About 6 years ago, following a long period of relentless fatigue and gastroenterological problems, I had a RAST allergy test and found I am allergic to garlic, dairy, shrimp, citrus and sugar. Dairy and shrimp are fairly easy foods to avoid, but avoiding garlic is a real challenge.
I read online that an estimated 1 in 1500 Americans is allergic to garlic. If this were true, you'd think there'd be more information out there about this allergen. I certainly don't hear much about it. Considering the symptoms (bloating, gas, cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomitting, headaches, indigestion, drowsiness), most people probably aren't aware that they suffer from a garlic allergy and just pop some Pepto, which leads me to speculate about some kind of cover-up by the drug industry.
Because garlic is not an FDA-recognized allergen, there is no requirement to list garlic as an ingredient in processed foods. "Natural flavoring" often contains garlic, but it can be impossible to verify this with food companies as they either don't know what's in this mysterious blend (usually purchased from a flavoring company), or they claim their special mix of "natural flavoring" is proprietary information and they can't disclose what it contains. I have battled with many food companies over the years and can name the companies (and restaurants) who make it difficult for this information to be known by their consumers.
I avoid almost all processed foods, including ketchup, mayonnaise, sauces (Worcestshire, teriyaki), salad dressing, mustard, canned soups, dried boxed foods, certain vitamins and supplements, processed meats (which I have to avoid anyway because of dairy preservatives), tomato sauce, canned broths, frozen ground meats, microwave popcorn, many brands of chips and snack foods, and frozen meals. Additionally, with the exception of sushi, I don't eat at restaurants.
These measures have made my life very difficult. I have to prepare every meal from scratch at home. It's impossible to feed myself when I'm required to travel for business. I have to constantly think ahead whenever I leave the house: what do I need to eat while I'm out and where am I going to eat it? Needless to say, this allergen has made my life a living hell at times. It rules out the possibility of taking that all-inclusive tour through Morocco, for example, unless I want to exist on protein bars for 2 weeks. I'm constantly having to ask restaurants and hotels to bend over backwards for me. I'm unable to eat out with friends (I'll just watch you all eat), or enjoy the convenience of take-out on a busy night.
Why does it have to be this way? Why do food companies have to put garlic in EVERYTHING?!! I'm very frustrated and looking for solutions to make my life easier. You might advise to just go ahead and eat garlic anyway, but if you've read anything about "leaky gut syndrome," you'll see this is not a healthy option. Is there anybody out there with this problem?
So many people continue to comment on this post, nearly 5 years after I first wrote it. I am still here, and I still have the same allergies and problems. I had a slight reprieve when I was pregnant but now that I have stopped nursing, my allergies are back with a vengeance. I have read each and every comment over the years, and have been touched by how much people want and need a community for this issue. I have even been contacted by food companies who want to help.
This forum is really not set up for discussion and support, so I want to encourage you to find and join the Facebook group Garlic Allergy/Intolerance. Greater communal power will allow us to start petitioning our governments for better allergy bills, like this bill passed in Massachusetts last year. We can also use the group on Facebook to share recipes, list safe and unsafe products, and perhaps even form local groups. I hope to see you over there!