Can You Develop a Potato Allergy?
Compared to other veggies like eggplant or cabbage, potatoes have long been considered relatively safe for people with food allergies. What is more, dieticians and other doctors tend to include potatoes in the diets designed to eliminate various allergens from your system, including milk and dairy products, soya, wheat, etc. No wonder researchers were surprised when they identified cases of a potato allergy.
Potatoes are among the most commonly eaten foods all over the world, and in many countries, they fall in to the category of staple foods. Therefore, you wouldn’t normally expect a potato to cause an allergic reaction. However, research shows that the potato is actually not a hypoallergenic food, and it can trigger a reaction in some people.
What Allergens Are Found in Potatoes?
There are various chemicals in a potato, such as proteins, glycoproteins, and alkaloids. While both raw and cooked potato can potentially induce allergy, cooked vegetable is usually better tolerated. This is because some of the potato-related allergens are sensitive to thermal processing, which means that after being cooked, they are no longer allergenic.
One of the allergens contained in potatoes is a protein called patatin, or Sol t. People sensitive to this trigger tend to develop eczema and atopic dermatitis.
Potatoes, as well as eggplants, tomatoes, bell peppers, paprika, cayenne pepper, red pepper, chili, pear, melon, and tobacco, belong to the Solanaceae family. Sometimes, people allergic to one of these foods can also react to others, as a result of the cross-reactivity phenomenon. Cross-reactions often occur between the different members of the same plant family.
While cross-reactivity within the Solanaceae family is not common, being allergic to tomatoes increases the risk of developing a potato allergy. This is because both foods contain a substance called patatin.
When it comes to the sources of potato-related allergens, exposure to them happens when you eat potato, inhale potato dust or pollen (e.g. farm workers), come into contact with raw, cut potato. Although cooked potato is considered to cause less risks, highly sensitive patients do react to both raw and cooked form.
What Symptoms Does a Potato Allergy Cause?
The symptoms caused by potato allergy can vary depending on the severity of reaction. Some people experience the oral allergy syndrome (OAS), pain and swelling of the throat, itchy mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Others develop skin allergies, including atopic and contact dermatitis, eczema, urticaria (hives), as well as swelling of the affected skin area after handling a potato. In addition, such symptoms as runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, asthma and tight chest are also possible with potatoes.
According to specialists, children can get sensitized to a potato at an early age, as this veggie is contained in many weaning foods. However, the symptoms may first appear at a later age.
What Are the Hidden Sources of Potato Allergens?
Potato is an ingredient in many food products. For instance, potato flour (dried, powdered potato) is used in baking or added to cereals. Besides, it’s included in various processed and canned foods as a natural thickener.
Potatoes are also used in alternative medicine. Thus, potato leaves are believed to help with stomachaches, and the juice – with peptic ulcers. Some people also treat skin problems by applying raw potato to it.
In addition, the process of industrial production of alcohol or certain alcoholic beverages (e.g. vodka) includes the use of starch, which is extracted from potato. Potato starch is also commonly used for ironing cotton clothes.
How Is Potato Related to Other Allergy-Causing Substances?
When we cut a raw potato, exposure to oxygen makes it turn brown after some time. For that reason, many commercial or frozen potato products contain antioxidants, sulphite or metabisulphite, which can trigger a cross-reaction in people with Sulphur allergy. In some cases, exposure to sulphides may lead to a serious asthma attack.
How to Control an Allergy to Potato?
If you notice having any allergy-like symptoms after eating or handling a potato, you are advised to visit an allergy specialist and get tested. Do not try to make a self-diagnosis or provide yourself with self-treatment without being sure that you are allergic.
In case you do have an allergy, doctors recommend that you avoid exposure to this food. This applies to potato itself, as well as to potato products like flour contained in other foods, remedies, etc. To prevent an accidental exposure, make sure to always check food labels.
Avoiding potato is often enough to keep unpleasant allergy symptoms at bay, and in general, it is less challenging than avoiding other allergenic foods. You should also remember about the risk of cross-reaction and be careful with foods mentioned above.
However, if you are not allergic to potato, it’s still a great source of energy, vitamins and minerals.