Other Possible Culprits

Since nothing is easy with this sensitivity, you may find that you are having reactions while being impeccable with your diet.  So, before make yourself crazy by eating nothing but chicken and lettuce three meals a day, seven days a week, let’s talk about all the other things that might cause a reaction. Remember, there are a lot of things we ingest that are not food. This is NOT a comprehensive list, but here are some pharmaceuticals, skin and body care product and inhalants to avoid:


Tylenol with Codeine a.k.a Tynenol 3 or 4.   Here are the ingredients:

TYLENOL® with Codeine No. 3 contains powdered cellulose, magnesium stearate, sodium metabisulfite†, pregelatinized starch (corn), and modified starch (corn).

TYLENOL® with Codeine No. 4 contains powdered cellulose, magnesium stearate, sodium metabisulfite†, pregelatinized starch (corn), and corn starch

Bronchodilator solutions for asthma

  • Adrenalin chloride 1:1000 concentration
  • Bronkosol
  • Isuprel hydrochloride solution

Topical eye drops

  • Pred-Mild
  • Pred-Forte
  • Sulfacetamide
  • Prednisol
  • Dexamethasone

Injectable medications

  • Amikacin
  • Betamethasone phosphate (Celestone)
  • Chloropromazine (Thorazine)
  • Dexamethasone phosphate (Decadron)
  • Dopamine
  • Epinephrine (Adrenaline, Ana-Kit, Epi-Pen)
  • Garamycin
  • Gentamycin
  • Isoetharine HCl
  • Isoproterenol (injectable)
  • Hydrocortisone (injectable)
  • Lidocaine with epinephrine (Xylocaine)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Metarminol
  • Norepinephrine (Levophed)
  • Procaine (Novocaine)
  • Prochloroperazine (Compazine)
  • Promethazine (Phenergan)
  • Solutions for total parenteral nutrition and dialysis
  • Tobramycin

In addition, I have found I react to almost every kind of vitamin or supplement I have ever tried.

Skin/body care products and other things you might absorb:

You also need to be careful with things you may absorb – I don’t have a comprehensive list, but carefully read the labels on lotions, soaps, shampoos, cleansers, hair products, toothpaste, laundry detergent – anything you put in or on your body is a possibility. I have had reactions to a chinese herb patch for bruises, moisturizers, scrubs, *ahem* personal adult type products (don’t judge) and lip gloss. You absorb around 70% of what you put on your skin – be sure it doesn’t include sulfites!

Possible inhalants:

It is also possible to ingest sulfites through inhalation. Here are a few things that can be problematic:

  • Car exhaust
  • Most books have had the pages treated with sulfited corn starch that you could potentially inhale or absorb through your skin.
  • Candles/incense/some essential oils
  • Some foods being prepared– some folks cannot be in the room where garlic is being cooked or onions are being cut – use caution!
  • Artificial snow – I wasn’t sure if I should list this under possible inhalants or if it was absorb-able, but it is sort of both. If you are going skiing and they have to “make” snow, they add sulfites – in warmer years, they add more.
  • Other chemical sensitivities – I know this is vague and general, but I cannot tell you how many times I have heard of people dealing with multiple chemical sensitivities that either trigger a sulfite sensitivity or add to the symptoms. I am not going to get into details here, but if you are not finding answers in all the traditional sulfite solutions, this is a great area to research.

77 Responses to Other Possible Culprits

  1. Margery Strom says:

    I feel lucky to have found your web site.

    The foods I cannot tolerate, found through trial and error include, alcolol, caffeine, sodas, soya products, citrus, chocolate, cranberries, black currents, strawberries tomatoes etc. The common denominator for many of these seems to be sulphites.

    My symptoms, however, are urgency, incontinence, feelings of a bladder infection. The latter was medically ruled out. My symptoms cam be relieved with an antihistamine.

    Does anyone else share these symptoms ?

    • Ellen Doele says:

