Sulfate related to Sulfite intolerance/allergy?--sorry it's long

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New Member

Date Joined Nov 2013
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 11/4/2013 10:37 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi, I am hoping someone might help me here. I've been reading some old posts on sulfites, but I'm still not clear on something. Here's my story: Started taking 2 to 3 ferrous sulfate (iron) supplements per day for anemia per doc recommendation. Started to have episodes of hot flashes or flushing--suddenly flushed face and chest along with, a wave of anxiety or feeling upset would come over me, and I'd feel hot, tired, just not well. I started to connect them to the supplements and stopped taking them. After a day, it calmed down. However, food is causing mini-episodes. Salad with vinegar, almonds, laughing cow cheese and crackers, and some other foods--basically anything at all processed. I had one bite of a potato roll fortified with ferrous sulfate, realized my mistake, and ate just the hamburger. Regardless, I had a milder reaction about an hour later.

I'm realizing now that this mess happened years ago after I gave birth and took iron supplements. I never figured it out and thought I had panic attacks plus rosacea. For a LONG time after, I had trouble with flushing after drinking wine plus some other foods. I didn't know why though. It got better over time.

Everything on the internet says that sulfate and sulfite are different. So why do I seem to be reacting to both at exactly the same time? Also, I've read that our bodies break down the sulfites into the "safe" sulfate form. Does this mean I'm allergic to sulfates, and therefore also sulfites because ultimately my body is breaking sulfates down into sulfites?

My doctor waved off the reaction to a temporary side effect of iron--as if it were in the same kind of thing as getting constipated or something. This feels different. It's physical with the flushing, plus a weird feeling of anxiety or sometimes irritability. It makes me emotional. Very strange and stressful.

Any thoughts? Is it all in my head? Does this make sense? If it is real, anyone think it might be temporary? On the upside, I've lost a few pounds ;) because I'm afraid to eat anything but pears, apples, unseasoned meats, and whole wheat pasta that's not fortified.

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Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 5022
   Posted 11/5/2013 8:34 PM (GMT -6)   
Welcome to the forum lauren.

You may be taking too much iron. It's not the sulfate you have to worry about. You can get dangerously toxic from ingesting too much iron. Did the doc test your blood to see why you are anemic?

I got similar symptoms from taking just one a day. Even though I was anemic I didn't tolerate iron daily. My doctor did not ignore the problem and told me to stop taking it. I cut it down to one a week and am fine.

Sulfate and sulfite are indeed different. Sulfate is the SO4 ion and your body can't survive completely without it. Some people have allergy problems with sulfates in soaps and shampoos, but we're talking about what you take inside now.

Most people can utilize sulfites just fine, but some of us are missing that ability. Some people even get true allergic reactions to it. If you react to wine (which you mentioned), vinegar, gelatin, maple syrup, the condiments on the hamburger, etc., then you may be sulfite intolerant. The reactions to iron and sulfite are somewhat different but easily confused. Of course it's entirely possible to be reacting to 2 things at the same time. The only way to tell is by keeping a really good food journal, probably for at least a couple of months. Use the search box at the top of the page to look that up, also probably more on iron.

Ferrous sulfate is also very constipating for a lot of people. I never use that form. There are ferrous gluconate and ferrous fumarate and the glycinate form too. They are all the same 325 mg pill but have different amounts of elemental iron.

You might try using rice vinegar. It doesn't have sulfite. I find if I make my own wine without adding sulfite, I can tolerate a small amount. I use nothing but grape juice with sugar added because I only like sweet wine, fermented right in the plastic bucket it came in and bottled in my leftover heavy glass fizzy water bottles with screw on caps. I don't measure acidity or anything and bottle it when it's nearly done fermenting so I end up with a sparkling wine.

Don't worry about individual seasonings except garlic, onion, pepper, ginger. Nothing wrong with a little salt. It's the mixed spices that might be a concern. Eat your vegetables! Only avoid pork and take it easy on beef. Wash fish carefully and maybe avoid shrimp for a while. Since your reaction suggests an "intolerance" rather than a "true allergy," you should be able to tolerate a little stray sulfite.

You may have a problem with the modern wheats, so maybe don't worry about the fortification and instead switch to rice products. If you must have bread, at least get the "no preservatives added" from bakeries that specialize in it.

I totally agree with avoiding processed foods. I don't go crazy about the latest fads though.
Best wishes.

New Member

Date Joined Dec 2013
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 12/29/2013 4:17 PM (GMT -6)   
I know it's VERY RARE. It's puzzled my docs for quite some time.

I have a sever sulfite allergy. SEVERE, like stop breathing.

I also have a SEVERE sulfate allergy. I have to really watch what I eat and how it's prepared.

I suspect that I have sulfatase enzyme deficiency or whatever. But my docs, even at Cleveland Clinic haven't seemed to catch on.

I hiave to be DILIGENT about any meds and before we allow them to give me ANYTHING I have to research MSDS sheets and pharacuetical companies have to be contacted to ensure that there is no sulfite or sulfate somewhere deep and unlisted because it's not supposed to be reactive int he ingredients. For example, during a sweat test in July at Cleveland Clinic, they used a powder than changes color on me.

