Vegemite is a spread made from brewer's yeast extract and fortified with vitamins and minerals. The spread is particularly popular in Australia, where it's served on toast as a breakfast dish. However, the spread may cause allergic reactions or food sensitivities due to its content of glutamates, yeast and gluten. If you have reason to believe you are allergic to vegemite, have your doctor run an allergy test to better pinpoint the source of the allergen.
Vegemite contains high levels of monosodium glutamate, or MSG, a common glutamate used to enhance the flavor of processed foods. MSG does not technically cause an allergy, as it does not trigger the specific type of antibody, called IgE, associated with an allergic reaction. However, you may have a pronounced oversensitivity to MSG and experience a range of allergy-like symptoms. Common symptoms of sensitivity may include burning at the back of the neck and chest, pressure around the face, heart palpitations, numbness or drowsiness.
If you have an allergy to yeast or a tendency to get yeast infections, you may want to avoid Vegemite. Allergic reactions to baker's yeast may include a congested or runny nose and inflammation or itching of the skin. Also avoid vegemite if you have a tendency to infections caused by yeast, such as thrush, a white rash in the mouth. Some individuals with yeast sensitivity experiene worsened effects when taking antibiotics or when they have a cold.
Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats, is a common allergen among individuals with celiac disease, which reduces the function of the autoimmune system. If you have celiac disease or an intolerance to gluten, vegemite is likely to trigger your allergic reaction. Symptoms may include an itchy, sore throat, asthma, chronic congestion or even anaphylactic shock, in which the immune system "over-reacts" to the allergen, resulting in a shut-down of vital life processes. If you regularly have bloating, cramping, mouth sores and joint or muscle pain, you may have celiac disease.
If you're set on having a savory spread on your toast, select among similar spreads without the allergens that affect you. The Australian-based company Freedom Foods produces a yeast, glutamate and gluten-free spread called Vege Spread. It contains high quantities of vitamin B, like Vegemite, and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans as well as those with limiting allergies or food sensitivities. If you're simply looking for a source of protein at breakfast time, consider a nut butter or hummus.
- Kraft Foods: Vegemite
- MyDR: Asthma and food
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Brewer's Yeast
- AllergyCases.org: Intolerance to Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- "European Annals of Allergy and Clinical Immunology"; Looking for Imunotolerance: A Case of Allergy to Baker's Yeast; G.B. Pajno; September 2005
- Medline Plus: Yeast Infections
- Northeast Valley Division of General Practice: Celiac Disease
- "Health Services of Columbia University"; Gluten Allergy -- Celiac Disease or Something Else?; December 1994
- Freedom Foods: Vege Spread