      Margery, you are not alone! I have had a lot of doctors look at me sideways throughout the years because of a bladder infection I insist I have, but does not show up on tests. Only in the past month have I learned this extremely challenging condition is most likely a) chemical cystitis or b) candida. I am seeing an allergist now, going thru the tests and special diets (sulfite-free AND candida) Eating unprocessed and no yeast, sugar or honey seems to be helping as I await results… Plus, in the past two weeks (and diligent journaling), I have learned my bladder is highly-sensitive to any chemicals I am around; waterproofing our deck, nail polish and Stevia drops all have inflamed my insides acutely in the past 3 weeks! Also, Pirate’s Booty Cheese Curls (toted as “healthy”–who would have thunk?). I was just becoming aware of all of this when I had my first appointment with the allergist, so I wrote in big letters (on the papers you fill out for your first appt), “I have the constant feeling of getting and/or having a bladder infection. Does not show up on tests. Could this be candida or a chemically sensitive bladder?” (Note: there was no room on the forms; I just made room! by writing in all the white spaces :)) The doctor took note and suggested a candida diet, probiotic drops and allergy drops. I feel I am, for the first time in 20 years, finally on a path to great health. I hope this helps! There are ways to feel better. It just takes being very, very patient and being your own advocate. Good luck.
      Oh! And I read on a chemically-sensitivity site that sometimes, when your bladder is irritated, even the acidity in your urine can aggravate the mass cells that are inflamed down there. So I’ve taken their advice and started taking a teaspoon of baking POWDER dissolved in about a 1/4 cup water, 3 times a day and this helps too! Especially with the flareups. Best of luck to you!

      • Ellen Doele says:

        oh and p.s., thank you, Tracy, for creating this site! Yours is the first I have run across that describes the sulfite experience in a real, down-to-earth way. (Which may explain my enthusiatic, out-of-the-blue reply above!)

      • Kristen says:

        Can you tell me more about the allergy drops??
        Thank you!

        • Ellen Doele says:

          @ Kristen: I had the option (from my allergist) to come in once a week for allergy shots or take daily allergy drops at home (3 x’s per day) under the tongue. They are homeopathic. Teeny, tiny particles of what you are allergic to are put into a solution (if I understand this right, I have 15 different allergens in mine). The idea behind the homeopathic drops is, by introducing a tiny bit of what you are allergic to each day you are getting your body to become more tolerant, less reactive. The drops say to your body, “Here’s a small amount of (allergen) in your body and it’s o.k.!” In other words, it basically gets your body to simmer down and not be so dramatic 🙂
          I already see a difference! Cost is about $80 for a 3 month supply. Perhaps a bit slower method of overcoming allergies–as opposed to a weekly shot–but well worth it, in my opinion as I plan to overcome this condition! And be totally prescription-drug free in a couple of years.
          p.s. mine are almost tasteless and are prescribed by my allergist. Possibly a naturopath would be able to prescribe them too? Does anyone out there know?… I wish you well, Kristen!

          • Wallace thorp says:

            I’m just thinking that the drops are counter intuitive. When you think about it, when you eat certain foods that are vaguely cross contaminated you are introducing your body to tiny amounts of the allergen. What your body needs is to rest. These allergies and constant exposure to them keep the body in constant ‘alert’! Thus, the production of corticosteriods and other stress hormones add to the inflammatory process. I have terrible sulfite allergies and in my opinion the only solution is complete avoidance. I wish you well on this, it’s a struggle. Peace.

      • Margery Strom says:

        Benadrly has helped my bladder irritation symproms. Quite by accident, I had eaten something that had begun to irritate my bladder aand at the same time felt a cold coming on, so took a Benadryl and the bladder symptom wwent away in an hour or so.
        This makes me think that it is a histamine mediated reaction. MD’s think that unless there are respiratory symptoms weeping eyes etc. that it is not an allergic reaction.
        The epithelial tisssue lining the intrestinal tract, respiratory system and the bladder and vagina are all remarkably similar and originate from the same primitive cells.

        • Ellen Doele says:

          Thanks, Margery, for the Benadryl tip! Good to know. Also, thought you might like to know since these last posts, I have become aware that mold is a trigger for bladder sensitivities in me. Offending culpits can be as simple as eating just a little too much cheese (I can eat small amounts of shredded now), dead leaves on the ground or looking at old papers & books stored in an old house. I absolutely believe what you say about tissue being the same and even if conventional doctors don’t make the connection, WE DO! 🙂 because we live it. I am grateful for the support this site gives–thanks again for all the tips everyone!

          • Tracy says:

            I can’t do any aged cheese at all, but I can do fresh. Be careful with the preshredded, though. It often has cornstarch mixed in to prevent it from sticking together – and since they don’t consider it an “ingredient” they don’t list it on the package.

    • Ann Blezard says:

      For many years now I have realised that wine does not agree with me(which is a crying shame as I love a nice glass). However it has only been in the last 12 months that the penny has started to drop. I generally like to cook from scratch. 6 months ago we decided to move, empty the cupboards etc I started to rely on many ready meals, Jars , sliced bread, sauces, the list goes on, to get us over the move.
      My symptoms have become more and more acute, although not dangerous, Stomach and muscle cramps, bloating,nausea/headaches, skin flushing/itching, heart palpations and occasional rapid pulse, nasal congestion, the more of these types of products I have used, even candles make me itch.
      I am due at the doctors next week to try and get a firm diagnosis but after lots of research it looks like a sulphite sensitivity could be the culprit-do any of the above ring a bell with anyone.

