Fruits are nature's delicious, candy-like gift given to mankind to snack on. They are as nutritious as they are delicious and come in a variety of shapes, colors, and flavors. Historically, they have been among the most desired agricultural produce cherished by the young and old alike.
However, for some, consuming fruits can be far from a sweet experience. Those who are afflicted with food allergies, more specifically fruit allergies, find that eating certain fruits can be an uncomfortable experience, which could turn out to be fatal.
Pineapple allergy is one such rare fruit allergy that affects an increasing number of people. For those afflicted with this condition, consuming this delicious food could be absolutely hazardous. Learning more about this allergy can empower you to help your friends or yourself when going through an allergic reaction.
What are Allergies?
Allergies are conditions caused by an unusual hypersensitivity in the immune system to substances in the environment that are considered typically harmless.
The immune system of someone suffering from a particular allergy identifies these substances as a threat and attacks them, causing adverse reactions in the body.
These substances, known as allergens, can trigger a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, depending on the person and the type of allergen. Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, animal dander, certain foods, and insect venom.
When a person with allergies comes into contact with an allergen, their immune system produces antibodies that release chemicals like histamine, causing inflammation and a range of symptoms such as itching, sneezing, runny nose, and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis.
There are several types of allergies which are classified by the type of allergen and the body’s subsequent reaction to it. Respiratory allergies, for example, are caused by airborne allergens like pollen and affect the respiratory system.
Similarly, food allergies are caused by a certain food that the immune system is hypersensitive to, and skin allergies are a result of allergens coming into direct contact with the skin.
Pineapple allergy is primarily a type of food allergy, which can sometimes extend to skin allergies as well.
What is Food Allergy?
Food allergies are the consequence of an allergic reaction triggered by the presence of certain proteins in food that acts as an allergen.
These proteins trigger the immune response of those who are hypersensitive to the allergen. When someone with a food allergy eats or comes into contact with an allergen, their immune system confuses the protein in the food for a harmful substance and releases chemicals, like histamine, to fight it off.
This could lead to symptoms ranging from mild to severe reactions, including hives, itching, swelling, gastrointestinal distress, and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis, which is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.
Common food allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. In some cases, even trace amounts of these allergens can trigger a severe allergic reaction.
It is important to note that while there are some similarities, food allergies are completely different from “food intolerance” and “food poisoning.” All three conditions are marked by adverse reactions to consuming food but differ depending on the type of reaction it triggers and the reason for said reaction
Food allergy is the body’s reaction to specific proteins in certain food that acts as an allergen and triggers the immune system to treat it as a threat.
Food intolerance, on the other hand, occurs when the body has difficulty digesting a particular food group or ingredient. Food poisoning is a reaction in the body caused by consuming food contaminated by bacteria, harmful parasites, and/or viruses.
Besides, food allergies are caused by a trigger in the immune system and lead to a range of symptoms ranging from mild, like itching (which can be annoying), to severe reactions like an anaphylaxis attack (which can be fatal). Food intolerances cause disorders in the digestive system, like bloating and diarrhea.
Food poisoning can cause a range of symptoms depending on the contaminants, ranging from digestive conditions, like nausea and vomiting, to viral conditions, like fever.
What is “Pineapple Allergy”?
Pineapple allergy is a rare type of food allergy because this allergic reaction combats against the proteins found in pineapples.
Pineapple allergy is primarily caused by the presence of bromelain, an enzyme that helps break down protein. Bromelain, an enzyme, is also a protein in itself and acts as the primary allergen in pineapple.
Pineapples also contain profilin, which is a key mediator of cross-reactivity between fruits and vegetables. This can, particularly, cause an allergic reaction in the mucous body cavities like the ENT (Ears, Nose, and Throat).
Due to the presence of profilin in pineapple, people who have the allergy are susceptible to cross-reactivity and can be affected by pollen or similar fruits because they also contain profilin, a mediator for cross-reactivity.
