Does Your Child React to Fermented Foods?

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While reactions to the top 8 food allergens are common and serious, they are not the only food-related reactions your child could have. It’s possible to have an allergy or intolerance to a range of foods, one of which is the group of fermented foods. These are foods that are made by some kind of microorganism, such as yeast, breaking down and converting the ingredients into an acid or alcohol. Keep reading to learn more about this intolerance, how it presents itself and which foods can cause a reaction.

Fermented Foods and Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance could be the cause if your child reacts to fermented foods. This is because fermented foods contain histamines. The same reaction can happen from aged foods, which also include histamines.

Histamines come into play with outdoor allergies, as your immune system makes these chemicals to help rid your body of allergens through symptoms such as sneezing and tearing of the eyes. In the case of foods, fermented and aged varieties bring histamines into your body. This becomes a problem for people with a histamine intolerance, who don’t make enough of the enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO) that breaks down histamines when working as it should.

When there is a problem with breaking down histamine, the levels of this chemical can get too high, leading to symptoms. While the reaction to a food allergen happens quickly after eating the offending food, it can take time for a histamine intolerance to show itself. A reaction occurs when the histamine levels in the blood rise to a certain point. If your child has a histamine intolerance, it may be possible for them to eat small amounts of foods containing histamines, while eating more can create the reaction.

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance can show itself through a range of physical symptoms, which are similar to what you would experience with hay fever. These include:

  • Nasal congestion

  • Watering, red eyes

  • Facial or throat swelling

  • Hives

  • Headache

  • Skin issues

  • Heart racing

  • Heartburn

This intolerance is also connected to emotional symptoms, including irritability and anxiety. Nonetheless, it’s also possible for a reaction to histamine to seem like a panic attack without being one. This is because histamine widens blood vessels, increases heart rate and drops blood pressure. These actions can bring on anxious feelings, shortness of breath, dizziness, facial redness, a pounding heart and other symptoms that resemble a panic attack. 

Which Foods Could Pose a Problem?

Any type of fermented food could create a reaction if your child has a histamine intolerance. Examples of fermented foods include:

  • Cheese

  • Yogurt

  • Kefir

  • Kimchi

  • Miso

  • Tempeh

  • Natto

  • Salami

  • Sauerkraut

  • Sourdough bread

  • Olives

If you have noticed a reaction to fermented foods in yourself, the parent, be aware that alcohol is often fermented as well.

Many other foods can also pose a problem for people with a histamine intolerance. Some of these include:

  • Eggs

  • Fish and shellfish

  • Leftover meat

  • Some food additives and seasonings

  • Certain fruits and vegetables

See a more comprehensive list here.

If your child experiences symptoms similar to hay fever or seems like they’re having panic attacks, consider whether they are eating a significant amount of fermented foods. Of course, it’s possible that these types of symptoms are coming from another source, but keeping a food journal should help you see if there is a pattern connected to your child’s eating habits. Minimizing the amount of fermented foods your child consumes can manage this problem, or you can talk to an allergist or other medical professional about other options.