      • Tracy says:

        Hi Ann – Yes, all of that sounds familiar. It is very difficult to get a definite diagnosis from the doctor. Your best bet is an elimination diet. It sounds a lot like a sulfite sensitivity, though. Let me know what happens at the doc! Do be careful with the heart palps and rapid pulse – I know lots of folks who have progressed to heart attacks from this symptom.


        • Ann Blezard says:

          Thanks Tracy,
          Dr seems to agree that it sounds like a sulphite sensitivity-so the elimination begins-I had no idea how many everyday products contain sulphites, seems very daunting at the moment , trying to find recipes that we can all eat (that the kids like). Make a cottage pie last night using a beef oxo cube and within minutes was itching like mad. It would be good to know a few basic from which to start reinventing our eating habits-If you have any tips would be most welcome.

          • Tracy says:

            Ann – I find that most folks (but not all) are pretty good with chicken, lettuce, lamb, celery and salt. Everything else seems to be per individual. But all organic if at all possible. There may be added sulfites in the processing of non organic foods. Also, you may detox now that you have cut out all the sulfites, which presents a lot like the original reaction. You might think you are reacting to something when it is just this detox. Mine lasted a month and it was NOT fun!


          • Joëlle says:

            Hi Ann
            Since discovering my husband’s sulfite sensitivity 18 months ago, thanks to this great site (I call it the self help sulfite free community) I have started making my own broths from scratch and then freezing ithem for future use. For instance, whenever I broil a chicken, I make chicken stock afterwards with the carcass — easy: you just boil it in water for about 20 mns. For beef stock, it’s best to get a cheap cut and boil it with vegetables for more flavor. In time I have learned to plan my meals a lot more. As a result I find we waste a lot less. Take heart!

    • Sue says:

      If you haven’t looked at the Failsafe Diet for very sensitive people, you might want to. I thought I only had sulfite sensitivity, except it didn’t explain why I began to react to potatoes and tomatoes from my garden, which we never use pesticides on. It turns out I am likely having problems with salicylates as well. If you look at the foods high in salicylates on the charts in the Failsafe Diet on the foodintolerancenetwork.com, you’ll likely find that you’ve found the culprits. It’s also worthwhile to check out salicylateme.com.

      My diety is severly limited now, but at least I have been able to stop having allergic reactions, and I remind myself daily that my diet still surpasses what most people in the world and have access to. Sulfite and salicylate sensitivity often go hand in hand.

  2. Kathleen S. says:

    Thanks, Tracy – great site! I had the same symptoms as Margery when my rheumatologist put me on Tramadol. I am highly suspicious of all prescription drugs at this point and try not to take anything, even over-the-counter medications, if at all possible. Not sure if there is some kind of sulfite connection or if these medications hit other sensitivities.

    In any event, I wanted to share the Environmental Working Group’s site, including its database of consumer products. http://www.ewg.org/consumer-guides There is also a good, thought-provoking documentary on Netflix called “Chemerical” that looks at all the chemicals that have invaded our modern life (household cleaners, personal care products & the like). Their web site is chemicalnation.com but it didn’t look like it had been updated recently.

    My husband and I currently try to eat organic and as little processed food as possible, but I can see from this site that we still have a lot of things we should look at eliminating (like my Stevia which has Dextrose in it :-(. We’re also trying to get back to basics in terms of getting the chemicals out of our house. We use organic, vegetable-based soaps and shampoos and I’ve purchased the ingredients to start making our own laundry soap recipes (soap flakes, washing soda, borax, baking soda). I am also about to start working with a naturopathic doctor. I’ve read alot about naturopathy and really think that is the way to go (good resource is Eating Alive by Dr. John Matsen, N.D. As one of those frustrated with conventional western medical doctors, I believe it is time to explore what is really causing the problems and not just have a doctor write me another prescription. My only hesitation to date is that is can be expensive as my medical plan does not provide any coverage for naturopaths.

    My personal belief is that our bodies are being overloaded by all the chemicals in our food supply and in homes. So even naturally occurring substances that normally might not cause a problem, can ‘tip’ our body past the point where it can deal with all the toxicity.

    • Tracy says:

      Hi Kathleen –
      Thanks and welcome. I totally agree with you the we are being overloaded by the chemicals around us and that is what is tipping us over. I am trying to do the same as you and clear as many chemicals as I can out of my system. Thanks for sharing your experiences!


