What to do when having a sulfite reaction

Started by bentleysmom, January 16, 2014, 10:54:58 AM

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"sulfa" as in the antibiotics?  This refers to a "sulfonamide" moiety in chemical structure:

The classic example of a "sulfa" antibiotic is:


can you spot the sulfonamide function within that structure? [spoiler]It's at the right.  :)[/spoiler]

Allergy to so-called "Sulfa/Sulpha" drugs is completely real, completely well-recognized, and has been relatively common for the past fifty years or so, since the drug class become widely used after WWII.


  it is not related to allergy (or anaphylactoid intolerance, perhaps more correctly stated) to SULFITES.

Sulfite, on the other hand, is a simple inorganic anion (that is, it is negatively charged):

Sulfites are used as a food preservative or enhancer.  They also occur in nature.

They may come in several related forms, such as--

    Sulfur dioxide,  (not a sulfite, but a closely related chemical oxide that can, in solution, be interconverted to sulfite)
    Potassium bisulfite or potassium metabisulfite
    Sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite or sodium sulfite

Sulfa drugs work because they impair a particular enzymatic pathway in bacteria.  Well, in non-resistant bacteria, anyway. 

In bacteria, antibacterial sulfonamides act as competitive inhibitors of the enzyme dihydropteroate synthetase (DHPS), an enzyme involved in folate synthesis. Sulfonamides are therefore bacteriostatic and inhibit growth and multiplication of bacteria, but do not kill them. Humans, in contrast to bacteria, acquire folate (vitamin B9) through the diet.

Sulfite sensitivity is slightly more common in those with salicylate sensitivity-- many asthmatics already know if they have such a sensitivity.    It can also occur as a result of a particular genetically caused metabolic disorder which is usually fatal in early childhood.

Any questions? 
Resistance isn't futile.  It's voltage divided by current. 

Western U.S.


Quote from: bentleysmom on January 16, 2014, 10:54:58 AM
The week before Christmas,  I was given the antibiotic sulfur,  since then I have been to er 4 times, have been living on steroids and benadryl.
I had a BAD reaction to sherbert on Saturday night, read the label had e preservatives,  and four food colorings. (Mymhusband brought it home because I had been feeling so sick, without reading the label I ate a small bowl)
ever sinse then I react everytime I eat. I have been eating only oatmeal w/cinnamon,  milk, sugar and whole milk, homemade bread(contains yeast), chicken,  rice, salt pepper, air popped popcorn with butter. ALL ORGANIC FROM WHOLE FOODS AND TRADER JOES.
I have been using benadryl is there anything else that I can do to get rid if the toxins?

Okay-- allergic reactions and detoxification are unrelated things.  Period.  Any conflation of the two should lead to an immediate understanding on your part that you are dealing with someone who doesn't know the FIRST thing about the human immune system and its overzealous and occasionally self-destructive tendencies. 

ORGANIC has nothing to do with allergenicity.  Eliminate that thought if you want to stay alive and still plan to keep eating food.  Yes, I realize that this is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but you should NOT trust someone with that mentality if you have food allergies because their ignorance is dangerous to you.

Know that Trader Joe's has NOTHING like a lock on food safe for those with food allergies and sensitivities.  They also don't always label well.  Last ingestion of cashew traces that my DD14 had, it was from something bought at Trader Joe's that read fine as per the label.  Shared lines.  Undisclosed.


Treat a reaction that seems to be anaphylactic as though it IS anaphylaxis.  Just as the others have said.  NOT treating those symptoms that way is dangerous.  Just so you know.

What do you consider "bad?"  I'm assuming that your reaction which resulted in steroids and ongoing antihistamines was severe.  So how bad was this in comparison with that?

  Presumably there were OTHER things in this bowl of preservatives and food coloring, yes?  Maybe other things eaten NEAR then in time, too.  You might be looking at preservatives on the basis of what you BELIEVE about food and what is good or bad for you... rather than what your body is actually responding to.  Keep an open mind for now, that's my advice.

Secondly keep a food diary, and quit eating things that made you sick.      My apologies if I've misunderstood that point in your post-- it SOUNDS as though you're saying that you keep eating a very restricted set of foods, and that they KEEP making you sick.  Well, don't keep eating those things, then.  I don't mean to sound rude about this, but given the elapsed time involved, either you are not being very careful, you might have a GI virus that is making you sick (not allergies), or maybe your gallbladder is freaking out or something.   It is possible that you are hyper-reactive in the wake of a huge reaction-- but you should be able to eat a VERY controlled and restricted diet more safely than it sounds like you're managing right now.  It's also possible that something in your house is so contaminated with a (newly developed) allergen that you are getting small doses of it on an ongoing basis.  Keep a food diary-- include ANYTHING that goes on your body or in your mouth, times and amounts. 

Get thee to an allergist.  PRONTO.

Quote from: twinturbo on January 16, 2014, 11:32:04 AM
My understanding of sulfa antibiotics is that they are unrelated to the food additive sulfite. An anaphylactoid reaction is treated the same as an anaphylactic reaction. Allergic reactions are not toxins.

In the wake of a really bad reaction many things your body would normally tolerate set it off making it seem like you're reacting to many things. To sort out the subjective from the objective you should see an allergist that ideally has a good understanding of antibiotic as well as food allergies to help you sort this out in a clinical setting. Chasing down the idea of toxins and organic foods won't help you pin down the proper allergens to practice avoidance. Although familiarizing yourself with IgE-mediated allergic reactions and keeping a food diary would help once you get the right board certified specialist.

What symptoms presented during the sulfa drugs? How were they treated?

Succinct and sensible.   :yes:  I recommend that course of action.  Highly.

Resistance isn't futile.  It's voltage divided by current. 

Western U.S.


When my son has a sulfite reaction we have found he gets better the quickest when we give him nothing except water (be wary of water that has been through de-chlorination or reducing/removal of chlorine in water it could contain sulfites) to help flush things out of his system and when he's hungry we give him stewed apple no skin (apples are very low in methionine - a sulfur containing amino acid. ("Metabolism of sulfur-containing amino acids also result in the production of sulfite, but the enzyme sulfite oxidase, present in tissue, detoxifies sulfites by oxidizing them into sulfates." a quote from a website that I'm not allowed to post external links on this site).  Just a note yeast can produce sulfites through fermentation. The yeast that is used in baking is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae if you look up this yeast name and sulfites you should find info.

Hope this helps anyone with sulfite allergy/intolerance

The key for us was supporting methylation pathways. Reducing sulfites in the diet, being aware of foods that are high and low in sulfur containing amino acids. 

Regards Theresa

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