Food Sensitivities and Enzymes
including food and chemical intolerances and allergies last updated 8.25.05

Intolerances/sensitivities versus Allergies

People are unique individuals. They have different favorite foods, colors, temperatures, environments, etc. Sometimes a person has an 'altered response' to something that is fine for most other people. This is more than a personal is usually something their body reacts to automatically. This can be called a 'sensitivity or intolerance' or 'allergy'. An allergy usually involved the immune system. The sensitivity might involve the immune system. These terms are often loosely used interchangeably in everyday conversation. There are technical differences though.

A Provocation Test

A provocation test, also called a prick test, involves injecting a minute quantity of the substance under consideration (the allergen) in a purified form under the skin. In individuals allergic to that substance, a noticeable skin response usually develops. This is called a 'wheal,' and may or may not cause itching and redness.

In the 'classic' allergy reaction.
The following are the chain of events which happen in allergic reactions:

An allergen must be present in the body. This allergen is the substance which causes us to have an abnormal immunological response. Allergens tend to be protein molecules. Interestingly enough, the immune system only detects particles of a certain size as potential troublemakers and protein molecules are just the right size. In a small number of cases, the body actually responds to molecules other than proteins. These molecules, which are generally much smaller, are called haptens. By combining with protein molecules, haptens form larger complexes which can then be detected by the immune system.

The allergen is detected by the B cells. These are specialised immune cells, capable of producing antibodies. Just like allergens, antibodies are protein molecules, which have the capacity to neutralise allergens. Every B cell produces its own, specific antibody, depending on the type of intruder it needs to respond to. It is easy to understand why the body must have a ready pool of millions of antibodies, in order to combat these numerous offenders. There are five main categories of antibodies (IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD and IgE) which the body releases under different circumstances (for instance to fight off various infections, etc.). In the case of allergies, the body produces the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE), first discovered by the Ishizakas.

Usually, antibodies will bind directly to the appropriate damaging substance and neutralise it. However, IgE deviates from this common path. It first attaches one of its "legs" to one of the body's numerous mast cells. The other leg is used to hold on to the offending allergen. This action signals the mast cells to begin disintegrating, thereby releasing histamine. Histamine is a chemical substance responsible for a great number of complaints which may arise during allergic reactions. It causes muscle cramps and an inflammation-like process with redness and swelling of mucous membranes.

Allergic reactions can occur under a variety of circumstances. For instance, inhaling certain substances, such as grass pollen, house dust, etc., may cause an allergic response. However, the consumption of certain foods may do the same. Allergies typically bring on complaints very rapidly upon contact with the allergen. Complaints may vary from a runny nose, sinusitis, earache or runny eyes to itching of the skin, eczema and shortness of breath.

Conventional medicine can easily diagnose and treat allergies for foods or inhalants. Here, the so-called RAST test plays a very important role, because this test can demonstrate the presence of IgE. However, demonstrating the presence of intolerances is more difficult. In this situation, similar to the case of classical allergies, the body responds abnormally and, in addition, the immune system does not produce IgE. It quite often takes much longer for complaints to come on, thereby masking the possible link between the offensive substance and the complaints themselves. These are only a few of the reasons why food intolerance is considered a fairly controversial concept in conventional medicine. Intolerances can be responsible for a wide variety of complaints which, at first glance, seem to lack a plausible explanation. Intolerances can manifest themselves as:

  • gastrointestinal problems (stomach aches, cramping, bloating, bowel problems)
  • headache and migraines
  • hypoglycemia
  • depression, anxiety, unexplained mood shifts
  • sleeping disorders
  • joint and muscle aches; fatigue
  • asthma, rhinitis, or sinusitis
  • skin problems (eczema, rashes, acne, etc.)

Notice that the last ones are very similar to the reactions commonly seen in true allergies. There is overlap in symptoms. True allergies can also cause behavioral or physical problems besides the common histamine reactions.

In the cytotoxic test, a drop of the patient's blood is mixed with a drop of pure, liquefied food concentrate. If the body has a normal tolerance to this specific food, microscopic examination will show that certain white blood cells (granulocytes, which deal with immune response) remain intact. However, in response to lesser degrees of tolerance, these white blood cells swell and possibly granulate. In severe cases the cells will actually blow up and disintegrate. Detection of intolerances with this method can be done with an 80% reliability.

Another useful test is the IgG antibody test. The food or chemical is given, and then the test measures the presence and amount of any IgG antibodies in the body. These antibodies may occur slowly and not appear in the blood until 24 to 48 hours after exposure to an offending food or substance. The reliability of this test varies and is estimated to be about 80%, more or less.