  3. Tracy B says:

    Thank you for mentioning garlic in the other culprit section, I can be laying in bed upstairs in my bedroom with the door closed when suddenly I can’t breathe well and I know my husband is cooking with garlic. I’m sure my husband thought I was being a hypochondriac! – I wasn’t sure either,I searched it on the Internet and couldn’t confirm that this was possible.

    • Tracy says:

      Hi Tracy –
      Oh, yes, some of my worst reactions come from the aroma of trigger foods being cooked. I know lots of other folks who have the same reaction. For me Garlic is one of the worst (although I sure don’t want to be around root veggies roasting in the oven). You are definitely not being a hypochondriac!


  4. Deann says:

    Thank you for the medication information – I plan to confirm with my allergist about the epi-pen. The one thing I thought of as my ultimate emergency back up!

    Re: Allergy drops (sub-lingual immuno therapy) – they are in the same vein as allergy shots except you do not have to go in to see the allergist weekly. They are an alternative for those who cannot tolerate getting a needle or cannot get in to see their allergist weekly in the beginning. My understanding is that they are also better tolerated by individuals i.e. less reaction to the allergens you are being given. I don’t think a naturopath could prescribe them as you need to have the allergy testing done to figure out what needs to be in your particular concoction.

    • Tracy says:

      Hi there – just as an FYI,. if you do not have an allergy, but instead a sensitivity, the epi pen will be of no use as you will not be having a histimine response.

  5. Shirl says:

    The Heinz Vinegar Company told me that Apple Cider Vinegar has some sulfites in it but distilled White Vinegar does not as it is grain based. I have no trouble with white vinegar but have given up apple cider vinegar. I use white vinegar as a rinse agent in my washing machine and as a great cleaner for windows and kitchen surfaces as well (1/4 C white vinegar, pint water, plus one drop liquid dish soap in spray bottle). I have serious sulfite problems earning ambulance rides three times, once in a foreign country. Thank you for the great website! I need dental care soon and dread the process.

    • Tracy says:

      I know many people can use apple cider vinegar without issue, but I have been developing issues with anything in the rose family lately, so all apple products are out. I do know that most people can tolerate rice vinegar, but I hear of lots of problems with white vinegar.

  6. Sheri says:

    Hi Tracy, love the site!

    One thing that I don’t see on your other culprits list is, well, anything sold in a glass bottle or jar. Sulfites can be used to sterilize glass vessels for food/drink, even though its mostly talked about with wine and those who home brew alcoholic beverages. I suspect that each company has their own sterilization process and not all use sulfites to sterilize … I seem to tolerate some brands of bourbon and not others (wine is right out though!)

    I’m also glad to find other people who are in my situation, and that I’m not crazy. I’m so tired of people who dismiss my refusal to eat certain food as “being picky”. If they had to deal with the symptoms they’d avoid those foods too! It’s a frustrating affliction.

    Anyway, nice job on getting the word out and helping all of us feel better!

    • Tracy says:

      Hi Sheri – Good information on the glass bottles – I had not heard that before – I will do a little research on that and see what I can find out. Thanks for the heads up!


    • Marie says:

      I believe many u-brew companies use sulphites to clean the bottles and I think it happens naturally with grape fermentation.
      My friend & I have always been fine with the place where we make our wine. I had discussion with him one day and he said
      some he does use sulphites for the bottles – they use iodine method. He also said its usually the histamines that cause the

  7. Ellen Doele says:

    Hey Sul-fighters, new discovery. Hopefully it can help someone out there: I’ve been a very good girl, eating very safe & basic stuff. Then out of the blue I started having severe muscle aches/sinus headaches again, a feeling that I was being slowly electrocuted–bewildering! Knew it had to be environmental and assumed it was probably car exhaust (severe cold blast where I live–ND–has it floating very close to the ground). But here’s the stunner–as I did a faithful check of all the products I’d been taking, I found the culprit–innocent little saline nasal drops! Disodium phospate in them, among other things. I’d just assumed (because I heard it once) that all that nasal drops are just pure saline. So lesson learned today–I will never assume anything! yowsa.

  8. Margery Strom says:

    Thanks for the ssuggestion that mold could also be implicated. And here I am a fan of cheese, sometimes I think I could have been a mouse in a previous life. So now will try and be cautious… limiting myself to once or twice weekly.

