An “explosion” in a food allergy poses a particular risk to vegans and vegetarians, one of Britain’s leading experts said.
Cases of pollen food syndrome (PFS) have risen markedly in the past few years as a result of global heating, worsening pollution and changes in pollen patterns, said Isabel Skypala, the only consultant allergy dietician in the British National Health Service.
Attacks of PFS are usually triggered by eating raw nuts, fruit and vegetables.
However, they can also be prompted by foods popular among people who avoid animal products, such as soya milk, avocados, jackfruit, edamame beans and smoothies.
The estimated 13 million Britons who are allergic to pollen and have hay fever are most at risk. PFS is caused by unstable pollen antibodies in proteins in some raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and soya.
“The last research into the prevalence of PFS in Britain, which I undertook in 2008, showed that 2 percent of adults had it, including 4 percent of people in London,” Skypala said. “I suspect that it has probably doubled since then.”
“In my clinic at the Royal Brompton hospital in London, about five out of every 10 people I see has PFS, whereas 10 years [ago] it might have been two, she said. “There’s a perfect storm of increasing PFS at the same time as you have a very great increase in people eating fruits and vegetables.”
It is an inherent sensitivity to pollen, rather than a meat-free diet, that puts them at risk, Skypala said.
Most people with PFS experience only mild symptoms such as itching or tingling in or around their mouth.
However, growing numbers experience nausea, vomiting and even difficulty breathing because their throat swells up.
“While a lot of people with PFS are having a mild reaction, severe reactions are more frightening and more dangerous,” Skypala said.
People with PFS often end up very nervous about what they eat, she said.
“A PFS reaction, mild or severe, makes people extremely anxious, and they often cut out all fruit and nuts, because they are worried about having another reaction,” she said.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign said foods that can trigger PFS include apples, pears, kiwifruit, strawberries, plums, cherries, cherry tomatoes, celery and carrots.
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