“Has anyone suddenly gotten food allergies from everyday foods?” one MyLupusTeam member asked. “I’ve suddenly become allergic to avocados, tomatoes, yogurt, bananas, blueberries, peanuts, and coffee. I get hives, a swollen face, and an itchy throat and tongue.”
Many MyLupusTeam members have discussed developing new food allergies or sensitivities since receiving their lupus diagnosis. If you have lupus, you’re likely no stranger to new and alarming symptoms, but suddenly developing a food allergy can be confusing, prompting you to wonder whether it’s related to your autoimmune disease.
Here, we’ll explore what research says about the link between food allergies and lupus.
Some members report allergic reactions to foods that never previously affected them. “I went through a phase where I was ‘allergic’ to almost all foods,” one member wrote. “It lasted for about three to six months and then just vanished.”
Others developed allergies that did not go away. “I went from no allergies as a child to over 18 food allergies when I finally got tested in March,” a member wrote.
Some members note that they don’t have allergies but have experienced new-onset sensitivity to foods such as gluten and lactose. “I have recently become gluten intolerant,” one explained.
Lupus is an autoimmune illness that causes your immune system to attack your body’s own healthy cells. Food allergies work in a similar way — your white blood cells create antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) that attack specific ingredients that you eat. Common food allergies include eggs, milk, shellfish, nuts, soy, and wheat.
The symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:
The connection between food allergies and lupus has not been well-researched. One 1985 study of 63 people living with lupus, 51 people living with other autoimmune conditions, and 133 healthy people found the highest rates of food allergy in people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common form of lupus. However, additional, newer studies must be done to show a connection between food allergy and lupus to explain why this connection may occur.
While food allergies have not been definitively shown to be related to lupus, other forms of allergic conditions are commonly found in people with the disease.
A 1993 study compared the rate of allergic diseases in 132 people living with SLE and 66 people without lupus. They found that 63 percent of the group with lupus had at least one type of allergic disorder, compared to just 30 percent in the group without lupus. Allergic conditions that were more common in the lupus group included allergic rhinitis (nose inflammation caused by environmental allergens), asthma, insect and drug allergies, and skin conditions such as eczema.
Sometimes, a different type of allergic reaction can cause symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting. Such gastrointestinal symptoms are also common in people with lupus. Lupus often affects the stomach and intestines, causing nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. It can be difficult to tell whether these symptoms are coming from food sensitivity or lupus.
It is essential to see a health care provider right away if you are experiencing an allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, can be life-threatening without quick treatment, so call 911 immediately if you experience difficulty breathing, dizziness, fainting, or a drop in blood pressure.
If you believe you have developed an allergy or food sensitivity, talk to your primary care doctor and consider getting referred to an allergist. They can help determine which foods you are allergic to and should avoid. Even if your allergic symptoms are not related to your lupus, make sure to keep your rheumatologist in the loop about any new conditions or lupus symptoms you develop.
On MyLupusTeam, the social network for people with lupus and their loved ones, more than 223,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with lupus.
Have you developed new allergies as an adult with lupus? What did you do about it? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.