    • Ellen Doele says:

      Margery, I too could have been a mouse! So this limiting cheese is a WHOLE new way of life for me. I just look at it at now as delectable treat–just every now and then, in nibbles! 🙂

  9. Ellen Doele says:

    Good point about cornstarch being in pre-packaged, Tracy. I should have mentioned we only have blocks of “young” cheese in our house now and shred it ourselves; I can get by with a couple of paper thin slices once or twice a week now. (Important to note: this is after GENTLY reintroducing it into my diet and being cheese-free for about 5 months!) I should also have mentioned if pre-shredded, I can get by with a “light dusting”–and I do mean dusting! 🙂

  10. Ellen Doele says:

    Thanks to Shirl (for posting about dreading dental work) and to Tracy for listing dizziness and racing heart as possible sulfite reactions; your posts helped me finally put two and two together. I would have never thought of sulphites being in novocane (sp), but they are! I’d had some dental work done recently and noticed both times the shot of lidocaine seemed to go “straight into my head”, with a feeling of spinning accompanied by a “skipping” heart beat. I mentioned this to my dentist the second time and asked if she’d ever heard of that happening before; she said no and that she would make a note of it in my charts…
    Well, after reading your posts I decided I’d better be a little more assertive the next time I went in! So today, when they asked if anything had changed with my medical chart, I told them I have since been diagnosed with a severe reaction to sulfur/sulfites, am learning there are preservatives in almost everything! and asked if they would please double check the packaging to see if there were any preservatives in the shot I was about to have…
    Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Turns out both lidocaine and septocaine have potassium metabisulfites in them. Mepivicaine doesn’t. (Mepiviciane doesn’t last quite as long as the other two, but it did it’s job and I was able to have a “normal” dental experience.)
    So the morale of the story is be aggressive! And get a caring dentist who will listen to you! It took them looking at the ingredients on the shot itself (wasn’t listed), getting the box and looking at it (wasn’t listed there either) and looking on a medical website–they finally found it there.
    Bless their hearts–and bless yours!–for helping me avoid another nasty reaction.

  11. Ellen Doele says:

    post note: Now I see it is on your list of injectable medications, Tracy, as procaine (novocaine). Missed that the first time I read it!

  12. C says:

    Update, seems ages since I posted.
    It now appears I am also salicylates
    Went to consultant at local hospital
    who listened and heard! Yes I am sensitive
    to food et,. !!! Yea. Now got appointment
    for dietician, wonder if she will tell me something
    I don’t already know?
    Also have to have tooth extraction so reading
    up on injections etc, will discuss with them all possibilities
    I am in UK.
    Now have lost 2 stone ie 28 pounds
    Not looking forward to the food side of
    Christmas celebrations, though still enjoy
    cooking for family but not onions, only way
    Is to use is wrapped tin foil cooked in oven
    the smell is more contained.
    Have a healthy Christmas and thanks for the

  13. C says:

    Re assume, I learnt to say assume, it can
    make an ass out of you and a ass out of
    me. !
    Yes we do have to double and treble
    check every label and company info.

  14. C says:

    Above entry should have been learnt to
    say presume

  15. Margery Strom says:

    If wine is producing symptoms including heart palpitations, maybe other foods to consider eliminating are well aged cheese and chocolate.


  16. Beastie says:

    Please don’t use oxo or any other stock
    cube, most have MSG included.
    I now put half teaspoon decaff coffee into
    meat cooking, just colours the “gravy”
    looks more exciting if u need to thicken I
    use arrowroot.
    I have checked with makers of do many
    items of food, very time consuming but
    worth it. Most do reply if u state this is a
    medical issue for you, though sometimes it
    pays to read between the lines.
    One good thing in UK is the label info.
    I finally get to see dietician next week
    After 4 month wait, help or not I will see.
    Now weigh 8 stone and dropping, it appears
    salicylates are in there somewhere.
    Thanks for this site and for reading.

  17. C says:

    I had appointment with dietitian really
    nice young lady, who admitted she knew
    little about sulphites, I recommend your site.
    she found info on her governing body
    and sent this to me.
    Well so little info that it made me really cross
    to know that they appeared to have so little
    As I said before thank you for this site
    next hurdle tooth extraction time, my dentist
    has referred me to hospital to have this carried
    out under a general, really terrified if dentists
    please pray or whatever for me, think I should
    feel better once infected teeth remove.
    (I live in hope)

  18. C says:

    Teeth extraction went according to dentists plan in hospital
    Thanks to his excellent practice. On Tuesday I attend another
    hosp to see allergy consultant. Hoping he can come up
    with some ideas.
    Trusting all others are keeping well and healthy.
    Thanks again for your site.

