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Dining Out With Allergies


Disease Prevention

I am allergic to black pepper. So is my mom. We don’t get stomach aches, our throats won’t close and we don’t go all hive-y, but we do get herpes-style blisters on our lips and sometimes just above or below them. The blisters turn to scabs and the scabs come off after a week and then leave small scars. It’s a lengthy, unsightly and painful process- thankfully not life threatening. All the same, I won’t go near peppered food,  a tricky thing to do when black pepper is in everything!

I imagine if you were allergic to nuts, you’d feel like nuts were in everything. Likewise with gluten, or soy, or strawberries or (fill in your blank here!).

Black pepper is my nemesis. That is why you will never find it in my recipes, on my blog or in my book, and why I use cayenne, chili or nothing instead. For those who keep asking, there it is. I invite you to use it if you prefer, nothing wrong with a dash here or there, just not when I’m coming for lunch.

Raw and vegan food is most often the worst culprit for my limitation, as marinades, sauces and dips, breads and wraps are batch prepped and/or take time to dehydrate/simmer, so special preparation requests are often not as available and understandably tough with all the other dietary restrictions that need to be accommodated these days.

Any food that has medicinal properties (meaning it affects the organism that consumes it) runs the risk of having a negative side effect. I thought I was rather alone in the pepper thing- but in doing my research, I have learned that I am not. Allergic reactions to black pepper seem to be on the rise and symptoms can include stomach cramps, diarrhea, itchy inner ear, numbness of the tongue and just about everything in between (think  severe inflammation of the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and respiratory system).

There are two sides to the health benefit coin when it comes to pepper. Some studies have shown it to be a digestive aid, while others show that it’s a digestive irritant. It’s also been shown to contain an oil that has mild carcinogenic properties. Of course though, you can find a nutrition study to demonstrate whatever it may be that you are looking for.

Like any creative talents, chef’s often have their base and build recipes from there and often, in North America pepper is part of the standard mix.

Is pepper, or any single ingredient a necessity in all cooking?

A local chef, Doug McNish explains how he reduced his use of pepper by adding fresh chilies or ground cayenne pepper. I look forward to the amazing brunches Doug cooks up every Saturday morning at Brick Works market, one of the few spots where I know I can order whatever I want.

Like any of you who suffer from an allergy, I trust you find your favourites who can make food that works for you- and you stick with them!

Belmonte Raw’s Carol Belmonte explained that pepper “has never been missed in any of [her] recipes, nor has anyone every commented that ‘Hey, there is black pepper missing in this dish.”

Feel Good Guru, a newer addition to the high raw, organic, veg loving restaurants in Toronto is also mostly black pepper free. In that family is also One Love Veg.

As I said, when you have a dietary limitation, whether it’s a nut allergy, a gluten-intolerance or soy challenges, you find the spots that work and you stick with them.

There are many more restaurants near and far I wish to bits I could eat at but unfortunately my black-pepper-challenged-self doesn’t let it be possible.

The local spots I most desire include LIVE Foods Bar and Rawlicious. The far and away favourites include CrudessenceReal Food Daily and HU Kitchen. If my own allergy would go away, I would hop a plane just to enjoy the delights of these awesome, UnDiet friendly, organic focused, conscious, low impact, high awesomeness, world-class plant-powered spots.

Since I can’t enjoy them, I sincerely hope you make a point to!

What is amazing about all of these places, is that given their attention to ingredients, you will mostly likely be able to get very specific answers about what is used in each dish. The fact that they can tell you is a huge benefit, even if that means you can’t eat what you want. Better to find out before you eat it, than after! These specialty restaurants are bound to attract “special needs” eaters, and of course can’t work with everybody’s needs and restrictions- but they sure do try.

We can’t really expect that every restaurant be able to accomodate for all needs, for totally selfish reasons, I just wish an ingredient that is so often offered on the table as an extra could perhaps be left out of a few dishes- though I imagine we’d all think that way about our own specific allergies.

Most restaurants offer options for dairy-free, nut-free, gluten-free, soy-free, vegetarian, vegan which is a very helpful menu bonus. As for me- and of course I get the odd allergy out, pepper is never one of the differentiators, so often I get presented with the BIG binder, stained from the kitchen with all the chef’s secrets and an invitation to flip through it to see what I can have.

If nut-free and gluten-free can trend, maybe black pepper-free can too. Anything is possible!

Question of the day: What are you greatest dining challenges when trying to stick with health goals, or work with dietary restriction?

80 responses to “Dining Out With Allergies”

  1. Lo says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard of anyone with a pepper allergy. No offense, but you can’t expect every restaurant to leave pepper out of everything… Like you said, there’s potential to be allergic to anything we ingest. Restaurants would have to basically make everything on demand for every single customer if they wanted to ensure they could offer many options for everyone. A couple options is all I’ve had my entire life when eating out since I’m vegetarian. That’s never a surprise, though, and if I really want to make sure I have an option other than salad, I call ahead to make special arrangements. To expect anything more is a bit ridiculous.

    • Liz says:

      My son is allergic to wheat, potatoes, about 10 other foods including … black pepper. I tell people the other foods and they nod their heads sympathetically and then when I add “and black pepper” , they look confused, aghast and then groan ,” ohhh. yeah. that’s tough”. Why? As you know – it’s in so many foods especially restaurant and commercial foods. I don’t expect restaurants to cater to a food allergy but it tell ya – it’s nice to be able to gripe about it and receive some sympathy. Even if my son could actually find a pizza restaurant (good luck, we live in a small town with 3 lights) that served wheat-free, potato starch crust free pizza – he’d likely encounter black pepper in its crust or condiments. Maybe it sounds like not a big deal if you’re an adult but to a child – it’s CRUSHING.