Medicines for inhalant allergies, such as antihistamines (Triludan), corticosteroids (Prednisone, Pulmicort, Becotide), cromoglycates (Lomudal, Lomusol), and airway dilating medication (Ventolin, Berotec, Atrovent) do suppress symptoms, however, they do not cure the allergy.

Food Chemical Sensitivities

Often a person is reactive to a chemical or chemical group. So when considering a food or chemical intolerance, look at the underlying chemistry and check other items with that chemistry.

Some of the common ones are given below.

Salicylates are a subset of phenols. But amines are not (and might be one of the other groups to look at). The images will quickly let you see the difference in structure.

1. Benzene: a benzene ring is six carbon atoms connected together to form a ring (hexagon). Benzoates are another chemical group to consider. It is drawn as a hexagon with a circle inside. If nothing else is connected to the carbon atoms in the ring, then the carbons are connected to hydrogen atoms.


2. Phenol: a phenol is a benzene ring connected to a hydroxyl group (and OH group - one oxygen and one hydrogen atom bonded together). Phenols are everywhere in nature and food so you can not eliminate they totally from the diet. In addition, many of the common beneficial antioxidants are found in foods and are phenols, so there are advantages to being able to eat and process these compounds properly. This is a benefit of taking enzymes in order to eat these foods and gain their health benefits.


3. Salicylate: a salicylate is a benzene ring plus a OH group plus a carbohydrate group (a COOH group). We could also say it is a phenol plus a COOH group. Look at the first picture of the two listed here.


4. Amine: a amine is a nitrogen atom connected to 3 hydrogens OR a derivative of this (N plus 2 hydrogens and something; N plus 1 hydrogen and 2 somethings). An amine might be connected to a benzene ring, a phenol, a salicylate, or many other things. An amine is not a subset of phenol (it very often is not connected to a ring where a phenol must be connected to a ring).


Notice that ammonia is the core amine structure of N plus 3 Hs. Many of the neurotransmitters are amines. Amino acids are all amines (by definition). Histamine is an amine.

From a practical point in trying to determine what to remove, I would remove salicylates first and see if that subgroup is the one. Then I would check phenols (if you are eating anything left in that category). If that doesn't help you can put those foods back in and take out amines. If don't know if you are eating any sulfur foods (including sulfites), then that is another group to check.

Lists on salicylates (the lists vary because it is hard to totally quantify these as the chemistries are so common; and the content of the chemistries change as foods ripen, are cooked, are processed, by the variety or species of the food, etc) and amines are below.

Based on the enzyme action in No-Fenol, these types of enzymes may work more on true salicylates due to their carbohydrate group and not really on the entire class of phenols. Many of the artifiical additives are true phenols derived from coal-tar and the enzymes may not be that effective on artificials, although they totally rock! on real foods.

Allergy Dietitian
A really fantastic site on food sensitivities

Histamine and Amine Intolerances

Lists for salicylate content in foods and products (given below)

This link lists many common foods by food family.

Food additives which might cause problems:

  • sulfites
  • benzoates
  • sorbates
  • artificial food colorings
  • artificial flavorings
  • artificial sweeteners
  • flavor enhancers (MSG)
  • antioxidants
  • nitrates
  • proprionates
  • gums (xanthum, guar, etc)
  • other substances

Links with more complete listings of food additives:

Notes on fruit juices:

Is the juice 100% fruit juice, or are sugar, preservatives, and other really interesting things included? Sometimes a fruit juice will be a fruit blend (and I notice grape juice sneaking into many other fruit juices).

Red apples tend to be more phenolic than yellow apples. Same for darker colored grapes and berries being more phenolic than lighter colored fruits. If the juice is diluted with water, this would dilute the phenolic content, versus eating a whole apple.

Besides phenolic/salicylate foods, there is the outright sugar load. If the juice or fruit is eaten on an empty stomach (which is common as a snack or drink between meals) this will give more of a sugar 'rush' and reaction rather than if it is eaten with a meal. Can contribute to a hypoglycemic reaction. One way to curb this is to give a little protein along with the fruit. An example would be a peanut butter apple; or juice with a little cheese on a cracker.

Sometimes it is just an unexplanable reaction and people react differently. I repeatedly hear things such as one person will do better with fresh tomatoes rather than tomato sauce, while someone else will be just the opposite.

