Most of us love to have the odd glass of wine or prosecco (fun), but for some of us, simply having one glass can bring on an allergic reaction resulting in an itchy, red and flushed looking face (not fun)! Whilst quite uncommon, not many will be aware of the fact that it’s actually the wine/prosecco/champagne causing it and will put it down to ‘alcohol’. The good news is, it’s unlikely to be the ‘alcohol’, but the bad news is, it’s likely to be the sulphites in the wine/prosecco/champagne, so sadly for those like me with a sulphite allergy, these are a no-go!
So what are Sulphites?
In short, sulphites are used to enhance flavour and to preserve freshness. Sulphites keep certain foods from spoiling too quickly and keep unwanted bacteria from degrading drinks such as wine (which is why the majority of wines and beers etc will contain these harsh preservatives.) They are also found in cosmetics products too and can cause issues when applied topically (so watch out for them in the products you use on your skin.) Simply put, things made without sulphites (and other preservatives) have a much shorter shelf life/use by date than those packed full of preservatives/sulphites.
How did I know I had a Sulphite allergy?
For me, it took a long time to identify that it was sulphites that was making me react (It’s one of my many allergies) and as sulphites are in lots of random things, (as is dairy) I found it difficult to pinpoint the allergen causing my flare-ups. Little did I know at the time that these pesky preservatives that are added to foods and drinks were making my skin flare. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I’d identified that every time I drank wine, sure enough, I’d have a flare up. Vodka was fine, Gin-fine, Run-fine. Wine-Not fine! After a little google research, I’d pinpointed that the common factor was sulphites and so set to avoid them. Fine, I thought! I’ll stop drinking wine (It always gave me headaches anyway!) but no… Those pesky preservatives pop up in quite a few other foods and drinks…!
What foods contain Sulphites? (Bad news for those with a Sulphite allergy!)
- Most wines/champagnes/proseccos/cider/beers
- Some sauces e.g BBQ sauce used on ribs, those that contain vinegar such as some mayonnaise and pickles
- A fair amount of meat (Mostly ‘fresh’ including sausages)
- Some fruit yoghurts
- Most dried fruits
- Some fruit juices and jams
- Some sweets (some brands of wine gums, Swizzels Squashies)
Symptoms of a sulphite allergy
- Rash (hives or urticaria)
- Gastro-intestinal symptoms
- Aggravated eczema
More information – by the Anaphylaxis Campaign.
Just to confuse us…
Sulphites have a number of variations to keep us on our toes so watch out for these when you check the labels:
- Sodium sulphite
- Sodium bisulfite
- Sodium metabisulfite
- Potassium bisulfite
- Potassium metabisulfite
- Sulfur dioxide
- E-numbers E220-228
Luckily these days allergen labelling is getting better so products should state if they contain sulphites.
Me and wine
Given that I gave up wine a long time ago, I have been fortunate enough recently to have found a few wine suppliers, who make wine without adding sulphites during the winemaking process. Whilst they may contain ‘naturally occurring sulphites’ (which are minimal), they are a great option for people like me who try to avoid products with added sulphates! There aren’t many suppliers who offer these though so come on winemakers, pull your fingers out and give us a little more choice…
If you find that you get a little flushed after drinking wine, start making a note as to when it happens…. you may just see a pattern.
Do you know anyone who becomes flushed and red after drinking wine or beer?
If so, feel free to share this with them.
Make sure that you consider the following…
*…If you have severe allergies, some products may not be suitable due to manufacturing methods. Please be aware that all products are subject to reformulation at any given time. Consequently, it is recommended that you always check the ingredient lists on the packs of all products prior to purchase to determine product content.