Aubergine Allergy?
July 19, 2012 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to randomly develop an allergy to eggplant / aubergine in one's late 30's?

I've had meals containing eggplant four times in the last month and a half, and have felt ill after each. I flush bright red, break out into a sweat, feel dizzy and nauseous like I'm going to throw up, and then somehow manage to keep my meal down.

The symptoms slowly fade over a period of 60-90 minutes.

What I've eaten:
* Pizza with Eggplant
* Eggplant Parmigiana
* Eggplant Risotto (twice)

The pizza and parmigiana were from different sources. The Risottos were from a third restaurant.

I eat eggplant regularly -- perhaps once or twice a month. Have never had a problem. I'm allergic to a couple of things -- shellfish and sunflower, but they give me migraines, not stomach upset. I am sensitive to MSG salt, which also gives me migraines. So this is not a typical food allergy reaction for me. And from searching Google, it doesn't seem to be a typical allergic reaction for eggplant, either: people mostly seem to report itchy mouths.

Is it possible that I've suddenly developed a random allergy to eggplant? Can that even happen? If you have any insight into what might be happening here, I'd welcome it.
posted by zarq to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It is definitely possible to develop new food allergies as you age.
posted by vorfeed at 2:42 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could it be a reaction to tomatoes, which are often in those same dishes?
posted by jamaro at 2:43 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like an exposure allergy. I've experienced them many times, but to strong allergens like peanuts and penicillin. Take a break from it and try again in a few months.
posted by jesirose at 2:44 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's possible to develop an allergy to anything. Sometimes through exposure, sometimes randomly. Sometimes they go away too. I read a bunch about it after I developed an allergy to hair dye.

Allergies are weird.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:44 PM on July 19, 2012

Actually... correction. Now that I reread the question, eating shellfish makes me *violently* ill. As in uncontrollable, violent vomiting, quickly dropping blood pressure, fainting and then potentially, anaphylaxis. So... yeah. Not migraines.
posted by zarq at 2:45 PM on July 19, 2012

jamaro: "Could it be a reaction to tomatoes, which are often in those same dishes?"

Um... possibly? I don't have tomato sauce very often. Am trying to think of a dish that included it that I've eaten in the same time frame and am not coming up with anything. But I've had ketchup a few times and not reacted.
posted by zarq at 2:48 PM on July 19, 2012

Tomato and eggplant are in the same family, for whatever it's worth.

I noticed a sensitivity to raw tomatoes in my 20s - sometimes they make my mouth and tongue hurt.

In my 30s, I noticed or developed a reaction to eggplant - my throat swells up painfully when I eat them, especially if they aren't peeled or cooked for a long time.

The symptoms you're getting sound like the ones that made me stop drinking red wine, except I didn't keep my meal down.

So now I avoid eggplant and red wine and am careful with uncooked tomato.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:01 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oddly, reaction to tomatoes (it's actually a reaction to the lycopene in tomatoes. Also found in carrots, pink grapefruit, guavas, watermelons and red cabbage and to a lesser extent in eggplants) often does not occur when eating processed tomatoes such as ketchup. One can develop a reaction to lycopene due to ingesting too much. Are you taking a multivitamin that lists lycopene as an ingredient?
posted by jamaro at 3:08 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

jamaro: "One can develop a reaction to lycopene due to ingesting too much. Are you taking a multivitamin that lists lycopene as an ingredient?"

That's fascinating.

I am taking a multivitamin, but don't know if it contains lycopene. Will update in a couple of hours when I get home.
posted by zarq at 3:12 PM on July 19, 2012

Although less common than childhood allergies, it is indeed possible to develop an allergy later in life, particularly if you already have a history of allergies. Not sure whether what you are describing was necessarily an allergic reaction (though the symptoms fit), but as an abstract question it is entirely conceivable to "suddenly develop a random allergy to eggplant". Eggplant allergies are certainly not without precedent.

As to the how: Presuming you are now allergic, you appear to have had a break-down in your of tolerance to eggplant. Well, to be more precise, some component within the eggplant. Although eating food usually makes us more tolerant of it (see "oral tolerance"), in people with allergies this is not necessarily the case. To say that we don't really understand why some people develop allergies while others do would be a gross understatement. It is generally IgE-mediated though.

It seems likely that, since your reaction was significantly milder than your responses to shellfish, that your anti-eggplant IgE antibodies are low (because of a low amount of exposure to eggplant) and/or there was a relative lack of abundance of the particular protein/metabolite that they react against in the food you ate. However, this may change with successive exposure into something more severe, so beware.

A specialist (immunologist) can help you explore whether:a) you really are allergic to eggplant; and b) what you might be able to do to reduce the severity of symptoms.
posted by kisch mokusch at 3:18 PM on July 19, 2012

This happened to my mother - she loved eggplant, but in her 40s it started to make her lips swell up, so she had to stop eating it. However, she already had a long-standing allergy to tomatoes, which are close relatives to the eggplant. Interestingly, she found she could eat cooked tomatoes, in a sauce for instance, but the raw tomatoes would really set her off. I infer frome one of your updates that you don't eat a lot of tomato-based stuff - if this is because you dislike tomato, is there a possibility you have a low-grade allergy to tomato
(just enough to make eating them unpleasant?)
posted by Cheese Monster at 3:39 PM on July 19, 2012

Yep. You can develop new allergies to any allergen at any time.
posted by windykites at 4:09 PM on July 19, 2012

Yup, and that's the same time it happened to me. I spent all my life being grossed out by eggplant, then developed a taste for it in my 30s, then a couple of years later suddenly it made my mouth and throat itch horribly (as you describe other people having). Go see your doctor; maybe you don't have to live the rest of your life uneggplanted!
posted by mittens at 4:33 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do not eat any more eggplant! It's not possible to anticipate what your next reaction will be, based on prior reactions. It can become much more serious very quickly.

And the answer to your question is "yes".
posted by vitabellosi at 5:12 PM on July 19, 2012

Yes, allergies can pop up at any time, and the nightshade family is notorious for this. If I were you, I'd stop eating eggplant, and be conscious/keep a food diary of when I eat tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.
posted by Specklet at 6:31 PM on July 19, 2012

Aww, say it ain't so!
posted by Aubergine at 10:54 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have substantial food allergies, and surprisingly the whole lot of them give me a wide range of bad reactions- everything from asthma to heartburn to gastrointestinal symptoms, nausea.. . Some worse than others. So it can happen.

Anyway, yes, it sounds like an allergy to me. Like others have said allergies can appear at any age.
posted by Aliera at 7:36 AM on July 20, 2012

All three contain wheat. I'd look at that possibly?
posted by Raichle at 2:15 PM on July 20, 2012

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