Oil Allergy? Who Do I See?
November 3, 2012 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Soy, peanut, cottonseed, sunflower, palm, rapeseed, and coconut oils make me super sick. Which doctor do I see?

Over the past six years I've grown increasingly more aware that I have stomach and skin problems after I eat any food prepared with the following oils: soy, peanut, cottonseed, sunflower, palm, rapeseed, and coconut. Hydrogenated and fractionated oils produce particularly bad skin reactions (bizarre cystic acne, weird hives, etc). I do not have problems with canola oil or olive oil and can eat both freely.

Lately my sensitivity to the aforementioned oils has been much more pronounced and prolonged and I frequently have debilitating cramps and stomach issues that I have a hard time treating. The stomach reactions occur within 10 to 20 minutes of eating foods prepared with any of the above oils; the skin issues occur within a few hours. This is starting to really frustrate and embarrass me as I can't tell if what I have is an allergy, a sensitivity, or a sign that something else is wrong and this is just a tip of the iceberg.

If I were to go to a doctor, who would be more able to help me identify what's going on? Would I fare better with an allergist or a gastroenterologist? I have limited ability to take time off work right now so I'm trying to be strategic about the appointments I do make.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, particularly if you or someone you know also has problems with these oils.
posted by These Birds of a Feather to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My friend can't eat soy, safflower, or sunflower oil, along with a bunch of other stuff, due to problems similar to what you've described. She's had a hard time finding out what the story is, and is currently looking into something called "FODMAPS." Hope this helps!
posted by foodmapper at 9:56 PM on November 3, 2012

It's interesting that rapeseed would be a problem if Canola is not, since Canola is produced from a cultivar of rapeseed. Looking into the differences between those two might be really helpful in narrowing down the offending component, if indeed there is a single thing you're reacting to.
posted by contraption at 10:00 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Since you are having skin issues in addition to the gastro ones, seeing an allergist could definitely be beneficial. A gastroenterologist might not necessarily have the kind of tool set an allergist would to figure out specific food allergies as well.
posted by limeonaire at 10:02 PM on November 3, 2012

Your question made me wonder if there had been recent advances in dealing with this kind of thing, and this allergy clinic's info on what they might do for you is interesting. It looks like they basically obscure whether you're getting the suspected allergen or a placebo, and then they see if you react. If you react, they tell you to stop eating it. My wife's been doing exactly that with these foods for over twenty years, thanks to similar reactions. When I say the info is interesting, it's because I'm concluding my wife probably has little reason to pursue this again. YMMV.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:04 PM on November 3, 2012

Sorry, I meant grapeseed, not rapeseed!
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:05 PM on November 3, 2012

Oh, particularly since it seems to be getting worse, I do think it would be worth it to you to confirm the allergy and see what the allergist says about getting an epi pen to carry with you.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:18 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd also say allergist. That's who did the test that confirmed my nephews soy and egg allergy after lots of tummy troubles (also cats and other stuff). He was able to do a skin test but it's not in their initial battery of skin tests so make sure you discuss those issue with the doc before the test.

Also a nurse was telling me that either Zantac or Prilosec has some sory of anti histamine/anti allergy properties because they have an H2 inhibitor (???). Don't quote me on that because I can't even remember what med she told me but it could be a treatment option if you ingest the allergen unknowingly (so ask the doctor!) For my nephews egg allergy his only reaction (so far) is a bad tummy ache and Milk of Magnesia helps it. He has an epi pen just in case it ever gets worse though.
posted by MultiFaceted at 10:51 PM on November 3, 2012

MultiFaceted, it's Zantac. Prilosec is a proton pump inhibitor, not an H2 blocker.

But the typical antihistamine that people use for allergic reactions is Benadryl (diphenhydramine) - Zantac or Pepcid are usually just used as adjuncts to that.

These Birds, are you certain that you can go straight to a specialist without a referral from your primary care physician? Many insurance plans do not allow for this (for a reason, they don't want people trying to figure out on their own which specialist they need, or seeing a specialist when a primary care physician will do since the services are more expensive).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:00 AM on November 4, 2012

Try an allergist that is familiar with food intolerances. I was misdiagnosed for years with my food intolerances. It took a forward thinking general practitioner with a blood test to finally give me a diagnoses that set me free of constant pain, fatigue, and gastro issues.

