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Key Allergens

Chilli peppers are nightshades, part of the Solanaceae family of plants which include potato, tomato and aubergine (eggplant).

Cayenne and sweet peppers (bell peppers) are in the same genus of plants as chillis. Sweet peppers are the only vegetable in that genus that does not produce capsaicin, the chemical that causes the strong burning sensation associated with hot chillis.

Paprika is a spice made from chilli peppers, as a processed product the allergens associated with chillis may be reduced.

There are 3 allergens associated with an allergy to chillis. Cap a 1 is an osmotin, a thaumatin-like protein which is used in pathogen defense in the plant.

Cap a 2 is a profilin protein used in the plant for cell development. This is a panallergen, the most likely culprit for cross reactivity across other food groups.

In May 2021 a new allergen was added to the World Health Organization allergen database for chillis, this is Cap a 7, a gibberellin regulated protein. Gibberellins are plant hormones associated with growth and development.

Food Intolerances

Food is low in FODMAP Food is medium in lectins Food is high in salicylates Food is high in sulphites

Peppers are a low FODMAP food. FODMAP stands for Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Foods high in FODMAPs can cause symptoms of food intolerance, affecting the gastro intestinal system and this can be mistaken for a true IgE food allergy.

Peppers are one of the few vegetables to contain a moderate amount of lectins, another cause of food intolerance. Cooking foods with lectins makes them more digestible and can reduce the symptoms of food intolerance.

Pickled peppers may contain high amounts of sulphites, fresh peppers are safe to eat for those with a sulphite intolerance. These are inorganic salts used in preservations and have the potential to cause symptoms of food intolerance to those sensitive to sulphites.

Sweet pepper, chilli pepper and paprika are all foods high in salicylates, so have the potential to cause gastrointestinal food intolerance symptoms in people who are sensitive to salicylates.

You can read more about Food Intolerances on the dedicated Food Intolerance Page.

Associated Syndromes

Allergy to chilli is sometimes linked to Celery-Mugwort-Spice Syndrome as the sensitising allergen is a profilin protein called Art v 4, these proteins are also sometimes also called Bet v 2 proteins.

There is also a link between chilli and Latex Food Syndrome. The plant involved in latex allergy Hevea brasiliensis, the rubber tree plant, has an allergen called Hev b 8 which is a profilin protein. Those very sensitised to latex may have a contact allergic reaction from other foods or plants containing profilin proteins, there is less evidence of this than sensitisation to other latex linked proteins like hevein and chitinases.

Cross Reactivity

Other plants which contain thaumatin like proteins are kiwi, apple, banana, cherry and peach. If your allergy is linked to this protein then you may have allergic reactions to these fruits.

Other foods containing profilin allergens are celery, peanut, soyabeans, lychee, walnut, lupin, almonds, mustard, hazelnut, kiwi, pineapple, chilli, melon, orange, strawberry, apple, banana, aubergine (eggplant), peach, pear, tomato, dates, cherry, carrot, barley and wheat. Allergic reactions to some of these foods may be considered a marker of profilin hypersensitivity.

Gibberellin regulated proteins are also found in oranges, cherry, apricots, peach and pomegranate.



Healthline - Nightshade Allergy

Allergen Encyclopedia - Chilli Pepper

Allergy information for: Bell pepper (Capsicum annuum)

Healthline - Nightshade Allergies

Sulfite Foods

Healthline - FODMAP Foods

ATP Science - Salicylate Food List

Articles and Journals

A systematic review of allergen cross-reactivity: translating basic concepts into clinical relevance, 2024

Is exposure to pollen a risk factor for moderate and severe asthma exacerbations? 2023

Capsicum Allergy: Involvement of Cap a 7, a New Clinically Relevant Gibberellin-Regulated Protein Cross-Reactive With Cry j 7, the Gibberellin-Regulated Protein From Japanese Cedar Pollen, 2022

Worsening of chronic spontaneous urticaria after intake of hot pepper, 2021

Dietary Lectins: Gastrointestinal and Immune Effects, 2020

Profilins: mimickers of allergy or relevant allergens? 2011

Cloning and molecular and immunological characterisation of two new food allergens, Cap a 2 and Lyc e 1, profilins from bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) and Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum), 2003

Allergens in pepper and paprika. Immunologic investigation of the celery-birch-mugwort-spice syndrome, 1998

Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) express allergens (profilin, pathogenesis-related protein P23 and Bet v 1) depending on the horticultural strain, 1998

Let me know if you found any of these interesting or useful. If you spot an article or research that you think is interesting you can message me or tag me on Facebook or Twitter - links at the bottom of the page.

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