Conversely, people who suffer from pollen allergies may be equally susceptible to having an allergic reaction to pineapple due to profilin. This puts those who suffer from pineapple allergies at risk for cross-reactivity with other allergies.
Subsequently, people afflicted by pineapple allergies are at risk of suffering from Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS). This is caused by pollen, or pollen-mimicking substances, present in pineapple.
Symptoms of Pineapple Allergy
Symptoms of pineapple allergy can range from mild to severe and can include itching or tingling in the mouth, throat, or ears; hives or rash; swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat; gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea; and difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis, in severe cases.
However, the symptoms of this allergy can differ from person to person. It may also depend on factors like other allergies the person suffers from or their family history regarding allergies.
Some of the common symptoms of pineapple allergy are:
The body’s allergic reaction to the proteins in pineapple can interfere with the digestive system and lead to constipation.
The immune system gets triggered by the proteins in pineapple, which results in improper digestion of the fruit. This can lead to diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration.
Flushing of the face:
Some people may observe a dramatic shift in the color of the skin on their faces upon consuming pineapple. This is caused by the bromelain, which irritates the skin and causes it to turn red.
This might be accompanied by feverish symptoms, leading to the face feeling hotter than the rest of the body.
Itching or swelling around the mouth and throat:
When eating pineapple, the allergen proteins might cause reactions in the mouth upon contact with the fruit. This causes itching and swelling around the mouth area, including the tongue, lips, and throat.
Hives or welts on the skin:
When a person afflicted by pineapple allergy touches the fruit, it can trigger allergic reactions on the skin of the contacted area. This can lead to developing hives and welts in those spots.
Red watery eyes:
The bromelain found in pineapple might trigger reactions in the eyes of some individuals. This can cause the eyes to swell, turn red, and start watering.
The acidic content in pineapple, coupled with the allergic reaction due to bromelain, can cause mucosal irritation in the ENT (Ears, Nose, and Throat) cavity. This is characterized by a burning sensation and, sometimes, a mild feeling of suffocation in the mucosa.
Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction as a consequence of a severe allergic reaction, including a pineapple allergy. This can occur within minutes of exposure to the allergen and requires immediate medical attention.
Anaphylaxis is characterized by symptoms like difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat/tongue, wheezing, dizziness, light-headedness, loss of consciousness, and rapid heartbeat.
Causes of Pineapple Allergy
Pineapple contains bromelain, which is an enzyme that breaks down proteins. Those afflicted with the allergy suffer from an immune system that mistakes bromelain as a threat, resulting in the production of histamines to protect the body.
This activation of histamines in the system could be the cause of allergic symptoms like swelling, itching, and difficulty breathing.
Pineapple is also a highly acidic fruit that, when coupled with bromelain, can irritate a person’s oral mucosa, which consists of the tongue, mouth, and throat.
Profilin is a small actin-binding protein found in pineapple, which can cause allergies in some. It is similar to the protein found in pollen and can cause cross-reaction. This might cause those affected by pineapple allergies to other cross-reactive substances.
Due to profilin’s similarity to proteins found in pollen, those afflicted by pineapple allergy might trigger allergic reactions when consuming other fruits of the same family, as well as pollen.
Generally, this cross-reactivity is not severe and causes mild allergic symptoms, like itching in the mouth and tongue.
Some of the fruits that can cause cross-reactive allergies in people afflicted by pineapple allergy are avocado, banana, cherries, kiwi, grapefruit, peaches, and papaya.
Oral Allergic Syndrome, or OAS, is an allergic reaction caused in conjunction with cross-reactivity and occurs because of the close similarity of these proteins to the ones in pollen.
When these proteins come into contact with mucous membranes inside the mouth, a local allergic reaction may occur.
The symptoms of OAS are similar to those of allergic reactions, including localized itching, tingling, and swelling. Although rarely, the reactions could sometimes potentially be more severe. In rare cases, OAS can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Prevention of pineapple allergy
The best way to prevent any food allergy is to take careful steps to avoid consuming the allergen; the same goes for pineapple allergy. The best practice to follow is to take note of all the ingredients used to make any food you choose to consume.
