Why I want tomato soup…but can’t have it

Tomatsuppe med karry og rejer

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I am sick today.

With a stomach bug, thanks to all my colleagues who keep coming to work despite having recurring bouts of gastro go through their families.

Why people feel such pressure to come to work when sick is a bug-bear of mine, and the subject for another post…

So now I have succumbed to their bug and I’m home sick.

And all I want to eat is tomato soup.

Despite its high acidity and the general recommendation to avoid tomato based products with gastro-type illnesses, it is the one thing I always crave when I have a stomach virus. Tomato soup and toast…

Sadly, I can’t indulge.

5 months ago I saw an immunologist for issues I was having with multiple food . Turns out I have allergy to several types of grass, dust mites, dogs, cats, mould, wheat – the usual suspects. But it seems the grass allergy cross reacts with many foods, particularly fruit, veges and nuts and causes a non-life threatening allergic reaction in me if I eat them – tingling in my mouth, sores in my gums and teeth, nausea at times – it’s called “Oral Allergy Syndrome”. The recommendation is that if the food is cooked, unripe, or peeled I can most likely tolerate it and, as I said, it’s unlikely to be life-threatening, more uncomfortable and annoying.

If that weren’t enough to contend with, it seems I also have what is called “Food Chemical Sensitivity”. And it turns out this has more impact on me than the allergies.

What is Food Chemical Sensitivity?

In a nutshell it’s a sensitivity or intolerance to naturally occurring chemicals in nearly all foods. It’s a relatively new area of medical research and very difficult to get your head around as it seems illogical and opposite all the advice on healthy eating. There have been three chemicals identified in the make-up of foods – salicylates, amines, glutamate – that can cause sensitive people multiple issues. A reaction to any or all of these chemicals is difficult to identify because it doesn’t occur, like an allergy, immediately after eating the offending food but builds up over time and is dependent on each individual’s tolerance level (commonly called “the  threshold”). The only way to identify an intolerance is undergo an Elimination Diet and carefully and systematically challenge chemical food groups to determine if it causes issues.

I’ve been undergoing this process for several months now and have identified that I have a sensitivity to salicylates. Thankfully I seem to be able to tolerate amines and glutamates. Sensitive people usually have to avoid most preservatives, additives and colours as these seem to somehow be linked to the food intolerance.

Salicylates are a naturally occurring pesticide in many foods. They occur in so many foods that it would be easier to tell you what I can eat rather than what I can’t, but suffice to say – the more flavour-some the food, the more likely it is to have salicylates, for (very limited) example, things like mushrooms, pepper, spices, chilli, capsicum, lemon, carrot, pumkin, avocado, strawberry, mint and, of course, tomato…

Unfortunately there is not yet a pill or medicine you can take to alter the effects of food chemical sensitivity. The only current “cure” is to slowly re-build your tolerance by adding increasing amounts of the foods back into your diet. I can have an anti-histamine for my allergic reactions but nothing for my food sensitivities. I hope that eventually I will be able to tolerate more foods containing salicylates but at the moment the impact of them on me keeps me well away from temptation.

My reactions can last for days and include – bloating, reflux, wind, nausea, stomach cramping, headaches, lethargy. These alone I could handle, but there is more.

Astoundingly I also react emotionally  –

– my mood drops, depression kicks in, I feel socially-phobic, I lose all energy or interest in doing anything, I feel I have so much to do and no time to do it so I do nothing, I can’t prioritise, I get teary over nothing, I overreact and can’t see the reality of a situation, I can feel hopeless and that my life if pointless.

It is, to put it simply, hell.

So I’ll stick to my minimalist low-chem diet and languish in the bliss of feeling calm, energised, enthused, in control, and even happy…

That is why, despite the strength of my craving, there will be no tomato soup for me today, and that’s ok!

Links for information on Food Chemical Sensitivity:



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