EXCLUSIVE: The man who’s allergic to vegetables: American, 36, breaks out in itchy rashes and falls sick every time he eats tomato, eggplant or pickled veg

  • He suffered three different stages of symptoms repeating every three-six weeks
  • They included vomiting, muscle twitching and smelling smoke after eating
  • It was caused by eating foods high in histamine, such as fish soup with wine

Some people may hate vegetables so much they think they’re allergic to them.

But doctors have found the first man who really is.

The 36-year-old American man broke out in a red, itchy rash across his body and felt serious ill every time he consumed pickled vegetables, tomato and eggplant.

His symptoms flared up within five hours of eating a meal, returning every three to six weeks and lasting up to two weeks at a time.

He suffered for 17 years with the condition before finally being diagnosed with a severe histamine allergy and given a bespoke meal plan.

Doctors say he is the first known patient who would consistently suffer a severe reaction in distinct phases after eating certain foods.

It is not just vegetables that caused him misery either, with pizza, seafood, cheese, wine and some meats all setting him off. 

His symptoms would begin with nausea, extreme tiredness, fever, lack of appetite and sometimes vomiting.

This stage usually lasts two days, but from time to time he can develop a pulsating headache which lasts up to a week.

Then he got a red rash, covering his neck, chest, inner arms and thighs. It usually fades within 24-36 hours.

The 36-year-old man’s chest, neck, inner arms and thighs turn red after eating foods high in histamine, including pickled vegetables, tomato and eggplant

The man’s 34-year-old brother suffers the same rash. Eating a low-histamine diet got rid of their symptoms

Histamine is an immune chemical associated with allergy, but it also triggers the release of stomach acid and communicates with the brain.

It is made in the body, but it is also found in lots of common foods like yogurt and tomatoes.

Most fresh vegetables are low in histamines, but spinach, eggplant and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi are particularly histamine-rich.

Some people are intolerant to histamine, meaning they have developed too much of it.

When histamine levels get too high or the body can’t break the chemical down properly, it can have an effect on normal bodily function.

Histamine intolerance is thought to be due to a lack of an enzyme called diamine oxidase, naturally produced in the body alongside histamine to break it down.

Diamine oxidase enzyme levels could be affected by:

Foods high in histamine which cause the enzymes to malfunction

Foods that block the enzyme or trigger histamine release

Medications blocking its function or production

Gastrointestinal disorders, such as leaky gut syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease

Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine could also lead to a histamine intolerance. When food isn’t digested properly, bacteria grows and causes histamine overproduction.

Normal levels of diamine oxidase enzyme cannot break down the higher levels of histamine in the body – provoking a reaction.


Alongside the rash came stomach cramps, a sore throat and diarrhea.

The third and longest phase caused a runny nose, another sore throat, coughing and headaches for up to two weeks.

Other symptoms that occurred throughout included heartburn, muscle twitching, sneezing, and sleepiness and smelling smoke after eating.

The unidentified patient, from America, had no other medical conditions or allergies.

Histamine is an immune chemical associated with allergy, but it also triggers the release of stomach acid and communicates with the brain.

It is made in the body, but it is also found in lots of common foods, with alcohol, yogurt and fermented foods such as sauerkraut being particularly histamine-rich.

An allergic reaction can be caused simply by eating foods containing histamine.

A typical meal provoking an allergic attack for the man was fish soup with wine.

Cheese, pizza, seafood, fried liver, pickled vegetables, tomato and eggplant also brought on the reaction.

Antihistamines slightly reduced his symptoms, but when doctors put him on a low-histamine diet, his symptoms disappeared entirely.

They then gave him tablets containing increasing amounts of histamines dissolved in water. The higher amounts of histamine brought on all of the previous symptoms.

The patient now eats a low-histamine diet to keep symptom-free. He has four siblings, three of which suffer similar symptoms.

Doctors chronicled the rare reaction in a report published in March in the American Journal of Case Reports.

They said the underlying cause for the symptoms recurring in a cycle is unknown.

Most people can eat foods high in histamine without any issues, but around 1 per cent of the global population is histamine intolerant.

According to the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, around 3 per cent of teenagers have a fruit or vegetable allergy.

Around 32million Americans have food allergies, as do 2million people in the UK.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention said that food allergies in children doubled between 1997 and 2011.

Every three minutes, someone has to go to the emergency room because of a food allergy reaction.

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