  2. Patsy Telpner says:

    Thanks Meg. It was so frustrating to see all the great dishes and not be able to order them. I stopped using black pepper when we discovered the huge welt on my lip was from black pepper many years ago. While travelling in France recently it was a non issue. Black Pepper is not an ingredient that they use and found it strange that I would ask because it is on the table if you need it. I hope this gets passed on.

  3. pdw says:

    I know two people who are allergic to both black pepper and peppers/chilis. So not only can they not have black pepper, they cannot replace with chilis, cayenne, paprika, etc. Even prepared mustard is out because it contains paprika.

  4. Jen says:

    I have given up on eating out. We don’t have many healthy options in Hamilton where I can eat well and my husband can get what he likes. Our favourite restaurant that was willing to prepare my food to my needs closed down in April and moved to a new location and we haven’t been out since… I’ll probably miss it in the winter, but for now – come over to my patio, I’ll cook for you and your mom – pepper, egg, meat, gluten free – bring on the challenge :) I promise you won’t leave hungry :) Bon appetite!

  5. Amy says:

    Thanks Meghan! While I’m (probably) not allergic to black pepper, I’m nervous about eating out lately because it seems I might have an allergy to all things coconut, and milk protein (not lactase). I do like a steak here and there, but restaurants put butter on them… Seriously?! I’m with Jen here, I may have to give up on eating out for my own wellbeing.

  6. Victoria says:

    I, too, am allergic to black pepper. I’m also allergic to most nightshades, it seems, in one way or another. Potatoes not so much, hot peppers extremely. My allergy is one that if I’m around airborne black pepper I could die. Eating it isn’t much better. I have to carry around the epi-pens just in case. It makes eating outside the home (parties, events, etc) a nightmare because literally no one anticipates this. While I agree that I can’t expect every dish to be free of pepper for me, I do expect that when I go out to pay to have some sort of dish prepared. Not *everything* has to be made with pepper. Most places seem to even pepper corn on the cobb! Now that seems a bit much to me. I certainly feel your pain though. It is an extremely difficult thing to avoid, even when your cautious.

  7. marie says:

    I, too, have an allergy to pepper from the peppercorn. I have found that it is somewhat more common than people think. I only eat fish at a couple of restaurants (Drives friends and relatives crazy) that I can trust to cook it in a pan isolated from other food on the grill. My allergies to corn, egg, tomato, shellfish also complicate eating-out, but I have found that I really enjoy cooking since finding this challenging way of life.

    People say how do you know it is the pepper…Long story that I will try to cut short. I include this to warn others. Five years ago I had a squirrel making a nest in my attic. The handyman suggested putting a powder (sold at must home improvement stores) in my attic to chase them away. Thirty minutes after he place the powder in the attic, my eyes, face and throat started to burn. I hurried to get ready to go to a friends New Year’s eve party thinking it would be ok when I came home. Well it wasn’t! Short story is that I had to be out of my home for 4 months, coming back for a few hours at a time until I could tolerate it. The product placed in my attic was made from piperine. Several months later someone cooked chicken with a lot of freshly cracked pepper and my throat swelled. Thankfully, a double dose of Benadryl reversed the swelling.

  8. Roxanne says:

    I was dig nosed with a pepper allergy a few months ago and like you said eating out is nearly impossible. I am used t going without certain foods since I also have a gluten and orange allergy so I feel like I am always caving to other people to go out. The few times I have tried eating while out I have regretted it and am now on a strict if I do t make it I don’t eat it diet. I also believe other allergies are showing up now that I have elemenated certain things. I look forward to hearing any new information you have on pepper allergies. It is so nice to find others who don’t look at you like you are crazy!

  9. Renee says:

    Interesting. I would not go so far as to say that I am allergic to pepper, but I cannot tolerate it. If there is a little in food, I am usually okay. But if there is enough to where I can taste it, I feel like there are microscopic pickaxes digging in my throat and I cough, have difficulty breathing, my eyes water and my face turns red. But as soon as the pepper is cleared from my throat–usually in a few minutes–I am okay. Raw peppers do this also, even though they come from a completely different plant.

  10. Danielle says:

    Wow, I am so happy to have found this page. I am also allergic to Black Pepper. I seem to have the same exact reaction as Renee. If there is only a little bit in the food AND it’s NOT the ground peppercorn type, I am ok. I have been missing out on tons of food over the years because of this allergy. I am ok with White Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, and Paprika. It is just the dark black peppercorn that I get a horrible burning in my throat. I need to take Benadryl immediately and then I am ok. Please keep in touch!!!

  11. Colleen Schwab says:

    I’m only now figuring out that I am allergic to either black pepper, bell peppers or both. It is very frustrating because I love to cook and eat out. Restaurants have been great so far and have eliminated or substituted ingredients for me, but it has diminished the joy of dining out. Black pepper is in EVERYTHING and the realization of how limiting this is, has dampened my mood.

  12. Liz says:

    I too am allergic to black pepper, but its gastrointestinal distress…not pretty….my stepmom has the same issue. So glad to find others here…as I too am getting frustrated with trying to eat out when a lot is preprepared…so the resto cannot customize the dish or so for me :( but I just live with it…not eating a dish sometimes is better than the painful consequences.

  13. Jean says:

    For those of you who say you were diagnosed with a black pepper allergy – can you tell me how? My allergist states that there is no test for it and I should just avoid it. I’m amazed at how sick I get if I eat it (extreme nausea, dizzy, mouth/throat irritation, cough). Guess I don’t really need a test – but would like to know if there is one. Eating out certainly is not enjoyable any more. I’m very sad about that.

