The two most common food additives that trigger asthma
Many common foods and beverages naturally contain chemicals that can cause adverse reactions, including asthma. Wines, especially red wines, contain more than four hundred different chemicals. Susceptible wine drinkers may develop facial flushing, itching, sneezing, a stuffy nose, or even wheezing when they drink wine. Chocolate and many cheeses contain large amounts of amine-like chemicals that may trigger severe headaches or even migraine attacks in migraine-prone people. The jitteriness and insomnia from coffee or tea are simply adverse reactions to caffeine. These adverse reactions to foods, beverages, or chemicals should not be confused with true allergic reactions.
Literally thousands of agents are added to the food we consume daily, including preservatives, stabilizers, conditioners, thickeners, colorings, and flavorings. Despite the widespread use of food additives, only a few of these chemicals are capable of triggering asthma or other allergic reactions. The two most common food additives that trigger asthma are monosodium glutamate (MSG) and the sulfite preservatives. Individuals with MSG sensitivity may experience facial flushing and tingling sensations after consuming MSG. As many Chinese foods contain large amounts of MSG, this very common condition is also called the Chinese restaurant syndrome. Those people who wheeze after eating MSG have Chinese restaurant asthma.
Sulfites, which prevent the browning and discoloration of foods that follow exposure to room temperatures, have been used for centuries to preserve wine, raw potatoes, seafood, and fresh vegetables. Ingestion of large amounts of sulfites by normal individuals is usually quite safe. Not so for those susceptible asthmatics in whom sulfites may trigger severe, life-threatening asthma attacks. Sulfite sensitivity is very rare in children and mainly occurs in adults with severe asthma.