Cabbage allergy is considered uncommon but serious reactions have occurred in some individuals. In just a matter of minutes to an hour after ingesting cabbage, the immune system starts to produce IgE antibodies that target the proteins present in cabbage. In most cases of cabbage allergy, the symptoms are usually mild in nature but anaphylaxis which is a life-threatening reaction can also occur. With this in mind, an individual who starts to experience breathing difficulty after eating cabbage must seek immediate medical attention.
Health benefits of cabbage
It is important to note that cabbage is a good source of antioxidants. Due to this quality, it has been utilized by alternative medicine practitioners in managing rheumatism, jaundice, eye disorders, scurvy, heart disease, constipation and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Cabbage is also a source of vitamins B1, B2 and C as well as calcium, potassium, sulfur, folate and magnesium. The high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols in cabbage can prevent the damaging effects of free radicals.
Allergens in cabbage
The protein enzyme called as chitinase has been extracted from the roots and stems of cabbage is known to trigger an allergic reaction in some individuals. The immune system recognizes this protein as a threat and starts the production of IgE antibodies. The signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction to cabbage are triggered by the release of histamine along with other chemical mediators from mast cells.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The symptoms typically manifest within minutes up to a few hours of consuming cabbage. The release of histamine into the bloodstream results to tingling, swelling and itchiness of the mouth, lips, tongue and face.
Redness, swelling and inflammation of the skin can be observed and lead to skin rashes and lesion. Histamine present in the digestive tract can cause nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms include wheezing, constriction of the airways, coughing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing.
In rare circumstances, an individual can end up with a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis which is a life-threatening condition that causes lightheadedness, heart palpitations, nausea and unconsciousness if not treated. If the individual experiences breathing difficulty, seek immediate medical care.
Management of cabbage allergy
If an individual is allergic to cabbage, avoidance of raw and cooked cabbage should be observed. Coleslaw, salads and sauerkraut also include cabbage and must be avoided.
Brussel sprouts and broccoli also belong to the same family as cabbage, thus contain similar proteins. It is important to read the food labels carefully to ensure that they do not contain any cabbage. If the individual accidentally ingests cabbage and experiences a mild allergic reaction, over-the-counter antihistamines and corticosteroids can help minimize the discomfort and inflammation. In case the individual experienced a severe allergic reaction in the past, a doctor should be consulted so that an auto-injectable epinephrine can be prescribed.