    • Meghan Telpner says:

      I’ve never had an allergy test for it. Didn’t need one to know I was sensitive. There are many different types of responses the body can have. Medically trained allergists only test for one type of allergy.

    • Stef says:

      Jean I found out I was allergic to black pepper after having a test done at my allergist’s office. It was a simple skin prick test on my back.

      • Meghan Telpner says:

        Different types of allergy tests will test for different levels and types of immune response in the body. Important to know as you may have an allergy/sensitivity to a food, but it might not show up in a skin prick test if you’re having a different type of immune response.

    • Katie says:

      I had an allergy test that included black pepper after I told my allergist that I had a reaction to a certain restaurant’s chicken. I’m allergic to black pepper, potatoes, peanuts, and dairy. All of those are things I eat daily, and I’m pretty picky…I can’t bring myself to get rid of them. I’ve always hated pepper, though. Blegh.

      • Meghan Telpner says:

        Check out some of the recipes on my blog Katie- all are potato-, dairy-, pepper- and peanut-free. Maybe you’ll find some inspiration to try removing them!

  14. Kit Donner says:

    I also have a bad adverse reaction to black pepper, white pepper, and extracts, essences, liquid concoctions. I have a much milder adverse reaction to chilies, etc, but enough to make it no fun to eat them, nor do they taste good. I have had so many people act disbelieving that I have finally started explaining that when I used to work on cars and motorcycles I have gotten a mouthful of gasoline, which of course I immediately spat out. “Well of course, anyone would.” Well to me, black pepper tastes and feels worse, even when there is so little in a dish that you cannot taste it. Not only that, but the internal discomfort lasts usually from two to four days, moving from one end to the other, which is one way of finding out that those diagrams from high school science really were pretty accurate. So I try very very hard to avoid the stuff.

    Which means that I find waiters that try to guess very annoying. Please, ask the chef or the cook what he or she KNOWS does not have pepper in it. Maybe nuts still in the shell and a nutcracker? (If they haven’t been “brined” or “pickled” or soaked in something to give them a little extra flavor.

    But what really, really scares me is a policeman with a can of pepper spray. There have been several deaths reported, but policemen assume that it is “non-lethal” force because that is what their training tells them. Most doctors that I have talked to are also unaware of this. When asked by a doctor what I am allergic to, I always mention pepper spray, but have to insist that it be included in my chart more often than not.

    No I do not plan to give a policeman trouble, but I do go out to stores and other places and ride public transportation, and cannot be sure that the person nearest me is sane and sober.

    At least people with seafood allergies and gluten intolerance don’t have to be afraid that a policeman will dunk them in clam chowder or wrap them in bread dough.

  15. Stef says:

    I am also allergic to black pepper as well as bell peppers. I’m so glad to know that I am not alone. My allergist says I can’t digest it, which is why when I do eat it, I have horrific gastrointestinal distress starting with nausea/vomiting, escalating to stabbing pains in my abdomen, and ultimately resulting in an uncomfortable meeting with my toilet. My body thinks that pepper is a “foreign substance” and therefore does everything it can to get rid of it. I don’t eat out as often as I used to, and when I do I stick to restaurants that I know will cater to my dietary needs (Mellow Mushroom, Five Guys, & Qdoba are a few of my favorites). I cook most of my food from scratch, and have become a pro at reading ingredient lists. I have had luck finding a lot of prepared foods in the organic sections of produce stores that are pepper-free. The hardest part is trying to determine if I can eat a food item that has “spices” or “natural flavoring” listed on the ingredients list. Both listings are broad terms used by the FDA to describe a long list of spices/flavorings including black pepper so you never know for sure whether or not pepper is present in those foods. This also goes for beverages too, I avoid most “spiced” drinks even though I’m not sure if they’ll affect me at all.

    • Meghan Telpner says:

      It is certainly tough. I avoid foods that list “spices” as you never know (and there could also be other things in there you don’t want). Same with natural falvoring. It’s a tricky one for sure- but I also recognize how fortunate I am that it’s not life threatening.

    • Kathleen says:

      I am also allergic to bell peppers and have the exact same gastro response as you. It’s horrible and painful. My doctor said if you are allergic to take Benadryl and it will help, and it does lessen the episode if I take one when if I accidentally eat some. You should avoid paprika as it is made from bell peppers, it’s dried bell peppers.

  16. Cara says:

    Thank You for this post!

    I have pretty intense acid reflux (i have always had reflux since i was a child, but it didn’t become “intense” until i was in my early 20’s) and am a vocalist. I recently discovered I was allergic to peppers (every type imaginable) after working at a vegan cafe, where they always put black pepper or red pepper flakes or bell peppers with other veggies to make things more interesting! I am allergic to ALL types of peppers, whether it’s black, bell, red, white, dried, paprika or any kind of hot or chili! It is so frustrating to eat out b/c as i’m sure you all know, even if you tell someone im allergic to black pepper and peppers, ask especially about the sauces, and still, the plain fish comes out, i eat 1 bite, and it had been marinated in some sort of chili sauce! My throat screams, my voice cracks, feel like i cant breathe! Then, even though I only ate one bite, the next day, b/c of the “reflux” i get from the allergic reaction, i develop a sinus infection! This is crayyy. And, not helpful to someone who relies on her voice for her income and livlihood!

    But, on the plus side, like many of you here, I have started cooking most everything from scratch, which i never would have done! I would still be eating frozen pizzas and mc donald’s if it weren’t for my food sensitivities! But I was just wondering if anyone here had acid reflux as well as pepper allergies?

    and Best Wishes for a happy and healthy New Year! (without pepper!)

