What are sulphites? And Why They’re In Your Food – Eat This, Not That

If you tend to experience nasty side effects after drinking wine, we might know what causes such an embarrassing and unpleasant reaction. It turns out the culprit may be something called sulfites. What are sulphites?

“Sulfites are added to foods and drinks to prevent them from discoloring or losing flavor,” says a nutrition expert. Lauren ManakerMS, RDN, LD, CLEC.

Although sulfites may apparently benefit foods that end up on our table, Manaker notes that “while many people can include sulfites in their diets without negative side effects, others may actually experience disturbing symptoms” from the sulphites. To research published by the Gastroenterology and hepatology from bed to bench journal points out that sulphites can cause a number of “adverse reactions”. Indeed, if you happen to be sensitive to sulfites, you can end up with dermatitis, hives, hot flashes, low blood pressure, abdominal pain and diarrhea, as well as problems even more serious such as life-threatening anaphylactic and asthmatic reactions.


How do you know if sulphites are causing your problems? “People can tell fairly quickly if they are sensitive to sulfites. If they notice they are experiencing these side effects after drinking wine, dried fruits containing sulfites, certain sodas and other foods containing sulfites” , says Manaker. “Health care providers can confirm sulfite sensitivity with a challenge – a person is given sulfite in increasing concentrations until a reaction is seen.”

When it comes to avoiding sulfites, Manaker notes that you can be “conscious” of what you’re putting into your body. “Many red wines contain lower levels of sulfites compared to other varietals. People should also watch out for surprising sources of sulfites, such as certain supplements. Opting for those that state they are sulfite-free may be their best bet.” Beyond that, Manaker adds that dried fruit, sauerkraut, maraschino cherries, and white grape juice are examples of foods and drinks to avoid when trying to stay away from sulfites.

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