By the time I was done with the testing and in the shower to wash the powder dye off, my skin was blistered and oozing. The dye has sulfates in it. One of the colors was a sulfate. The dye was listed as FD&C red # whatever. In going further, the red dye is a sulfate. :( No one knew. The pharmacy didn't catch it.

I can't even use toothpaste. soap. Shampoo. I have had to have all of that made specially for me by a friend who makes soaps.

So, yes. While it is extremely rare (every issue I have seems to be 1 in a million chances of getting it) it is by all means possible to be allergic to sulfates.

Not all sulfates give me issues, that we know of. But reading this and seeing pepper, garlic, etc listed, I'll be trying an elimination diet and see if some of my symptoms don't clear up... If you're drinking anything carbonated, STOP.

We literally eat grilled chicken, a baked potato, and alternate brocolli, green beans, asparagus. Every. Single. Day. I made a standing rib roast for Christmas... stuffed with Garlic and thyme and rosemary and coated in kosher salt, cracked pink peppercorns, and more garlic. I've spent the last 4 days almost unable to move from pain... So, I'll be trying the elimination diet now and checking to see what that helps.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 5022
   Posted 12/29/2013 7:45 PM (GMT -6)   
Welcome peep.

Your body needs sulfATEs to survive. SulfITEs, on the other hand can cause problems in people who cannot process them, and it can range from a mild sensitivity to a full allergy. For a free explanatory book online see

There are some chemicals containing sulfate that can be a problem, but it's the other end of the molecule you probably have to look at. That's where the soaps, shampoos, etc come in. Sodium laureth sulfate are in soaps, while sodium lauryl sulfate is in cleaning products. Both can cause irritation. see:

I'd be sick with eating as much beef, garlic and pepper as you described. I'm having tachycardia as I type from eating a couple of chocolate covered cookies. ...
And a few minutes and an Inderal later -
For information on dyes, see the no sulfites reference above and look up Feingold Diet. Yellow dye #5, tartrazine seems to cause the most allergic responses. You may have been referring to Alura Red, which is related to yellow #5.

I prefer just using a notebook to write a food journal/log instead of some "elimination diet." It's easy to just eliminate foods as they pop up.

Best wishes, and keep in touch. We'd love to hear how you are doing.

I don't worry about carbonation, just what is carbonated.

New Member

Date Joined Feb 2016
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 2/29/2016 3:45 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi guys! I know this is an old post but this is one of the threads that helped me discover my allergy and I was hoping for some feedback from y'all.

So about a year and a half ago my pain started, it was mild abdominal discomfort and constant hives all over my legs. The pain progressed and would eventually get to where I couldn't move my body I was in so much pain, it felt like somebody was twisting my intestines and pulling them and then also throwing rocks at my stomach. By far the worst pain I've ever felt, this intensity happened about once a week but I had constant pain 24/7. And then my legs were just scabs because I had scratched all my skin off. After MANY MANY doctors visits and tests that were unsuccessful in diagnosing me, I turned to the internet and discovered that I was allergic to sulfite. I changed all my lotions, soaps, shampoos and laundry detergent and went on a super super strict sulfite free diet (I wouldn't eat anything I didn't cook myself). For the first time in 10 months I was pain free, it was incredible.

So I've been on this diet for about 8 months now. I'll mess up a little bit every once in a while and I will accidentally eat like pepper or something with soy in it and I will have mild abdominal pain and will have hives for a couple of days. But recently I have noticed that if I mess up and eat the things that bothered me before because they had a little bit of soy or something, I haven't been reacting.

So BIG step. I ate fast-food. Now it was from a local fast food chain that has locally raised, natural preservative and antibiotic free meat, fresh vegetables, potatoes that are cut in-house (but fried in canola oil which is a no-no) but it had cheese on it, and bread that I'm assuming is fresh but I don't know and then it had special sauce (which is like a mixture of mayo and spices and pepper and stuff of the sort -- all of which would normally make me react). And surprisingly I had absolutely no reaction, not even the slightest itching. And then yesterday I drank half of a Sprite and I was fine!

I know people can outgrow allergies but it is normal to outgrow them this fast? Have any of y'all's allergies gotten better since you changed your diet? I want to try more food and I'm really excited but I'm scared of going too far and being in pain again.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 5022
   Posted 3/2/2016 9:10 AM (GMT -6)   
More likely than not being allergic/sensitive to sulfites anymore is that you are successfully avoiding them - that is, keeping below your level of intolerance.

For most people, sulfite intolerance is not like peanut allergy.. It's not that a tiny. It will trigger the reaction, but that you can tolerate it, metabolize it, up to a point. My level is 2000 micrograms a day.

Look up the link to Rick's free online book in the search box at the top of the page. I don't have it available from my iPad. You can calculate how much is in each food ingredient, log what you ate in your "food journal" and find your own level.

I feel like I tolerate more after years of avoidance, but it's probably that I avoid it the most part of each day, so a small indulgence in chocolate or something is ok.
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