  17. Kara says:

    I’ve known I’ve been allergic to black pepper since 2004 and never thought to try to find others with the same allergy on the internet. I always felt that since it was such a small percentage, why even bother. After 10 years of trying to just suck it up, I’m branching out to try and find recipes and restaurants that accommodate my needs. Problem is, most people don’t believe its an allergy and literally can’t imagine cooking without it.

    Thank you for your article. It at least helps to have someone list out their symptoms so I don’t think its all in my head. I must say, I’ve never gotten blisters before. My throat usually swells up really tight, I sneeze a lot, and if its really bad, pass out for a good 10-15 minutes after my stomach goes ballistic. I couldn’t imagine the blisters though, that would be terrible. It could explain why sometimes the corners of my mouth get weird.

    I guess my biggest gripe is labeling. I really wish that companies wouldn’t use the terminology “spices.” It makes it so much harder for restaurants or family members to accommodate me. Usually I tell them I am ok with whatever weird modification I have to come up with, but family especially gets really flustered when I choose not to eat something because I know I can smell the pepper in it. It’s not that I am trying to be rude, I just don’t want to be sick.

    I just think it’s strange that pepper now has become the number one ingredient in everyone’s dishes and no one wants to give it up.

  18. Mary says:

    Wow I am so glad I looked up “how many people are allergic to black papper ?” Thank you everyone you made my night tonight. today was my b day and my mother took me out for dinner to Ryans Buffet and needless to say they used black pepper in there foods and I was feeling down again about my allergy until I came here because you always feel that your the only one out there because everyone looks at you like you are crazy and some even snap at you when you ask like it hurts them to answer you. my allergy my tongue, throat swells and my breathing becomes labored which I take 6 Benadryl to counteract everything but the reactions seem to be getting worse so I may have to just give up on going out to eat because this is frustrating Thank you for having this website up I enjoyed reading some of what everyone else feels like with these effects

  19. Mike says:

    I’ve acquired a severe allergy to black pepper about two years ago and I have had two anaphylactic reactions. Like Victoria, if I am around airborn black pepper I could potentially die. Since being becoming allergic to it I have researched as much as I can. Recent studies into the growing rate of severe food allergies suggest that there may be a link to food allergies and GM foods. I discovered that black pepper is increasingly being genetically modified in order to keep up with the ever growing demand due to its (I believe) over use. My prediction is that alrhough relatively rare at present, we are going to see a steady rise in severe allergic reaction to black pepper over the next few decades. One thing I hve noticed when shopping is that the products that don’t contain black pepper appear to sell out much quicker than the products with black pepper. Whilst I don’t equate that with allergy avoidance, it does suggest to me that food without is clearly more appealing than with it. I should add that I used to like black pepper before I became allergic, however, My preference was to add it myself rather than have it add for me by the manufacturer or a chef.

  20. Torri says:

    I also have an allergic type reaction to black pepper, especially freshly coarse ground pepper. I can feel my lips tingle when I eat it and with a day or so the skin on my lips starts to peel. Once I feel that ‘tingle’ on my lips, no amount of lip balm will prevent them from peeling. It’s almost like an isolated chemical peel or strange sunburn. No blisters, just dry peeling skin. The bigger problem is that I really like coarse ground pepper! I can’t handle spicy foods at all. No curries of any kind, no spicy bbq and definitely no hot sauce. I can’t even handle the gringo salsa served in most ‘Mexican’ restaurants. But, I love good ground peppercorns. I try to be judicious in my use of pepper and applying lip balm before and during eating seems to help. Thankfully my reaction is confined to just a ‘chemical’ peel of the skin on my lips. I am so glad I found this site! My husband and friends think it’s weird.

  21. Tracy says:

    I’m so glad to find your site. I was beginning to think I was just weird. I recently developed an allergy to black pepper, but it took me a few weeks to figure out that’s what it was. My tongue develops blisters and goes numb. It’s the oddest thing. I’ve never used much black pepper anyway – my hubby puts it on everything himself, but I rarely use it while cooking.

    I was very interested in the comment above about pepper being genetically modified. That might explain why the sudden reactions to it after all these years.

  22. Denise says:

    Nice to know that I am not alone with my pepper allergy. Nowadays it seems that all the restaurants feel the need to make every item on their menu “spicy” and since the outcry about salt, they’ve replaced salt with pepper. Not only the restaurants but the food manufacturers, too. One of the comments above said it’s ridiculous to ask restaurants not to cook with pepper, I beg to differ since before, the salt and pepper were on the table and you added it to your food to your own taste. What are the restaurants trying to accomplish by increasingly adding pepper to their menu items? The wait staff look at you cross eyed when you tell them that you have an allergy to pepper. Even my own children laugh at me. Severe pain is not entertaining! I just can’t go to restaurants any more. :(

  23. Amateur Bot-Ahn-Ist says:

    Add me to the black pepper and ALL peppers allergy list. I was tested by an allergist and was told that it can take years before the allergen will show on your skin. If you’re having reactions, don’t let a negative test sway you, just stay away from the food and keep testing. It took us over 10 years to figure it all out. (I have a lot of allergies as well as an autoimmune swelling disease.) Was at a Southwestern themed potluck this last weekend with good horticulture friends and we all had a good laugh about how it was impossible for me to eat anything. I ate ahead of time but boy was it scary to think about how much the pepper and spicy Latin inspired cuisine has changed food for all of us. I miss eating salsa so much but have been returning more to my Italian roots. I’ve really had a very difficult time eating out though but I’m rediscovering foods and trying to branch out. Luckily, living in Portland (OR) I have a lot of great choices. (Oh, and I am also VERY allergic to ginger.)

