Why Does my Mouth Feel Strange When I Eat Fruits and Veggies?

Some people find themselves unable to eat certain fruits, vegetables, and nuts that they once enjoyed. They may bite into a big, juicy apple expecting to savor the crispness and flavor, only to find their mouth growing itchy and tingly and their lips and throat beginning to swell. Is this a fruit allergy? Well, sort of. If you can relate to these symptoms, you may have oral allergy syndrome (OAS).

Why Mouth Feel Strange When You Eat Fruits and Veggies

(Pixabay / ponce_photography)

What is Oral Allergy Syndrome?
Oral allergy syndrome is an allergic reaction that is felt in the mouth, tongue, lips, and throat. It all starts with the immune system, which goes on the lookout for different germs to fight off. Sometimes, though, it gets confused and attacks innocent things. In the case of oral allergy syndrome, it is triggered by proteins found in certain types of fresh produce and nuts. It then attempts to fight these harmless proteins off by releasing chemicals that cause itching, swelling, and tingling in and around the mouth.

So why does the body hone in on these proteins instead of all of the other proteins that you ingest daily? One way to think of it is that all of these proteins have an evil twin out there in the form of plant pollens. For example, if you’re typically allergic to birch trees, your body might decide to overreact to apples because apple proteins closely resemble birch pollens. If you’re allergic to ragweed, your immune system might go on the defensive when you eat melon because the proteins in ragweed pollen and melon are so similar. This phenomenon is referred to as “cross-reactivity.”

If you have hay fever and tend to be sensitive to pollens, you may be more prone to oral allergy syndrome. Birch pollens are the most common trigger for OAS, but many different types of tree, grass, and weed pollens can incite the condition. You may find that you react worse to a certain fruit or vegetable when its look-alike pollen is in season. OAS is fairly common, and research shows that roughly 60 percent of all food allergies are actually cross-reactions to pollen allergies.

Will I Ever be Able to Eat These Foods Again?

If you really love the foods that OAS is keeping you from eating, there are some options. Some people find that cooking the item or removing the peel or rind (where applicable) can mitigate the symptoms of OAS.

Allergy immunotherapy can provide a lasting solution to the problem. Whether administered through allergy shots or oral allergy drops (known as sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT), this treatment can desensitize your body to the pollens and food proteins that once stirred up your symptoms. Ask you doctor about pollen and food allergy treatment.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.