Infused vinegarsA few weeks ago we had an email from Joyce who, for some reason, I think lives in the US… I could be completely wrong! Anyhow, she was really addressing her question to Dr Janice Joneja who runs an on-going Q&A series for us at Foods Matter on the subject of histamine intolerance. And her questions was as follows:

“When I eat anything that has vinegar in it I have food poisoning reaction. Severe stomach cramps. Nausea, diarrhea and pounding headache. Is this something I should be concerned about? It has only been over the past 5 years that these symptoms have come on (I’m 64).
Doctors just tell me to stay away from vinegar.  
Any input would be appreciated. “

I responded:

We are not doctors, as you know, so cannot give you any medical advice but, if you do not react to any of the foods from which vinegar is made (wine, apples, raspberries etc) then it would seem that it is the fermentation that is the problem. But do you react to any other fermented foods  – sauerkraut, fermented cheeses etc?

To which Dr Joneja added:

I completely agree with your response, Michelle.  One could proffer theoretical reasons for such a reaction, but to what end? She would still need to avoid vinegar!  Unless she has reactions to other foods, I would tell her not to worry.

And Joyce replied……

Thank you for your reply.
To answer your question, Sauerkraut will put me on the floor doubled over in excruciating pain with diarrhoea afterwards. Cheeses don’t seem to bother me as much in normal (small) amounts. 

I took a antihistamine tablet last week, not for any of the above symptoms but did notice that when I ate a deli sandwich that had pickles, oil and vinegar on it, I was not bothered. I wonder if there might be a connection.

To which I responded…….

Well the vinegar fermentation would seem to be a relevant issue here – cheese is also fermented but the base (milk products as opposed to fruit) is different which might be the explanation. 

The antihistamine could, I guess have helped with your deli sandwich although maybe it had more to do with the fact that the pickles were heavily diluted and masked (from you stomach’s point of view) by the other starchy and fatty components of the sandwich?

Shall I put your query up on my blog and see if anyone else has any suggestions to offer?
To which she said: Yes please…..

So I am!  Any input gratefully received!!

(Infused vinegars image, courtesy of Williams  Sonoma!)



Way back in 1987, just as I was starting work on a major history of English food, my eighteen-month-old son, Jonathan, and his father were diagnosed with dairy intolerances. Back then the alternatives for those on dairy-free diets were few and far between and pretty unappealing so, after some months of experimentation, I launched Berrydales Special Ices, soya based ices which were dairy and additive free – and tasted delicious! While manufacturing the ices I started a newsletter, The Inside Story, about food allergy and food intolerance and, by 1995, it was a quarterly magazine circulating to over 35,000 health professionals. In 2000 The Inside Story, re-named Foods Matter, became a subscription magazine and now all of that information, and much, much more, is accessible on the Foods Matter, Coeliacs Matter and Skins Matter sites and on our two freefrom food sites, FreeFromFoodsMatter and FreeFromRecipesMatter. You can follow me on twitter @FoodsMatter or email me at And, of course, you can also follow the exciting growth of freefrom food by checking out our annual FreeFrom Food Awards celebrating the best and the newest in freefrom foods!

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