  24. Lester Henderson says:

    This is good information. I also have been diagnosed with a severe black pepper allergy. I start to go into anaflaxis with just a wiff of it.

    My biggest problem has been dealing with cross contanimation and dealing with it in the air at my office (just from cafe’s).

  25. Vance says:

    Thank you so much for writing this out in your blog. I also am just another person with black-pepper allergy. People respond with shock anytime that I describe the grief I go through each time that I am poisoned by something of the peppercorn-family. I hate that labels here in Canada only list “spices” as part of the ingredients. I have written the Government of Canada to force the labels to include the spices used. So far, my letter writing hasn’t produced any positive results.

    For me, I get the bloating, stomach cramps, explosive diarrhea and bleeding from the anus, and the combination of all that lasts between four and seven days. I have not figured if the bleeding is a direct result of the black-pepper causing symptoms similar to the original posting of blisters or if it is just because of the strain my body goes through attempting to move the poisons out of my body.

    Recently I found out that my cousin is also allergic to peppercorn, but, his case is anaphylactic shock where he is required to carry an epi-pen at all times. I am starting to wonder if these allergies are hereditary in nature, and not a result of environment.

  26. Amanda says:

    I have been finding more and more articles about people that also cannot have pepper. I am in the middle of being diagnosed, but have been avoiding it for years as it is getting more and more sensitive. I cannot be around someone else that is putting it on their plate without having an asthma attack.

    Eating out now is pretty much non-existent unless I want French fries, which doesn’t help my waistline.

    Buying pre-made food or salad dressings is a big no-no, and everything from scratch is so hard when you work full time. I have emailed some larger companies and they will not tell me if pepper is in something unless my allergist contacts them. I am not asking for a full ingredients list just pepper, as it is hidden in with the term ‘spices’, which includes a lengthy list of things I can eat, and almost every label if you look at is reads spices.

    I have noticed that some chain restaurants follow the same thing in their ‘binders’. Though I have had a restaurant call their head chef at home to find out. I have taken to eating sushi or fries out, and eating mostly at home and having to bring food with me to friends houses.

    I don’t blame the companies, I blame food regulations. If only the food regulations for labels would change and they had to list every ingredient as anyone can be allergic to anything.

  27. alanna says:

    I have been highly allergic to pepper for many years now but I haven’t been so bad with it as I’ve been really good with trying to avoid it
    I only need to smell it and I get really hot like im on fire,watery eyes,and find it really hard to breath last night u was taken to hospital because i was at my brothers wedding rreception and the food looked amazing but was full of Pepper
    i was looking forward to the food as Iit looked amazing and the day was amazing
    ihave not been taken to emergency in some time I do always tell people that I’m allergic to Pepper but most laugh at me I didn’t know there were others out there that suffer with the same thing I am worse if i eat pepper I get watery eyes and same symptoms as smelling it but they r worse and I also get he sneezes badly

  28. Eva says:

    Hi.. very helpful article. I’m also allergic to black pepper and I get the same symptoms you’ve described around my mouth and sometimes on my upper cheek. Question? How do you get rid of the scars? It’s been a struggle for me. Looking forward to your response. Regards

  29. Elena Shadle says:

    I appreciate everyone sharing their stories. I’d love to keep hearing how people deal with going to restaurants, cause I’m starting to think it’s safer just to eat at home, which is fine, but my date night is officially ruined. I would say we could go out for drinks but he doesn’t do alcohol. Dessert, but I can’t have sugar. Haha. This world has gone mad with allergies.

    • Meghan Telpner says:

      It is true- and getting to the root of why is important. We eat at home most of the time.

    • Sue says:

      Eating out. I got this advice from a friend with allergies. Order steak and baked potato. Make sure they don’t use a rub, sauce or seasoned butter with it, you can usually ask them not to if they do. You do risk a little cross contamination from the grill. If you order prime rib don’t risk the outside edge. Baked potato because the most they do is salt the outside. Even veggies are at risk for pepper these days. Beware white pepper! They use it in cream sauces and “gourmet” mac & cheese.
      Color me standing at windows drooling. As someone stated before peanut and other allergies are serious but they get a lot of press and respect. Pepper allergy gets you crying at menus and hating the infamous “spices” on an ingredient label.

  30. Tara says:

    As awful as it is to be allergic to peppercorns, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. I discovered my black pepper allergy as a teen. Whenever my dad cooked, I would get sick, but when my mum cooked I was fine. The difference was that my dad added loads of black pepper whereas my mum left it out so that people could season their food individually. I can tolerate small amounts of black pepper, so I’m fine to ingest it occasionally, but there’s definitely a limit. Once I cross that line I get a violent back-of-the-eyeballs migraine, I’m dizzy, and my tongue goes numb.

  31. Sue says:

    I was odd child out growing up. I didn’t like breakfast sausages and sausage & pepperoni pizza. I was called a picky eater. It wasn’t until my 20’s when my mother practically forced me to try a ceasar salad and insisted I must have fresh ground pepper on it, even though by this time I knew I didn’t like black pepper. Almost had to stop breathing before I understood, not a dislike, an allergy that I child couldn’t understand. Avoidance had been my safety mechanism. Yes, my mother then wore her worst mother ever badge for a long long time. It is why I will never force or coerce a child to eat something. They will find something basic they will eat (mine was PBJ that I would happily make for myself) that should be their simple replacement option. I know better than to bother ordering anything with a sauce or a rub. One beautiful restaurant was even on the phone with their base sauce supplier trying to verify if any pepper in it and they were unable to confirm or deny it. Most frozen and/or diet foods contain pepper, or at least it seems to me. My husband has become my taste tester and happily has consumed meals (as take home leftovers) I felt compelled to try. I hate having to tell people over and over again and pot lucks where I can only eat what I brought.

