Can I Be Allergic to Olives or Olive Oil?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Overview

Olives have been found to be a good source of vitamins E, K, D, and A. Black olives contain lots of iron, while both green and black olives are a source of copper and calcium.

Some other benefits include:

  • maintaining heart health
  • fighting inflammation
  • reducing the growth of bad bacteria in the body
  • protecting against osteoporosis and cancer
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Most olives aren’t eaten fresh because of their bitterness. They’re usually cured and fermented or pressed into olive oil. The fat of olives is extracted to make extra virgin olive oil, which is known as an excellent oil for cooking. Olive oil also has many documented skin benefits.

Olive fruit and olive oil allergies are rare but can occur. In fact, your body can develop an allergy to any food.

Food allergies have increased over the past decade, and children with food allergies have a higher likelihood of having asthma, eczema, and other types of allergies.

A food allergy is a negative response to a food from the body’s immune system. The body creates the immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody in response to a food. If you eat the food, it binds to the IgE antibody. Chemicals such as histamine are released and an allergic response occurs.

Olive allergy

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Olive fruit allergy does occur but it’s rare.

The most common allergy associated with olives is a seasonal pollen allergy. Those who live in places that cultivate olive trees may develop a seasonal respiratory allergy to olive pollen. While pollen allergy is the most common allergic response, there have also been reported cases of contact dermatitis and food allergies.

This may be because there are 12 reported allergens associated with pollen, while only one allergen associated with the fruit.

The olive fruit is more likely to create an allergic response than olive oil, because olive oil contains fewer proteins. However, allergies to the oil can also develop. Serious allergic reactions to olive fruit are rare, and skin reactions aren’t common but have been documented.

Olive oil allergy symptoms

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There are many symptoms that can result from an allergic reaction to food. Most symptoms of food allergies appear within about an hour.

You can experience skin reactions, gastrointestinal effects, or respiratory symptoms. The most common food allergy symptoms are respiratory and include:

  • swelling of the sinus cavity
  • increased head pressure
  • postnasal drip
  • sneezing
  • congestion
  • sinus headaches
  • asthma
  • excessive coughing
  • wheezing

It’s not uncommon to experience skin irritation. Symptoms include:

  • redness
  • itching
  • tingling
  • swelling
  • hives
  • rash
  • eczema

Gastrointestinal symptoms include stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, anaphylaxis can result.

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Call 911 and seek emergency medical care if you experience:

  • throat swelling
  • drop in blood pressure
  • shock
  • loss of consciousness

While olive oil can be a very beneficial oil for skin health, other healthy alternatives are available:

  • Argan oil is high in vitamin E, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids. It’s a nongreasy moisturizer that improves skin elasticity.
  • Rosehip seed oil is an anti-aging oil that contains vitamins E, C, D, and beta-carotene. It’s nourishing, protective, and hydrates the skin.
  • Marula oil can reduce irritation and inflammation, as well as hydrate. It has antimicrobial properties that make it great for skin that is prone to acne.

There are also alternatives to olive oil when cooking:

  • Coconut oil is a saturated fat that contains lauric acid, which may raise levels of “good” cholesterol.
  • Flaxseed oil is a great source of soluble fiber and is a great option for salad dressings. It’s not heat-stable so it shouldn’t be used for cooking or baking.
  • Avocado oil contains oleic acid and is high in antioxidants. Avocado oil may also help lower blood pressure. It can be heated to high temperatures and is good for grilling, sautéing, stir-frying, and baking, as well as for use in marinades, dressings, and sauces.

When to see a doctor

If you suspect you have an allergy to olives or olive oil, avoid consuming olive products and speak with a doctor. If you experience a severe allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis, it’s important to seek emergency medical assistance.

Diagnosis and treatment

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A common way to determine if you have an olive allergy, or any other food allergy, is with a skin prick test. The best way to avoid an allergic reaction to the olive fruit or olive oil is to avoid consuming the substance completely.

Takeaway

While an olive fruit or olive oil allergy is rare, it’s possible. You’re more likely to have an allergic reaction to olive tree pollen than from the fruit itself.

If you develop a food allergy to olives, it’s best to avoid the fruit. Those particularly sensitive to olives may also be allergic to olive oil. Substitutes for olive oil are available.

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