  19. C says:

    I attended my appointment with allergist
    not the consultant but one of his Registrars
    Not productive, he did suggest taking antihisamine
    2 hrs before a meal in case I react ie
    when eating out! so that would be on top of
    My daily dose of one.
    So back to what I have been doing for a few years,
    off on hols in few days, SC of course, suitcase
    will contain many items unable to buy in Greece,
    I do have on taverna who will cook me steak
    and jacket spud to my requirements, bless them.

  20. c says:

    The only thing he suggested was take anti his 2 hours prior to eating ie when away from home. Otherwise really a waste of time, he said yes you have allergy and seen to be doing the right thingss.
    So there you go thank goodness for the internet

  21. Gary says:

    I have not read all the comments, but perhaps my trek can add some light.
    When I was in my late 30’s I entered into a couple years of continuous heavy stress and trauma and fear crept in as well. All of these negative emotions put you and keep you in the “fight or flight” mode, the nervous system called “Sympathetic” and also the “Enteric”. In these modes the body switches to a “survival” mode and all but shuts down non-critical systems such as Digestion. Many things happen in this mode. Food you eat won’t digest properly resulting in it fermenting and putrefying resulting in the destruction of beneficial bacteria and yeasts as they are taken over by the toxic/bad kind. Histamine (which people with sulfite problems should look into) will constantly be produced in this mode, which has similar results to sulfites. Enzyme production is compromised, which is why we become hyper-sensitive to histamine and sulfites due to the lack of the enzyme that neutralize them. Butyrate (check it out) production also disappears. The immune system becomes over worked and confused and “Auto-immune Diseases” such as those you have mentioned plus more like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, brain problems like depression and concentration troubles…are created. The whole problem starts in the Gut, and there are many factors that “stress” the body…poor sleep, chemicals in our food and air, emotions, over working…. Check out all these things plus “Leaky Gut.” They are all related, and are at the root of our problems of food and chemical sensitivity. A good place to start is a Functional Medical Practitioner called Chris Kresser. Google his name.

  22. Margery Strom says:

    Very interesting that hypersensitivity to histamine is part of the problem…

    Quite by accident, when I experienced a rather severe bladder problem, which I attribute completely to consuming certain foods, I took an anti-histamine for an insect bite, and my symptoms of bladder problem disappeared as well.

  23. Heather says:

    Just reading through the comments here. I do have a sulfite allergy. Eyes swell and get SOOO itchy, tongue and lips tingle, stuffed up and if it’s a mild reaction I get the abdominal issues 12-24 hours later with muscle cramps and most other items listed above. My question is – does anyone know if this allergy runs in the family? My 7 year old daughter has been having quite a hard time with coughing, post nasal drip, etc. lately that I’m wondering if I should give the elimination diet (aka make her eat like I do) a try – but she will not be a happy girl!


  24. Ellen Doele says:

    Check your household cleaning supplies also. This article explains a lot!

  25. Sue says:

    I’m sulfite sensitive–thought I had MS. An scan showed white matter on the brain, so doctor thought possibly MS. I was dizzy, frequently numb on my right side, had migraines at night, and muscle weakness. Within a week of beginning the sulfite-free diet, all symptoms went away. I still get headaches if I accidentally consume sulfites, which I do all the time. I guess you learn as you go. It’s only been two months since I figured it out, and I seem to be getting more sensitive, not less, and some sulfite-free foods are jumping on the band wagon and making my diet even more challenging. I’ve lost seven pounds I didn’t need to lose. I retired, disabled, with chemical sensitivity ten years ago. It hasn’t let up a bit. Now I”m wondering if the sulfite sensitivity brought it all on.

    I also react to toilet paper and have for years. Skin feels blistered where the toilet paper touches. Three years ago I bought a bedet, and cut up squares of old cotton t-shirts to dab dry. I keep a lidded bucket in the bathtub to soak them, then throw them in the washer when the bucket’s full. Life changes a lot with allergies.

    • Eileen says:

      Hope you’re improved.
      When we stop taking any food sensitivity item, we then react rather quickly and strongly when we take it again. BUT in time, perhaps a long time, the body heals and we react less. It may take a couple of years on a strict regime.

  26. linda cook says:

    Could you tell me if a cough is a symptom.

    • Tracy says:

      Hi Linda –
      It can be, but not necessarily. One of the major issues that occurs during a reaction is reflux, which can easily cause a cough when the throat is irritated from the acid coming back up the esophagus. The sinuses can also become irritated and excessive mucous can be produced, which can drain and cause coughing. Also, there is a strong link to asthma and a shortness of breath can in some cases cause the need to cough. Sometimes the reaction produces itching and/or swelling in the mouth and throat which can result in coughing. Hope this helps.