    • Arlene says:

      I too have food allergies….of course being in my forties i could never blame my parents…intolerances and allergies were just barely being recognised back when i was a child.
      I was the picky eater and a very sick child growing up but that was me…they just did the best they could. My allergies are progressive and extensive and severe enough that i live in the proverbial bubble. The doctors are doing the best they can….as for the diet well avoiding all of the allergies it difficult to say the least. I was born this way it did not develop…my body decided it had enough so the anaphalaxis kicked in. The doctor explained that they were always there but repeated exposure over time made it worse.
      Limomene is in many spices….linalool is in the peel of all citrus fruit….of course the black pepper that nasty spice….the lactose intolerance is not so bad compared to the others mostly cramps and bloating.
      So stick to fresh whenever possible…anything in a box of frozen is bad….if the ingredients say “spices” means pepper……red…white…are all the same plant…colour depends on the growth stage.
      Restaurants mean well but there is always cross contamination ….
      Good luck to everyone dealing with their own unique allergies….on a final note…i watch the food network to see where and how the restaurants do it…then i leave out the parts i can not have.

  32. Amanda says:

    I developed a black pepper intolerance around the age of 43. My mother and brothers all have it too and onset is about the same time. I miss the days of fresh sliced avocado or fried egg with fresh ground black pepper. I have no understanding why I started having problems. It took some time to narrow down what was making me ill. Pepper causes cramping, diarrhea for days at a time, and a feeling as if my insides are burning. I’ve had headaches and hives on my skin around my neck. The worst part of this is not being able to eat anything I didn’t prepare myself with the exception of things that have no sign of pepper (ie. dessert). Prepackaged food, frozen meals, sauces – you name it. It has pepper in it. I wish this would be as easy to deal with as a well known allergen such as peanuts. There are no warnings for pepper.

  33. April Jorgensen says:

    I’m having some sort of allergic reaction on my face that is VERY much like Meghan’s – in fact I thought it was my very first cold sore, but it would die down and come back, die down and come back and it is NOT a cold sore.- I dont know if it’s pepper- one of the few things my allergist hasnt tested yet, but its miserable! I found this here today because I ate something VERY peppery and it irritated my lips- red and burning sensation! I cook almost exclusively at home too because of other allergies, but I do use pepper, just not a ton usually. hmmmm

    • Heather says:

      April, did you figure it out? Sounds like you’re describing MY lips!! I’ve seen so many drs since this started in July & nobody can figure it out.

      • Meghan Telpner says:

        Not sure a doctor can figure it out. It’s an allergy, or a sensitivity. My approach has been to just avoid it completely.

      • Milu says:

        Have you figured out what was causing your reaction? I am suffering too from this kind of lip problem :(

  34. Francie says:

    I just found out I was allergic to pepper, among many other things, and I cannot exaggerate my LOVE AFFAIR with black pepper. I have had eczema and other allergy symptoms my entire life, and I never was tested, and I was never able to get rid of these symptoms. And now, I understand why. I consume black pepper like some people consume salt. Now…I am really struggling on how to season my food, how to eat out, how to buy pre-packaged food, etc. I did not even think about adding things like cayenne or chili as a substitute. And I guess I am just going to have to suck it up and start asking for that binder, too. Thanks for the info and suggestions! This will help with the adjustment. :)

    • Sue says:

      Try wasabi. I can’t do other peppers either but thought I’d gone to heaven when I found I could clear my sinuses (joking kinda) with wasabi and get that high spice kick so many can enjoy regularly with peppers. Caution: works for me but start small, everbody is different.

  35. Lexi B says:

    All my life Ive dealt with severe stomach problems from vomiting to hospitalization for constipation. It wasn’t till I was 21 that I been allergic to black pepper. I’ve been diagnosed with Chrons disease for awhile now. Black pepper triggers my chrons to flare up. I mean bad. It’s crazy how much black pepper is in everything. For all those out there that are allergic to pepper or nuts your not alone.

  36. RosesRBleu says:

    Annatto! That supposedly harmless “natural” coloring and flavoring that is in most yellow/orange colored dishes as well as cheeses and some butters and coffee creamers. When researching it, I was horrified at how it had caused major allergic reactions since the 70s yet it’s use in now on the rise due to people wanting natural coloring to Mac n cheese and cereals… problem is it causes as many problems (from behavioral issues like screaming and head banging and loss of impulse control) to rashes and ibs, as it’s yellow 5 and 6 counterparts it is replacing. When you see the plant it comes from, one look at it would tell you to not open it and rub the waxy red stuff off the seeds. Unfortunately it can be listed as a natural color or flavor. It should be added to the top 8 for the serious reactions it can cause.

  37. Sarah says:

    I’d always had bad airborne allergies, asthma, and some minor food sensitivities (nuts make my mouth itch), but at about 21 years old I had sudden onset of anaphylactic reaction to “vegetable” peppers. We’re not just talking about never eating a supreme pizza again. This is an airborne allergy! Before you can even smell it, I can FEEL it and my throat starts to constrict. Everything in genus Capsicum is included. Allergy testing showed that I’m even MORE allergic to genus Piper (pepper family: black, white, etc.), but only if I actually come in contact by inhaling fresh ground or consuming the spice. Then, the symptoms progress from itching and swelling to burning a path down the digestive system, to run for the bathroom!