Read labels of packaged food to ensure that there are no traces of pineapple or its derivatives present in the food. This way, you can avoid triggering an allergic reaction.
However, if you are someone who has a history of cross-reactive allergies, then other allergens, like latex, banana, and kiwis, might trigger a pineapple allergy. In such cases, you have to avoid consuming these cross-reactive food items as well.
If you do decide to consume pineapples, taking antihistamines prior can go a long way. Antihistamines block the release of histamines by the immune system, preventing the allergic reaction.
It might be safe to consume pineapple if you only suffer from a mild allergy. People with mild allergies can also try consuming cooked pineapple, as that reduces the concentration of protein in the fruit.
Treating Pineapple Allergy
While allergies cannot be completely cured, there are several treatments and medications that can help manage them.
The treatment differs from person to person, depending on the severity of the allergy. It is vital that you consult with your healthcare provider before opting for a particular course of treatment.
Here are some treatments used for pineapple allergy:
These medications block the release of histamines in the body. Allergic reactions are generally triggered by the release of histamines in the immune system upon coming into contact with the allergen. Since the production of histamines has been blocked, the likelihood of having an allergic reaction is slim.
This is used to treat severe allergic reactions that result in anaphylaxis, which can be a fatal symptom. It contains adrenaline and helps the body control symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Pineapple allergy can cause irritation in the mucosa, leading to asthma-like symptoms. Bronchodilators are used to clear the airways to relieve these symptoms.
The mucosal irritation caused by pineapple allergy can lead to inflammation in the oral airways. Corticosteroids help reduce such inflammation in the mucosa.
Topical ointments, such as calamine lotion, are used to treat allergic reactions on the skin. Symptoms like itching and redness can be treated with these ointments.
People afflicted with a mild form of pineapple allergy can be desensitized to it over time. This treatment involves having the patient consume small doses of pineapple, which is gradually increased to build up resistance in the body.
Pineapple is a delicious fruit that can be a pleasurable treat for most people. However, for people with pineapple allergies, eating fruit can be far from enjoyable. It could cause adverse effects and, in severe cases, can have fatal outcomes.
However, like all allergies, it is possible to manage pineapple allergy by taking the right precautions, both in terms of food and preparedness. Being well-informed about the allergy can help you combat the condition with ease.
Q1: Why are some people allergic to pineapple?
Ans: Pineapple allergy is a type of food allergy caused by the immune system’s hypersensitivity to certain proteins found in food. Pineapple contains bromelain, which is known to cause such allergic reactions. Bromelain, combined with the acidic nature of the fruit, can cause irritation in the oral mucosa as well.
Additionally, pineapple contains profilin, which is similar to proteins found in pollen and can cause cross-reactivity. This can lead to Oral Allergic Syndrome.
Q2: Can pineapple allergy be cured?
Ans: No, unfortunately, pineapple allergy cannot be completely cured. However, it can be managed easily by taking a right dietary and medical precautions. People afflicted by a mild form of the allergy can be cured by desensitizing themselves over time.
Q3: Can I develop a pineapple allergy later in life?
Ans: Yes, it is possible to develop a pineapple allergy later in life. Allergic reactions can occur at any age, and exposure to pineapples can trigger the development of an allergy.
Q4: Can cooking or processing pineapple reduce the risk of an allergic reaction?
Ans: Cooking or processing pineapples may break down some of the proteins that cause an allergic reaction, but it may not completely eliminate the risk of an allergic reaction for those with a moderate to severe pineapple allergy.
Q5: Is pineapple allergy the same as pineapple intolerance?
Ans: No, pineapple allergy and pineapple intolerance are not the same. An allergy involves the immune system, whereas intolerance does not. Pineapple intolerance may cause digestive symptoms, such as bloating or gas, but it does not cause a reaction that stems from the immune system.