Note on corn syrup and sulfites:

Corn does not in itself contain sulfites. However, in making corn syrup, sulfite residues are picked up along the way and end up in the final product. Every now and then someone who is reacting poorly to bread finds out it is not the wheat in the bread, but one of the additives such as sulfites in the corn syrup or the calcium proprionate. Something to check for.

How Corn Syrup is Made 1
More 'hidden' sources of sulfites
How Corn Syrup is Made 2

Sensitivities to Enzyme Ingredients

Question: My child is allergic to mold. Don't the enzymes have mold in them?

Answer: Most enzymes currently available are blends of enzymes derived from papaya, pineapple, kiwi, figs, or the microbes Aspergillus orzyae or Aspergillus niger. There is no mold or fungus in the finished products. The enzymes are extracted and rigorously7 purified from the parent organism. The process of getting enzymes from microbes is outlined as follows.

The fungal organisms are grown in trays or large tanks on a bed of something to culture the organisms. This may be "miso," which is comprised of a mixture of cereal grains, or something else. The fungal organisms secrete enzymes into the mixture to break down the material, or digest it, as a way to get its nutrition. After some time, the cultured mixture is collected. Then, the fungal organisms and base culture are separated from the enzymes. There may be up to 12 different purification steps involving a variety of methods: alcohol precipitation of the enzyme proteins, centrifugation, gel filtration, and molecular sieving. The end results is a very pure mixtures of enzymes without any of the parent source material. Enzymes go through rigorous quality control testing on each lot of enzymes.

While many digestive enzymes are derived from a fungal or bacteria organism, the final enzyme product does not contain fungus, mold, or bacteria in the final product. An analogy is penicillin. Just as penicillin is derived from bread mold, you are not getting a dose of mold when you get penicillin.

Since enzymes are proteins, it is possible that a particular individual may be sensitive (not tolerate) a particular enzyme proteins. This is very very rare though. Enzymes are a natural and constant part of our healthy digestive tract. Our intestinal tract is swimming in enzymes all the time from birth to death anyway.

Serratiopeptidase is an enzymes derived from a bacteria of the genus serratia. Concerns about another bacteria from the serratia genus may spill over to the enzyme serratiopeptidase. This issue and more concerning the source of enzymes are discussed at the following link.
see Serratiopeptidase

The Allergy Site

Food and Nutrition Information Center
Site with lots o' links on food sensitivities and allergies
Guides to food composition

Treatments and Management Strategies

A variety of strategies may make dealing with either allergies or sensitivities manageable. For starters, with non-food substances, avoiding them can play a big part. Just becoming aware of what substances are in foods, body care products, in the enviroment - both within buildings and outside, etc.

In the case of food sensitivities, either the cytotoxic test or IgG(4) test can help determine reactions to specific foods. Based on the test results, an elimination/rotation diet can be specifically tailored. Foods causing strong reactions in these tests, should (temporarily) be excluded from the diet. More moderate reactions allow for rotation of certain food items in the diet. These may be eaten once every four days. Especially during the first week(s) of the diet, withdrawal symptoms, similar to complaints stemming from the cessation of coffee, tobacco or alcohol consumption, may occur. The body seems to crave offending food items. Generally, these withdrawal symptoms disappear after a couple of weeks. Concurrently, those complaints relating to food sensitivity also diminish. Using this dietary approach, the reaction to food allergens may decrease in the course of time. After a three month moratorium, reintroduction of "forbidden" food items can be attempted, one at a time. In this way, food items still causing reactions can be isolated more easily. Often, at least part of existing intolerances completely disappear after an elimination/rotation diet. With the treatment for inhalant allergies, elimination is also the first step. It is obvious that patients having an allergy for cats or dogs, should avoid any contact with these pets. The situation becomes more difficult when dealing with allergies to grass or tree pollen, since total elimination is basically impossible. The same goes for house dust mite allergy. The house dust mite lives in mattresses, pillows, carpeting, drapes, upholstery, etc. Through mite-killing pesticides, special mattress and pillow covers, non-carpeted floors, etc. reasonable results can be obtained.

Lists of salicylates in foods and products

Phenols are compounds that are everywhere in nature. You can't eliminate all phenols from the diet unless you totally give up all food and supplements.

So as the next best thing, researchers try to figure out which foods are 'high' or 'low' in particular compounds. These are measured diffently and catagorized differently. How foods are prepared may be different and this handling affects the content of particular compounds. So the lists given can be different. I look at the patterns and commonalities to get the general picture of which foods are usually high and which are not high, and which are low. Then see if a person has a particular intolerance to specific foods.