    The jury is still out on whether or not I am also lactose intolerant, but I definitely can’t eat any orange colored cheese. The two things used for coloring are paprika (pepper) and annatto. Trial and error – mostly error – taught I’m allergic to annatto, too.

    At least I’m not alone in my weirdness. My siblings and mother later developed (or recognized) lesser issues with pepper and/or peppers. My sister and her children have serious allergy problems with the genus Allium, which includes onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leek, and chives.

    Eating out is virtually impossible. I’ve had to quit jobs because they could not accommodate my airborne pepper issue. I barely made it to the ER once when my EpiPen had expired – could barely speak, could no longer hear, and my vision was fuzzy. So many people bring microwave meals to work without realizing the ingredients. Talk about needing a bubble! Many times I’ve wished for my own source of oxygen. All food allergy sufferers should know that awareness is important. I used to be shy about telling others of my food allergies. Then, I developed the motto, “My LIFE is more important than your LUNCH.”

  38. Barbara says:

    I am 48, and was just, finally, diagnosed with several food allergies…including black pepper. Since my reactions weren’t
    ‘traditional’ allergic reactions, no one ever thought I required allergy testing. As a young child I simply began avoiding foods that made me “feel funny”, which of course got me labeled by my family as the “picky eater”. What kid refuses a piece of cherry pie, after all?
    I appreciate your commentary. My list of foods to avoid is now long: tree nuts, cherries, black pepper, corn, hops and barley (yep…who is allergic to BEER? Apparently, I am), tuna, green beans, carrots, etc…it’s going to be an interesting and challenging adventure going forward, an adventure that hopefully will leave me feeling healthier and happier.

    • Meghan Telpner says:

      Thanks for your comment, Barbara. I’m glad you’ve discovered the foods that don’t work for you. Dietary restrictions can be challenging at first, but the health effects of feeling much better are well worth it, I think.

  39. Milu says:

    Dear Meghan, could you tell me how you have figured out that you are allergic to pepper? Was it tests or just avoiding it? I think I have a similar problem with lips – they get oozing blisters, they swell (also inside), they get red. Nothing is soothing the irritation and it takes days for it to clear up. When my lips are really bad I also get instant tiny rashes inside of my mouth from different foods (for example apples ). Noone knows what is it and I am spending literary thousands on doctors…
    I am at the edge of breakdown….

    • Meghan Telpner says:

      I first discovered my pepper allergy through elimination dieting. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling, Milu. I hope you find someone who can help you figure out what the root cause is!

  40. Shelley Snyder says:

    I am allergic to black pepper. For a long time I thought I just did not like it. About 5 years ago, I ate about 3 bites of a blacked steak and had the worst asthma attack. That was when the light bulb went on and I started avoiding pepper and telling people I was allergic to pepper. Last night I took a single bite of my daughter’s steak that my husband had prepared at home. He came in while I was chewing and said you can not eat that, it is loaded with pepper. I spit it out but I still immediately has an asthma attack. It seems the allergy is worsening. I hope it does not progress to anaphalaxis.

  41. Terry says:

    Up until my early 20’s I would occasionally get this horrible aching in my throat and chest that was so painful it would hurt to move. It would last about a week and then finally go away. The last time it happened when i was about 21 I went to the ER and they said I had inflammation of my esophagus. I finally realized it was after eating black pepper. I stopped using it and didn’t have it happen anymore. I’m in my 50s now and over the years it has happened occasionally but not as bad. Usually after eating at a restaurant, and after a bite or two i can feel the tingling in my throat and stop immediately and take an allergy medication and tums. I just find it so hard when eating out. Most places act like I’m weird for asking if the food is seasoned with black pepper. So I hate asking, but dont want the after effects. I really wish restaurants would leave the seasoning with pepper up to the customer after they serve it, so that people with sensitivities can have what they would like to order and not just the things that dont have pepper included. So glad to see that I’m not the only one with this problem.

  42. Lizzy says:

    So glad to know it’s not just me who can’t eat black pepper without having a mouth that feels like it’s on fire little ulcers all over it that make it very uncomfortable to eat and drink. and severe stomach ache,

  43. Wendy says:

    My reaction to black pepper is in the form of a cystitus. Very distressing so i avoid it like the plague

  44. Hollyecho Montgomery says:

    I found out I was allergic to black pepper in 1976, while st boot camp in the Marine corps. when my throat did swell up and shut, and it acted like a asthma attack. I have a EpiPen.

    I love my beef, chicken, fish, lamb, pork, duck and venison. Gotten to the point, that I can’t eat out at all because it’s just too much of a hassle. Even everyday shopping for ketchup, salad dressing, any thing that is pre-prepared, and it’s very frustrating cuz it even says spices on it instead of listing the ingredients I know that there’s black pepper in it. It cannot even have the word spices on the ingredients.

    throughout my life I have been made to feel that, it’s made up, it’s not real, or I’m just looking for attention is very very frustrating. Or just the fact the common statement said to me: “nobody is really allergic to black pepper”, “there’s so little in it, you’ll never know it”, “when are you going to quit being like this”.

    this happen so often in my life, I feel like a social outcast, cuz no matter where you go any gathering, there’s food. And where there’s food, people expect you to eat at no matter what’s in it.

  45. Shell says:

    I haven’t met or heard of anyone else with a pepper allergy. I carry an epipen due to my throat swelling from peppercorns. I can’t tolerate all other peppers as well but my reaction isn’t life threatening. I’m also allergic to capsicum. Only late last year at my daughters graduation my face swelled due to cross contamination. I haven’t had that symptom before and I’ve had this allergy for over 20 years. It seems to be getting worse. When i go out for dinner, I usually state I want chicken or steak cooked in a clean separate pan and not on the grill. Sometimes they will agree but other times they say no. I just don’t eat if they say no.