      • linda cook says:

        Thank you, after having a skin test it came back reacting to sodium metabisulfite.
        I have had this cough for 22 years and no one can tell me why. It now makes sense. Would like to know if there are any permament blonde hair colours I could use. Many thanks
        L cook.

  27. Lark says:

    This website is a blessing – thank you so much. I drank grape sparkling cider on Easter, and discovered it contained sulphites! I’m still recovering from a burning achiness, swelling, headache and great fatigue – so bad that even my eyes hurt. I have experienced hives, itching and mouth sores from cucumber skins, mangoes and nuts – esp. walnuts. I am also allergic to sulpha meds. However, I don’t seem to have any problem w garlic/onions, which confounds me since my reactions are quite severe w the aforementioned. Any theories? Thanks again.

    • Tracy says:

      Hello Lark –
      It may be that you are reacting to added sulfites but not naturally occurring ones. Both cucumbers and mangoes can be waxed to prolong shelf life and that might have sulfites in it and if you are in the US, even “raw” nuts are blanched before sale as a way to pasteurize them and the liquid used will generally contain sulfites. I can eat mangoes and cucumbers if I make sure they are organic and then I peel them. It isn’t ideal, because I like them with the peel on, but at least I can eat them.

  28. Joëlle says:

    Hi Lark,

    No theories but my husband is the same and I know of other people who can tolerate a small amount of onions, garlic, leeks. He has more problems with cauliflower, which suits him fine as he never liked them… Maybe it all depends on the amount, or the different chemistry inside each vegetable. His main issue, however, is added sulfites in food. So we cook everything from scratch.
    Hang in there. Life can be sulfite-free AND beautiful!

  29. Donna says:

    Wow, very interesting comments and leaves me with the feeling that it’s so nice to know I’m not alone! Some of these things I’ve mentioned to my family and they just think I’m crazy, especially the comment someone made about reacting when someone in the house is cooking with garlic etc. I’m pushing 60 and my symptoms have been getting worse for the last few years. About a year or two ago after much researching I realized it was a sulfite problem. I did testing (once it was just two sips of wine that set me off). I get the sinus pressure, raging headaches and palpitations in the middle of the night, shakiness. I’m a very healthy person so this is so frustrating. But I’ve remembered that as a child if my mother was cooking sausages or bacon or roast pork, I would get a massive headache. Garlic has always been a huge issue for me so I avoid it altogether. I’ve become an avid label reader obviously, and on-line researcher. Last night I woke up with the headache and palpitations and am just now ransacking my cupboards reading labels and realize it was a President’s Choice chocolate chip cookie that set me off. I’ll continue to read your comments, thanks for making me feel more sane!

  30. Donna says:

    Oh and one more thing. Although I feel I’m very healthy, I do have a lot of digestive issues and have a very strict diet for myself constructed through food elimination. I’ve been tested for food sensitivities by a naturopath and all of the foods that came up as sensitive to me are on the sulfite list so I refer to that often. Do most of you have digestive problems as well? Doctor has thrown out terms like IBS, reflux, leaky gut etc. but I’m just really careful about what I eat to try to control it, although chocolate is a real problem for me as it’s a severe addiction!

    • Joëlle says:

      Hi Donna,
      I realize this is a bit late for commenting. Hopefully you have found the reason for your digestive issues. What has helped my husband tremendously also is going on a gluten-free, dairy-free diet. Actually, it has benefited me and our daughter also. I was worried about our calcium intake at first. As it turns out, our nails have never been so strong!

  31. C says:

    If my family wish to eat onions and garlic they have to prepare ie peel,wrap tightly in foil the bake in onion, then throw skins straight onto compost heap and through wash the knife use.
    when eating same I go upstairs with my meagre meal then they can unwrap and eat downstairs.
    Sad but they have got used to this now, same with curries etc.,

  32. Christine says:

    Hello, I was looking on your “other possible culprits” page and see Novocaine can be
    an issue. What do you do when you need dental care?

    • Rebecca says:

      I am allergic to sulfites *and* epinephrine, and thanks to a not very attentive dentist, I nearly fatally coded getting a cavity filled (epi is very common additive in dental shots). My new, fabulous dentist explained that there is a long list of options for making you numb, not just Novocaine, so just make sure you have a dentist who actually listens and is knowledgeable and doesn’t see patients like a list of cows in a queue.

  33. Susan says:

    There have been a few comments about Benadryl and lettuce being safe although I react to them, but I can eat onions and garlic. I seem to be reacting to things that didn’t bother me before such as cheese. Dasani water gives me huge reactions also. As someone else mentioned above I have been having some bladder/urgency problems off and on as well as vaginal discomfort, which I believe are caused by allergies. The doctors think I am nuts. I wonder if sulphites are used in the bleaching process for feminine products, or latex which I am also sensitive to. Glad to know I am in good company; thank you all for sharing.

