Blueberries are a beautiful, delicious, and nutritious food. However, if you have a blueberry allergy or can’t eat blueberries for other reasons, it is important to know more about this food, how it is used, and how to avoid it.
Blueberry Allergy is rare but may be dangerous. Keep reading to learn more about how to stay safe and enjoy various other foods.
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Blueberry Food Family
The Ericaceae food family is also known as the Heath family.
If you have adverse reactions to blueberries, you may also be allergic or sensitive to other foods in the Heath food family.
The following foods are part of the Heath food family:
Blueberry Allergy Symptoms
Allergic reactions to blueberries are likely to be similar to reactions to other food allergens.
Common food allergy signs and symptoms include the following. Food allergy reactions may include one or many reactions. Severity may vary based on factors such as the amount eaten and other factors.
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Itching in the mouth
- Nasal congestion
- Swelling of any body part
- Swelling of the face
- Swelling of the lips
- Swelling of the tongue and throat
- Tingling in the mouth
- Trouble breathing
Call your doctor immediately if you or your child have symptoms of an allergic reaction. Call 911 in case of difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, or other life-threatening symptoms.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis can be caused by food allergy or other allergens. Reactions may be more severe if more than one part of the body is affected.
Signs and Symptoms of Anaphylaxis include:
- Cardiovascular symptoms
- Constriction of the airway
- Difficulty breathing
- Fast pulse
- Loss of consciousness
- Sensation of a lump in the throat
- Drop in blood pressure
- Shock, including a drastic drop in blood pressure
- Swollen throat
- Tightening of the airway
These reactions require immediate medical attention.
Blueberries may also trigger other immune mediated, non-IgE hypersensitivity reactions.
Food sensitivities may play role in many conditions such as:
- Atopic Dermatitis
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Crohn’s Disease
- Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
- Inflammatory Arthritis
- Interstitial Cystitis
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Urticaria (Hives)
Blueberry sensitivity may cause mild reactions or severe reactions.
Blueberries contain salicylates, a natural compound found in many plants and foods. Plants use salicylic acid and related compounds as a defense mechanism.
Salicylates are found in numerous foods, beverages, personal care products, and medications (notably aspirin). If you are sensitive to salicylates, we recommend working closely with a healthcare provider knowledgeable on this topic.
Food intolerances are generally defined as adverse food reactions that are not due to allergic or immune-mediated changes in the body.
Symptoms of Blueberry Intolerance may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loose Stools
Blueberries contain fiber, fructose, and Vitamin C. These nutrients are important in most diets. Still, they may cause symptoms when consumed in large quantities.
Lipid Transfer Protein Allergy
Blueberry allergy is associated with Lipid Transfer Protein Allergy. Lipid Transfer Proteins are found in many diverse plants and foods and may cause IgE- mediated allergic reactions. Broccoli is also associated with Lipid Transfer Protein Allergy.
This complex condition may require very personalized dietary changes and the use of rescue medications. Working with a knowledgeable healthcare provider is important to ensure safety and to prevent an overly restrictive diet.
There does not appear to be significant cross reactivity between blueberries and other berries.
Cross contamination is a risk for people with food allergies. Cross contamination can occur on farms, in processing, in manufacturing, as well as in homes, restaurants, and food service settings like hospitals and schools.
If you have a blueberry allergy, be cautious of foods prepared near blueberries and locations that often use blueberries.
Some examples may include:
- Breakfast Foods
- Coffee Shops
- Salad Bars
Practicing good food hygiene may help prevent the risk of cross contamination.
Help For Blueberry Allergy, Sensitivity & Intolerance
Like most things in life, you can make better choices when you have more information.
In the case of known or suspected blueberry allergy, it is recommended to work with an allergist to determine an accurate diagnosis.
We recommend working with an Allergist, Registered Dietitian, Certified Nutrition Specialist, or Certified Leap Therapist to identify which foods are safest for you and which foods you should avoid.
Blood and skin tests may be beneficial. Food challenges may also be utilized.
Safety – Eating Out – School & Social Settings
If you avoid blueberries or any specific foods, it is good to have a safety plan. The following strategies may be helpful:
- Always check ingredient lists and read all food labels.
- Be aware of common ways the trigger food is used.
- Be aware of possible hidden sources of the trigger food.
- Ask your doctor if you should carry an EpiPen or other medication in case of accidental ingestion.
- Have a support system such as friends, family members, school nurse, teachers, coworkers, and your health care providers.
- Ask questions about how food is prepared and handled.
- When in doubt, choose safety first.
Other Reasons to Avoid Blueberry
Blueberries are generally included in most therapeutic diets.
Some patient education materials about blood thinning medications list blueberries as a source of Vitamin K. In most cases, patients who take blood thinners should eat a consistent amount of Vitamin K. Most people will not have to exclude blueberries.
If you take a blood thinning medication and have questions about your diet, it is best to talk to your healthcare provider and work with a Registered Dietitian or Certified Nutrition Specialist.
Common Forms of Blueberries
Blueberries are commonly sold in the following forms:
They are often eaten as part of:
- Smoothies and smoothie bowls
- Baked Goods
- Breakfast foods such as pancakes, waffles, and muffins
- Desserts such as cakes and pies.
- Hot and cold cereals.
Hidden Sources of Blueberries
Blueberries are a common food and may be used as a main ingredient, condiment, candy, sauce, side dish, garnish, etc. Both whole blueberries and products made with blueberries may cause adverse reactions.
Sometimes blueberries are used in somewhat unexpected ways. Be on the lookout for blueberries in the following foods:
- As an ingredient in cold breakfast cereals
- As an ingredient in instant hot breakfast cereals
- Blueberry extract
- Blueberry tea
- Candy and Chocolates
- Dietary supplements
- Flavored or blended applesauce
- Flavored coffee
- Fruit flavored tea
- Fruit salad
- Ice cream
- Trail Mix
Be sure to read labels; when in doubt, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Substitutes for Blueberry
If a recipe you are using includes blueberry as an ingredient, the following foods may be substituted. Before using one of these, you should consider exactly how the blueberries are being used in the recipe.
- Cherries – may be a good choice for sauces and fillings.
- Chocolate Chips – these can easily be swapped out for blueberries in pancakes, muffins, breads, and as a topping in smoothie bowls, and hot cereals.
- Peaches – these are very versatile in recipes, similar to blueberries.
Alternatives to Blueberries
If you can’t eat blueberries and want an alternative food for nutrition purposes, consider the following:
Blue & Purple Foods (for antioxidants):
- Black Carrot
- Black Rice
- Concord Grapes
- Concord Grape Juice
- Egg Plant
- Passion Fruit
- Purple Cabbage
- Purple Sweet Potato
- Red Grape Juice
- Red Grapes
Dried & Freeze-Dried Fruits
- Goji Berries
- Strawberry (Check out this blog post if you are allergic to strawberries.)
Choosing groceries when you have food allergies can be challenging. This is why we recommend choosing groceries made with a single ingredient and focusing on what you CAN eat, not just what you have to avoid.
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