melon.
  • Spices like paprika, cayenne, and red pepper flakes.

Besides the Nightshade family, people with potato allergy may experience a cross-reactive reaction to pollen, especially from birch trees and grass. Additionally, having a potato allergy may lead to a cross-reactive allergic reaction to latex. It may seem weird to have many allergies based on potato allergies. Still, it’s common for people, especially children, to develop allergies because they have an existent allergy to something else. It’s like a chain reaction, having one allergy leads to the development of more. According to Facts and Statistics, approximately 40% of children with food allergies experience responses to more than one food {3}.

Potato allergy testing

Even though potato allergy is less common compared to potato intolerance, it still is an issue that affects some people. If you believe you have an allergy, we suggest consulting with your doctor first to determine if there are any other underlying conditions that are causing your symptoms. However, if you don’t have any conditions causing these symptoms, you can take an Allergy Test. This home-lab test kit will check your sample against all of the common allergens in the environment as well as food. You will then get a list of foods that you’re allergic to and you can begin to change your life for the better.

References

  1. Chiriac, A. M., Bourrain, J. L., Lepicard, E., Molinari, N., & Demoly, P. (2017). Prevalence of sensitization and allergy to potato in a large population. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, 5(2), 507-509.
  2. Velloso, A., Baeza, M., Tornero, P., Herrero, T., Fernández, M., Rubio, M., & De Barrio, M. (2004). Anaphylaxis caused by Ipomoea batatas. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 113(2), S242.
  3. https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/facts-and-statistics

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