Food Allergies and Allergic Reactions to Drugs

Patient Expert

Have you been having reactions to your prescribed medications and you can't figure out why? Do you have food allergies to any of the most common 8 allergens as outlined by the FDA: Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews and walnuts), fish (such as bass, cod and flounder), shellfish (such as crab, lobster and shrimp), soy and wheat?

If the answer is yes to either of the above, there just may be a connection between your allergies to medications and your food allergies that you and your health care provider have overlooked.

Did you know that very often the filler in pills and capsules is milk or wheat based? Or that pills even have filler ingredients such as sugar, wheat and milk?

A recent issue of the journal Orthopedics has an article titled "Implication of Food Allergies and Intolerances on Medication Administration."

Did you know: "Propofol (Diprivan; AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Wilmington, Delaware) is a general anesthetic frequently used during surgical procedures in adults and children. This intravenous emulsion product contains egg lecithin and soybean oil as inactive ingredients. As a result, propofol is contraindicated in patients with egg or soy allergy."

I've had propofol, but luckily I have neither an egg nor a soy allergy so I had no reaction. Whilst prepping for a day surgery procedure, everyone and their nurse comes to talk you through the procedure, explain what's going to happen and ask you a million times if you are pregnant (at least, they did that to me).

With each new person explaining and checking on me, I gave the same refrain, "I'm an allergic person, very sensitive to medications and I have asthma." Then when the big guns came in, the anesthesiologist and his assistant, I went through every known food allergy I could think of and reminded them I had asthma and to pay attention to my lungs during the procedure. Even while on the table in the OR, I've said, "Hey don't forget, I'm an allergic asthmatic here"

I don't see it as different from the surgeon coming in and signing her name to the body part to be worked on. We all need reminders, it's a busy, fast-paced world, and I know my body and my health best.

Have you discussed your allergies with your health care provider, the one who's prescribing medications? Or when you get ill from these meds, do you call the doctor and go over the possible reasons why?

Some further info from this Orthopedic article: "Glucosamine and chondroitin are dietary supplements often used to treat osteoarthritis. Glucosamine is derived from either shrimp or a corn fermentation process. Caution should be exercised in using glucosamine supplements in patients with shellfish allergies. Products vary in their formulations; therefore, patients with seafood allergies should use supplements derived from corn fermentation."

A lot of products are derived from seafood. Did you know that over the counter calcium pills are often made from the shells of shellfish?

The article continues: "The Bottom Line: Inactive ingredients in medication are often a source of food allergens; Practitioners must ask patients specifically about food allergies and intolerances and become familiar with useful resources to help guide medication selection in these patients."

But often practitioners don't ask and it's up to you to speak up.