Too much of a good thing can be detrimental, and that good thing can be garlic. Although garlic is safe to consume and can add a flavorful kick to many recipes and dishes, you can suffer from swollen lips and other symptoms if you have a garlic allergy. The severity of your allergic reaction generally depends on the amount of garlic you eat.
An allergic reaction to garlic occurs when your body’s immune system tries to fight off the garlic by releasing immunoglobulin E -- antibodies that neutralize the garlic. The next time you eat garlic, the immunoglobulin E antibodies alert your immune system to send out chemicals to battle the harmful substance, producing various allergy symptoms, such as swollen lips.
A true garlic allergy, rather than an intolerance to it, can come with a host of symptoms beyond swollen lips. A garlic allergy leads to an itchy or tingly sensation in your mouth and swelling in your tongue, face, throat and airways or other body parts. Itchy skin, hives or eczema are common food allergy symptoms, as are nasal congestion, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Additional symptoms include dizziness and lightheadedness, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. One of the most severe reactions to garlic is anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal condition in which your body can go into shock. Anaphylaxis symptoms can also include a racing pulse, constricted airways, dizziness and loss of consciousness.
Although an intolerance to garlic can share similar symptoms of a garlic allergy, the two are different conditions. A food intolerance does not involve your body’s immune system; it instead involves your body’s digestive system. A food intolerance occurs when your digestive system cannot properly break down a food for digestion. A garlic intolerance results in abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea but will not lead to symptoms such as hives, swollen airways or anaphylaxis.
Raw garlic cloves, which make up garlic oils and extracts, are more potent than garlic salts, powders or cooked garlic. Even if you don’t suffer from swollen lips or other allergic reactions, consuming large quantities of garlic can result in other symptoms such as heartburn, body odor and stomachaches. Garlic can also reduce your blood’s ability to clot, which is a consideration prior to surgeries or dental procedures.