    • Tracy says:

      I don’t do any medication, so I have not experimented with Benadryl. Lots of people find lettuce to be safe, but some don’t. That is the hard part about this sensitivity – everyone reacts differently and to slightly different things. Under what circumstances do you react to lettuce? In restaurants and some grocery stores, lettuce can be washed with a solution containing either bleach or sulfites. As long as it is part of a “process” and not intended to be an ingredient, they can get away with it, even though it is illegal to spray veggies with sulfites in a salad bar. It could also be a reaction to other chemicals sprayed on the lettuce. Do you react to organic lettuce that is unwashed until you wash it? I am curious to hear your experience, because if you don’t react to the organic lettuce, that would lead me to believe that you react to added sulfites and not naturally occurring ones, which is good news for you! I am sooooo jealous that you can do onions and garlic! As far as feminine hygiene products, I totally react to them. I switched over to a diva cup and that does not seem to bother me.

      • Susan says:

        Have only tried ordinary lettuce from the grocery store; washed and pre-bagged salad. My tongue goes numb. I will try organic and see. I am not sure if it is natural or the stuff they spray on to prevent browning. Will look into the diva cup thanks 🙂

    • Sue says:

      I’m very sensitive to any kind of toilet paper, no matter whether it’s unbleached or not. It caused a lot of pain and misery. I solved the problem by buying a portable bedet (squeeze bottle) to wash myself clean after using the bathroom, then pat dry with cotton cloth squares I cut up from old t-shirts. I keep a small lidded bucket next to the toilet and toss the cloth into a vinegar/water soak, and toss them into the washer once a week. Honestly, no bad smells in my bathroom as long as I keep the bucket clean.

      And I don’t drink water out of any plastic bottle because i react to the plastic.

      If you haven’t already, check out the website for the Mastocytosis Society of Canada. I eventually wound up there after years of weird allergies and chemical sensitivity. I’m convinced that I have MCAS (mast cell activation syndrome). Oh, and I”m nuts too.

      Best of luck. I hope you feel better soon.

    • Margery Strom says:

      The urinary problems could well be food related.
      Sugar is processed using sulphur compounds.
      I also believe foods containing anthocyanins, blue berries, blackberries, eggplant etc are culprits.
      Interestingly blue cheese was recently found to be a problem for me, though other cheeses are OK.

      Best wishes

  34. Susan says:

    Thanks Margery, I suspect it is sugar, and maybe other foods as well. I am off work so going to do some food challenges and try to figure out which foods are truly safe. Best wishes to you too.

  35. C says:

    I can not eat sugar made from sugar beet only sugar cane. In UK we have both on sale.

  36. Charla says:

    Tracy – I don’t see anything on your site about probiotics – what has been your experience with them? Are there certain types / strands that work better? I’ve read that anything “lacto” based will cause a reaction in sulfur sensitive folks….

    • Tracy says:

      Probiotics can be difficult, particularly with those folks who have leaky gut. The most readily available ones are multi strain, which can be too much for a sensitive gut at first (this is also true for yogurt). My current strategy is to start with a couple of single strain probiotics (Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Plantarum specifically) and see how I improve. I did a stool test a few months back and I had virtually no detectable probiotics in my intestines, so I am taking it slow. You also have to be careful of other ingredients and of what the capsules might be made out of. I wish I didn’t need to supplement!

      • Kathleen says:

        I cannot recommend this liquid probiotic enough. It is expensive but worth every penny. A shot glass a day is all it takes. The product is Coco biotic and can be purchased at http://www.bodyecology.com

      • C says:

        I feel same way,everything appears to be getting me. In UK we have had very high pollen counts and I enjoy working in garden
        So maybe that is not helping

  37. Kathleen says:

    I cannot recommend this liquid probiotic enough. It is expensive but worth every penny. A shot glass a day is all it takes. The product is Coco biotic and can be purchased at http://www.bodyecology.com

  38. Kathleen says:

    I should have noted that I am not affiliated with the company in any way, except as a happy consumer.

  39. Trista says:

    I found out I have been suffering from sulfite sensitivity after researching why my breastfed daughter developed eczema. Amidst my searching, I found an article on how to make “fake snow” from clean disposable diapers. That leads me to believe that their are also sulfites in disposable diapers even though manufacturers are not required to list diaper ingredients. Rest assured I’ll be buying cloth diapers immediately!

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