  46. Heary says:

    Yes! My mother is severely allergic to black pepper and it’s EXHAUSTING trying to make sure that she doesn’t eat any! Most of the time, restaurants will leave it out and accommodate her but there are several dishes that pre-prepared spices that include black pepper. Why? I’m with you…I haven’t used black pepper in 20 years because of my Mom’s allergy and NOT once has anyone complained! I hate it so much because how sick it makes my Mom! Some sort of awareness needs to happen. Why not let diners add it and leave it out of dishes and prepared blends/sauces? Hopefully things will change some day!

  47. Lindsay says:

    I’ve recently been having a problem with black pepper, does anyone recommend any spaghetti sauces and ketchups and bbq sauces that are safe? They all just say “spices” on it

  48. Cindy says:

    I feel for you all! I don’t have a problem with black pepper but with a very common additive: processed citric acid (that doesn’t actually mean lemon juice – surprise!) Citric acid is very commonly used as a preservative and flavor booster. It is included in most packaged sauces, dressing and marinades AND it doesn’t have to be explicitly listed on the label! Lindsay said that black pepper can be listed under the catch-all term “spices” and so can citric acid. It can also be hidden under the term “natural flavoring.” Citric acid can even be made organically, so shopping organic is no protection in this regard. Eating out is a nightmare. Once I find items at a restaurant I can eat without problems, I make notes! Most of the time, (as you mention, Meghan) making my own is the way to go. Best wishes to you all!

  49. Jennie Gilpin says:

    It’s so refreshing to see others with a black pepper allergy! I’ve had it for just over 10 years – when it started to become a ‘trendy’ ingredient in the UK! Growing up it was always an option on the dinner table not a compulsory ingredient – I didn’t like it so didn’t have it! Thankfully it’s more a hyper-sensitivity allergy as opposed to a more serious reaction but nonetheless incredible frustrating. I get a painful mouth but no swelling (touch wood) but I do end up sounding like Marge Simpson’s sisters with a deep croaky voice. The worst is when known ‘safe’ foods change their recipe and add black pepper :( In the UK they are now much more vigilant with allergies as, sadly, a couple of people died last year due to food chains not properly labelling their food.

  50. Tiffany says:

    “We get herpes-style blisters on our lips and sometimes just above or below them. The blisters turn to scabs and the scabs come off after a week and then leave small scars. It’s a lengthy, unsightly and painful process- thankfully not life threatening” —Finally people who have the same reaction as me! I was eating spicy curry and my lip felt weird and then I looked in the mirror and saw my upper lip swollen and it hurt. I went to the ER and the Dr. said that it looks like I have herpes. I assured him that I didn’t. I explained to him that my lip became swollen as I ate food and that it was an allergic reaction to the food I just ate. He didn’t believe me. I stay away from curry because I wasn’t sure which spice I was allergic to. Well yesterday I ate foods with black pepper and my lip swelled up just like before! I googled and found this page. So, thank you for sharing and I now know that I am not crazy! BTW if have several food allergies and have different reactions on different parts of my body. I am very aware when I have a reaction to foods.

  51. Agata says:

    Yesss! I’m allergic to black pepper and that’s a tough one! My tongue starts swelling, burning, I can’t eat nothing for about 45 minutes, just drink water. My mom and grandma stopped using black pepper to cook, they just gave out pepper mills at the table. Personally, I have never bought black pepper and both ex husband and my man here have pepper shakers. The difference is, I am addicted to Mexican and Indian food, so I love using liberal amounts of dried habanero powder (plus other peppers, dry and fresh and hot salsa). My ex did not want any on the European food I cooked, my husband now got used to it and is now craving hot food too, no matter what type of cuisine. Just last week, I made carbonara with habanero pepper, che divine bontà. Breakfast today, scrambled eggs with habanero powder, with arepas and salsa, que rico. Super hard asking for dishes with no black pepper, especially in Rome.

  52. Marie E says:

    3 wks ago I went to allergist due to sinus and breathing problems worsening last few years. Results revealed numerous food allergies: black pepper, garlic, oats, hops, beef, pecans and hazelnuts. Doctor said probably reason I had intestinal distress after eating. Needless to say, alot of changes to my diet. I am just leaving out all items for now not worrying about substitutes.

  53. Diane Miller says:

    I noticed that I felt sick to my stomach after eating a BLT and felt the same after eating chicken noodle soup. My husband seasoned both meals using a pepper grinder. As a single person I ate rather plain, grilled foods. Life changed after I got married. I don’t think he believed my nausea and stomach ugh at first but after a few test trials we confirmed that I should avoid pepper. I’m also allergic to annatto and pine oils. These cause me to experience skin rashes, headaches, hives and in some instances I’ll get a major headache then fall into a deep sleep. Healthy eating means different things to different people. Eat healthy!

  54. Claire farnell says:

    I’m also allergic to black pepper.
    I don’t think I get any symptoms but the allergy testing said I am.
    I do get cold sores a lot though and have all my life.
    After reading these other people’s stories I will see what happens when I grind some on my food.
    If I can avoid black pepper and NEVER get a cold sore again, it’s worth a try.
    Ps… my husband is a black pepper junky and he has three pepper mills all to himself.

  55. Sonya says:

    Thank you so much for your post. I was diagnosed with celiac less than a year ago and then with black pepper allergy in September. Needless to say, the last year has had a lot of changes. I was glad to see someone else is dealing with this problem. Going gluten free was easy compared to the black pepper allergy. Sometimes I really feel like there is nothing I can eat.

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