Mold as Food Allergy

Mold was not something we were looking out for but incidents made it increasingly clear that I was reacting to it. The presence of moldy fruit or freshly cut grass would cause sneezing, runny nose, and headaches. When ingested (accidentally, from a mold contaminated smoothie maker) it also caused sharp abdominal pain in addition to the aforementioned symptoms. Later in the day it would lead to dizziness, food cravings, and napping.

Mold allergy is mostly thought of as an environmental, inhalant allergy, but does it have any implications for food choices? Despite the smoothie maker incident and later a positive skin prick test result for aspergillus mix I did not think much of it. It wasn’t until my incident with gochujang that I realized this had relevance with what I put in my mouth as well.

There was not much information online about mold allergies and food. The more formal sites seemed to suggest the relationship is not clear. A few other sites had an extensive list of foods mold allergic people should avoid. Unlike most food allergies, mold is not something you can avoid 100%. There is always some mold in the environment, and mold is always starting to grow on food. This is why things get very murky when you realize you react to mold in food. It becomes a function of your individual tolerance level and the amount of mold in the food.

Now, I am but one person. Well, perhaps two, when I count my spouse, who tested positive to pretty much every type of mold out there.

For what it’s worth, in our experience,

fine: commercial vinegar, pickles, ketchup, soy sauce (small amount)

fine only when sufficiently fresh: raw sprouts, grapes, berries, kimchi

clear problem: raw (unpasteurized) fermented soy products, old fermented or pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, chocolate (might be by different mechanism), any leftovers stored more than a few days

gray area: cooked fermented soy

In short, cooked or pasteurized items did not cause any acute reactions. For example, mushrooms seems to be fine as they are always eaten cooked. Food prepared with a reasonable level of hygiene, and eaten within two to three days with refrigeration, are also likely to be fine. Items likely to have significant live cultures are obvious no no’s.

Cooked fermented soy is the main gray area. We are highly suspicious of it causing at least some mild gastrointestinal symptoms and headache. Though in my partner’s case the main mechanism of this might be high amines. We also noticed that chocolate and cooked fermented soy seems to cause a low mood.

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