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Sulfites are compounds that are used to make foods and beverages last longer. Sulfite sensitivity is an abnormal reaction to these compounds.
Foods that may contain sulfites include:
- Beer, wine, and soft drinks
- Cookies, crackers, pie crust, and pizza crust
- Dried fruit
- Shrimp, lobster, and scallops
- French fries and other food made with peeled potatoes, such as instant mashed potatoes
- Fruit or vegetable juice
- Canned fruits or vegetables
- Syrup and fruit toppings
- Pickles, relish, olives, and salad dressing
- Noodle or rice mixes
- Dried soup mixes
- Deli meats, mince meat, sausages
Many prescription and over-the-counter medications also contain sulfites. Sulfites are also contained in products applied to the skin, such as cosmetics.
It is not clear what causes a sulfite sensitivity to develop. It may be due to genetic and environmental factors.
There are no known risk factors for sulfite sensitivity. Most people with sulfite sensitivity have asthma.
Most symptoms are mild and can vary based on your body’s reaction to sulfite ingestion. It may be one or a combination of the following:
When the stomach breaks down sulfites, it releases a sulfur dioxide gas. This gas can pass up into and irritate airways in some people, such as those with asthma. This can cause symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
Some people may lack the enzyme needed to breakdown sulfites. This can cause:
Some may also have an allergic reaction to sulfites. This means sulfites cause an autoimmune reaction, which may cause:
- Skin rash
- Skin inflammation