What Are Sulfites?
No idea what I’m talking about when I refer to sulfites? Sulfites are cheeky chemicals, commonly used as preservatives for a range of different types of foods and beverages.
Sulfites are often added to shellfish to prevent discoloring, processed foods to give them a longer shelf-life, and dehydrated fruits and veggies to preserve them. Most annoyingly, however, these chemicals can be found in soft drinks and alcoholic beverages like beer and, of course, wine.
Other product types can contain trace elements of sulfites too, like in some medications where the chemicals work to keep the drugs stable and effective, and cosmetics.
Since the 1980’s, The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have made companies identify food, drinks, and medications that do contain sulfites on their labeling. The FDA made this ruling after common reports that people were having allergic, sometimes severe, reactions after eating and/or drinking products containing sulfites.
If you have an allergic reaction after drinking wine with sulfites in it, you might recognize some of the symptoms below (some being more severe then others):
- Skin symptoms: itchy skin, rash, hives
- Digestive symptoms: stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea
- Respiratory Symptoms: wheezing, cough, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest
The most severe allergic reaction to sulfites, which can be life-threatening, is anaphylactic shock. This is where the person is not able to breath and experiences a drop in blood pressure.
The FDA estimates that the number of total Americans who are allergic to sulfites is fairly low. People with asthma seem to have a higher risk of experiencing a reaction to sulfites. In fact, the entire reason I started looking into allergic reactions to sulfites is that my girlfriend was experiencing a tight chest after drinking red wine.
Are there any solutions or cures available for people who suffer from sulfite sensitivity?
Most people who suffer from sulphite sensitivity are usually self-diagnosed, as it doesn’t return a positive result on allergy tests.
In most cases, health professionals recommend an elimination diet of foods, drinks and products containing sulphites. This may be followed by a food challenge, usually under medical supervision.
That, of course, was the ‘official recommendation’ for sulfite sensitivity available online. What about a solution for those who just want to enjoy an occasional glass of wine without suffering from a tight chest, rashes, aches and digestive problems?
Natural Wines: A Viable Wine Sulfite Sensitivity Cure?
One increasingly popular soloution, that we have spoken about previously on the Sobur blog, is natural, sulfur-free wines.
These natural wines, which are still only a small market, have little or no Sulfur dioxide (SO2) added. This is easier to do with red wines, because the tannin (a stabilizing agent) within the wine acts as a as a natural anti-oxidant. Tannin within the wine means less sulfur dioxide is needed to protect the wine during the winemaking and maturation process.
Alternative Wine Sulfite Allergy Cure
As I mentioned, my girlfriend is a personal sufferer of sulfite sensitivity, so I am trying out different solutions with her as she does enjoy a glass of red in the evening.
Sobur is officially looking into this area too, so you should expect either a partnership to bring a sulfite allergy cure to a worldwide market, or our own custom solution to help solve this problem for our customers. Get in touch with us if you are interested in hearing more.