Intolerances and allergies are worse when you are the most stressed. What works for me is to avoid the trigger foods entirely during times of stress and to avoid and manage stress better. Long walks are my salvation. I have recently started yoga which is amazing. Yoga has the added benefit of helping me breathe better which helps with everything. Both help rid my body of toxins. After I have had too many foods (or an antibiotic) that I am intolerant of, I sweat and my skin actually burns from my own sweat. This doesn't happen when I have been taking care of myself.

Not all doctors will know how to help you. Be your own advocate. Avoid trigger foods, adjust your stress level, and take care of you.
posted by myselfasme at 5:20 AM on November 4, 2012

Hey, this is my life. Ultimately you will either get drugs that dampen your response or stop eating foods that give you a reaction. There is no magic switch the doctor can reset to change your food sensitivities.

However, if you are currently on medication, there is a chance it is enabling this issue. Also, more confusingly, sometimes eating one food can build sensitivity for others. Gluten is remarkable for that.

If you seek medical assistance, You must do 95% of the research and legwork on your symptoms yourself, including a comprehensive food and reaction diary, and be prepared to interview multiple food allergists to find one who can help you with a plan.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:52 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Totally nthing what everyone else has said so far. I would see an allergist first, since many allergies can have stomach and other systemic manifestations along with the skin reactions. (Unfortunately, I know this all too well. *sigh*) However, no matter what doctor you ultimately see, be prepared for the possibility that the only 100% effective, no-side effect solution is to carefully examine everything you eat and simply stop eating foods containing/cooked in the ingredients that cause reactions.

Also, if soy and peanut oil are bothering you, pay close attention to all other members of the legume family, including lima beans, chickpeas, lentils, alfalfa, and the like. You could be having milder reactions to them as well and they make frequent appearances in prepared foods (e.g. lentils are sometimes used as thickeners and protein additives, chickpea flour is added to may 'low carb, high protein' prepared foods, soy lecithin is EVERYWHERE, and soy oil shows up not just in foods but in shampoos and conditioners, too).
posted by skye.dancer at 10:03 AM on November 4, 2012

I have this problem, and I would add olive, safflower, walnut, sesame, canola, flax, sunflower, and avocado oils to your list.

It all started with peanut oil and progressed oil by oil slowly over about 20 years; I'm still OK with rice bran oil and possibly corn oil, but I don't push it with either of them.

I eat tons of fat, but it's all animal-derived.

seanmpuckett mentions gluten sensitivity as a possible gateway to all this, and that accords with my experience because my first oil problem developed after I started showing symptoms that would ultimately be attributed to celiac disease.

It makes sense to me that celiac disease could be a factor in your sensitivities, because normally the fats you eat are extensively processed (and transformed) before they enter the bloodstream, and even then they are sequestered in little packages:
Triglycerides are emulsified by bile and hydrolyzed by the enzyme lipase, resulting in a mixture of fatty acids and monoglycerides.[1] These then pass from the intestinal lumen into the enterocyte, where they are re-esterified to form triacylglycerol. The triacylglycerol is then combined with phospholipids, cholesterol ester, and apolipoprotein B-48 to form chylomicrons. These chylomicrons then pass into the lacteals, forming a milky substance known as chyle. The lacteals merge to form larger lymphatic vessels that transport the chyle to the thoracic duct where it is emptied into the bloodstream at the subclavian vein.[2][3]
But the intestinal lumen becomes leaky in people with celiac disease, making it possible for eaten oils to come into contact with the blood in their original form and unpackaged, which could cause the development of an immune response to them that would otherwise be absent.

So first, I think you should get a blood test for celiac disease, and be treated for that if you happen to have it.

And that might nip the whole thing in the bud.
posted by jamjam at 5:08 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Gastroenterologist. If you're in the Bay Area, MeMail me.
posted by radioamy at 12:25 PM on November 5, 2012

So I saw a gastroenterologist immediately after this question and had a colonoscopy and a endoscopy and the results so far have indicated that there is nothing wrong with me. I've tested negative for celiac but a recent trip to urgent care for yet another issue prompted the on-call doctor to quiz me about my bouts of food poisoning for the last 6 years and lo and behold I think we figured out what went wrong: I have secondary lactose intolerance from not avoiding dairy products after all the major times I've had food poisoning this year (3 times). Now I've been off dairy for almost a month and my skin has cleared and my stomach problems have almost completely gone away -- though my sensitivity to the aforementioned oils has not abated.

Now I sort of don't know what to do anymore because being a lactose intolerant vegetarian sucks and I miss cheese like nobody's business. If anyone has any experience in helping their body replenish their lactase, please memail me because I could use some support in fixing this.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:14 PM on December 2, 2012

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