You can be allergic to essentially any food or beverage if your immune system perceives it as a threat to your body. Usually, your immune response is an accurate indication that some natural or artificial compound in food either causes disease or is potentially damaging. However, sometimes your immune system may overreact to a food that is normally considered innocuous or even healthy. Allergic reactions to passion fruit are rare, although those sensitive to latex rubber compounds are at greater risk. Consult with your doctor if you experience swelling and breathing problems after consuming passion fruit.
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Allergic Reactions to Food
Allergic reactions to food are relatively common, affecting an estimated 12 million Americans, a high proportion of whom are children. Sometimes food is contaminated with pathogens or contains toxins, which triggers the immune system to send white blood cells and other compounds to destroy, identify or isolate the potentially harmful allergen. At other times, your immune system seemingly overreacts to food that most people have no negative reactions to. Either way, allergic reactions trigger a massive release of histamine from mast cells, which can lead to, among other symptoms, swelling of the face, mouth and throat; difficulty breathing and swallowing; skin rash; and low blood pressure. The foods that lead to the vast majority of allergic reactions are cow’s milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans and wheat.
Passion fruit, or Passiflora edulis, is a tropical fruit commonly grown in Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, Jamaica, South Africa and Malaysia. The flowers of the passion fruit vine resemble a crucifix, hence its name. The fruit is nearly round, 3 or 4 inches in diameter, and it has a tough, smooth skin ranging in color from deep purple to yellow or orange. The flesh is a mass of membranous sacs filled with orange, pulpy juice and numerous small seeds. The flavor is musky and is usually compared to guava and papaya. Passion fruit occasionally induces allergic reactions in extremely sensitized people, but more frequently reactions occur in those who are allergic to latex, according to “Public Health Nutrition.”
Allergic reaction to natural rubber latex is well known. It is caused by the presence of enzymes called chitinases. According to “Human Metabolism: Functional Diversity and Integration,” a specific Class I chitinase is found in the pulp of passion fruit, which causes a cross-reaction with latex. This association is called latex-fruit syndrome. What it means is that people who are allergic to latex have a much higher risk of being allergic to fruits that contain similar chitinase proteins, such as passion fruit, kiwi, papaya, mango, tomato, avocado and wheat. In children, latex cross-reactivity has been further reported with apricot, banana, cherry, chestnut, grape, peach and pineapple.
If you or your children are allergic to latex rubber, then odds are in favor that you will have an allergic reaction to passion fruit and some other tropical fruits. Healthcare providers may have especially severe reactions to passion fruit because of repeated exposure to latex gloves. If you are worried about your potential reaction to some tropical fruits, talk to your doctor about getting an allergy test.