8 April 2006
When I was growing up, I disliked guacamole. There was just something about that green combined with that texture – chunky and slimy at the same time – that turned me off. So I never ate it. Starting about 20 years ago, I experienced a few incidents of gastrointestinal distress after having meals with guacamole residue on the food I ate. (Given my dislike, I usually requested the guac be left off, or spooned it off for a dining companion.) So then I started claiming that I was allergic to avocados. It seemed almost silly at the time – who is allergic to avocados? And I think deep inside I felt like it was a flimsy excuse to hide my dislike. But those symptoms – believe me, you don’t want those symptoms.
A few years later, I began to notice that I had the symptoms after eating shrimp as well. This was somewhat devastating – shrimp had been one of my favorite luxury foods growing up! It definitely was a luxury in our house, so fried shrimp was the first thing I’d look for on restaurant menus when we were dining out. And once the “seafood trucks” started making deliveries to town, and we could have some at home – oh, I was in heaven.
Although I’ve never been formally tested, I did a few experiments on different occasions and determined that the symptoms showed up after eating shrimp. Once when dining in Boston’s Chinatown with my husband’s grad school friend, I tried a shrimp puff. “How much shrimp could be in that? It’s probably mostly flour!” I thought. Well, it was enough shrimp for an evening of misery – heightened because I was supposed to be finalizing a conference presentation for the next day. Since then, I just tell people I’m allergic to shrimp and avoid it at all costs. And without any formal food diaries, I decided that the incidents I’d previously ascribed to avocados, were probably shrimp incidents as well.
Flash forward to last month. Avocados were being served. I decided that since I wasn’t allergic, I should try it to see if I like it. After all, tastes change (as well frequently remind the boys). It wasn’t bad! Somewhat bland, but not bad. A few weeks later, I had a few more bites of avocado in a dish made by a friend.
Given all the known health benefits, I decided to dive in and buy avocados at the grocery store. They sat on the counter for a few days, then in the fridge, while I mused over what I should do with them. I still wasn’t up for guacamole, so eventually decided to just have a few slices available to go with tonight’s salad (which became tonight’s meal, when our pork roast took much longer than I’d anticipated!). As I was eating dinner, I noticed that my throat was itchy. When I mentioned this to Jonski Dad, he said I might have the same thing C-boy had earlier this week (just over a day of sore throat and fatigue). I responded that this was definitely not the beginnings of a sore throat, but an itchy throat.
Astute readers can probably see where this is going… I do have an avocado allergy. The itchy throat should have been my first clue – the gastrointestinal symptoms followed about an hour later (similar to what I experience with shrimp, but not as intense).
Apparently avocados are a fairly common allergen. Who knew? I suppose the 1% of the population so afflicted knew! And while 1% may not seem like much, avocado appears on the lists of ‘common’ food allergens (not the Big Ones, but the next tier down).
Once again I join the elite, the 1%.
There’s an awful lot of detailed medical information about avocado allergy (compared to shrimp, for example, but yet shrimp is commonly thought of as a ‘highly allergenic’ food, probably because it is commonly implicated in anaphylaxis). Apparently an avocado allergy frequently co-occurs with a latex allergy: people allergic to latex often have allergies to avocado (53%), potatoes (40%), bananas (38%), assorted other tropical fruits, and chestnuts.
But you know what? I’ve lived without avocados for most of my life, it’s not going to be a big hardship to continue to avoid them. But I see peaches in many of the lists of things cross-reactive with a latex allergy. If I develop an allergy to peaches, I don’t know what I’d do!
Update (2/22/07): links I had made to the immunocap [allergy testing] site were broken, so I fixed them.
Clarification (2/22/07): From what I’ve read, there’s no reason for avocado and shrimp allergies to co-occur, it’s just that my avocado reactions were the same as how I used to react to shrimp.