Salicylates are a subset of phenols. But there are many many other types of phenols that are not salicylates. Some lists look only at salicylates and some look at a wider range of phenols. This is another reason you can have variations in lists. The Feingold Program/Diet only looks at salicylates. Failsafe looks at a wider range of food chemicals.

Salicylate content List 1
Salicylate content List 2
Third list follows below.

Signs and symptoms of salicylate sensitivity

from Allergy Health Online which has links to more health and sensitivity information

Those who are sensitive to salicylates find that an excessive amount first stimulates, then depresses the central nervous system. This can lead to many different kinds of symptoms, including some that might seem incompatible. For example, both hyperactivity and lethargy are associated with salicylate sensitivity.

Symptoms of the condition may include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Wheezing
  • Headaches
  • Ear infections
  • Changes in skin color
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itching, skin rash or hives
  • Swelling of the hands, feet, eyes and face
  • Stomach pain
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lethargy
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Mouth ulcers, or red rash around the mouth
  • Nasal polyps
  • Coughing
  • Rhinitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Cognitive and perceptual disorders

In rare cases, sensitivity to salicylate can cause symptoms of anaphylactic shock.

Potential causes of salicylate sensitivity

Salicylates can be found in many different products, including foods, medications, cosmetics and certain ingredients. Any of these sources can trigger symptoms related to salicylate sensitivity. Sources of salicylates include:

  • Foods. Some raw foods, dry foods and juices contain more salicylates than cooked food. Salicylates are most concentrated just under the skin of certain fruits and vegetables, and in the outer leaves of vegetables. Salicylate content decreases as a food ripens. Some foods may be better tolerated than others in people with salicylate sensitivity, or can be consumed in a very ripe, peeled or cooked form.

    Foods that contain salicylates include:

Fruits & Nuts Vegetables Beverages
& Other



Apple cider


Broad beans

Alcohol (except
gin and whiskey)




Berries (blueberries,
cherries, raspberries,


Dry spices



Herbal teas



Instant coffee



Jams and jellies



Orange juice



Processed cheeses



Soy sauce

Plums and prunes



Pine nuts


Tomato paste
and sauces







  • Salicylate–containing products include:
    • Acne products
    • Fragrances and perfumes
    • Shampoos and conditioners
    • Herbal remedies
    • Cosmetics
    • Bubble baths
    • Lozenges
    • Medications
    • Topical creams
    • Wart or callus removers
    • Mouthwash and mint–flavored toothpaste
    • Shaving cream
    • Sunscreens and tanning lotions
    • Muscle pain creams

  • Salicylate–containing ingredients
    • Aspirin
    • Acetylsalicylic acid
    • Artificial food coloring and flavoring
    • Benzoates
    • Beta–hydroxy acid
    • Magnesium salicylate
    • Menthol
    • Mint
    • Salicylic acid
    • Peppermint
    • Spearmint
    • Phenylethyl salicylate
    • Sodium salicylate
    • FD&C Yellow No. 5 food dye (tartrazine)

Those with salicylate sensitivity should watch out for the following terms when selecting products:

  • Aspirin
  • Acetylsalicylic acid
  • Artificial food colorings or flavorings
  • Azo dyes
  • Benzoates (preservatives)
  • Benzyl salicylate
  • Beta–hydroxy acid
  • Choline salicylate
  • Disalcid
  • Ethyl salicylate
  • Isoamyl salicylate
  • Magnesium salicylate
  • Menthol
  • Methyl salicylate
  • Mint
  • Octylsalicylate
  • Peppermint
  • Phenylethyl salicylate
  • Salicylic acid
  • Salicylaldehyde
  • Salicylamide
  • Salsalate
  • Sodium salicylate
  • Spearmint

There are many foods that have few if any salicylates in them. They include:

Fruits, Nuts
& Seasonings

& Grains

Dairy, Meat
& Beverages


Bamboo shoots




(except blue)

Maple syrup



Pears (peeled)


Decaffeinated coffee

Poppy seeds




Dried beans
and split peas

(except prawns)

Sea salt


(except liver)

Sunflower oil



Soybean oil


Rice milk

White sugar


Soya Milk











White potatoes


In addition to the sensitivity of some individuals to salicylates, aspirin has been linked to incidences of Reye’s Syndrome (a disease that affects all organs including causing swelling of the brain and liver) in children. Use of aspirin during flu and viral illnesses should be avoided for all children.



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