What is Allium Intolerance
Those affected by allium intolerance are unable to eat anything from the allium family, such as onions, garlic, spring, onions, chives, leeks and scallions. Click To Tweet

There are many intolerances which are widely known, like lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance for example. But for some people, having a dietary intolerance proves even trickier, as so little is known about the specific intolerance that they face. Allium intolerance is one such problem.

Allium intolerance is a relatively rare intolerance, in comparison to more widespread intolerances to ingredients like dairy or wheat. However, this is one dietary restriction that causes its sufferers a great deal of trouble.

Those affected by allium intolerance are unable to eat anything from the allium family, a group of flowering plants which includes many of the ingredients that make their way into a whole lot of dishes. Alliums include onions, garlic, spring, onions, chives, leeks and scallions. As you might expect, it’s not easy to avoid eating anything from the allium family whenever you go out!


What are allium intolerance symptoms?

The symptoms of allium intolerance are very similar to any other food intolerance. They vary from person to person, but you might experience one or more of the following unpleasant effects: sickness, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, bloating and tiredness.

If you experience any of these symptoms following a meal, on a number of occasions, it’s quite possible that you have an intolerance. Simply cutting a certain food out of your diet is the best way to treat it, but working out exactly what you are intolerant too can be problematic.


How do I know if it’s allium intolerance?

Working out whether you have allium intolerance, or whether it’s another ingredient in your meals that’s causing you trouble, may seem daunting at first. However, it’s quite simple if you’ve got a plan.

The best way to discover which ingredients are upsetting you, and which your body tolerates well, is through an elimination diet. This method requires you to eat a single ingredient for one to three days, and record how your body reacted to it.

You can continue your elimination diet for as long as you please, trying out any foods which you think may affect you. It sounds like a big ask but once you’ve done it you’ll feel so much better for knowing exactly which foods you should avoid, and which ones you can be confident about eating.


What can I do about it?

If you think you are affected by allium intolerance, your first port of call is your doctor. Your doctor will discuss the intolerance with you and answer any questions you may have. As with all intolerances, there isn’t really a treatment for it as such, so you are best off avoiding the foods which affect you. A great way to do so is by following the FODMAP diet.

FODMAP, which stands for the Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols diet, is a great diet to choose if you are affected by allium intolerance. Following the diet takes some getting used to, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll soon be cooking up a storm with plenty of delicious allium-free dishes. And we bet you’ll be feeling a lot better for it!


Are you affected by allium intolerance? Leave us a comment with your tips for avoiding that pesky allium family in everyday life, and enjoying all the very best food while you’re at it!

8 replies
  1. Marsha
    Marsha says:

    I am allium intolerant. I try to avoid foods with onions as they seem to create worse symptoms than garlic. If I accidentally ingest even a sliver of raw onion, I bloat immediately and then bring on the cramps, the burning in my intestines & flaming diarrhea. It’s almost impossible to completely avoid alliums so I deal with itchy skin & tiredness every single day.
    Today I ate lobster rolls that my husband (he is a chef) snuck chives into, misunderstanding/not accepting that it’s not a dislike, it’s an intolerance. I have been fighting nausea, bloating & lethargy for hours. Maybe if I one time almost die he’d figure it out…
    I always request no onions at restaurants, I ask about ingredients when they are not all listed, I read ingredients on all processed foods, chips, crackers, sauces, bbq, etc.

  2. Jay
    Jay says:

    I’ve definitely determined that I have a garlic intolerance. However, it’s only come about for me after I turned 30 and it’s only gotten worse over the past few years. I’ve eaten a ton of garlic during my youth and over the years with no issues, but after having garlic fries at a baseball game a few years ago, I knew something was terribly wrong. The strange thing is that rest of the allium family seems to be OK. I’ve tested onions, scallions and chives and I’ve had no problems. Also garlic powder seems to be OK. But when it comes to raw or cooked garlic, my goose is cooked. I know that most marinara sauce and Indian tikka masala sauce has garlic as well and that’s been hit and miss. 80% of the time it seems to be OK. Just to be sure I take a tums immediately after my meal and it seems to work quite well.

  3. Ravinder Hale
    Ravinder Hale says:

    so I’ve established myself that i can’t tolerate raw onions and garlic, including spring onions. I’ve not tried leek ( i’m not a big fan anyway) but what i have noticed is that when i have it cooked, it doesn’t seem to affect me the same way, but after about 15 years of suffering as a result, I’ve finally worked out what it is. I get head fog, tiredness, swelling, aching muscles as a result.

  4. Jo
    Jo says:

    “Spices” on a food ingredient label will almost always include onion/garlic. Call the manufacturer to be certain.

  5. Laura
    Laura says:

    Sadly, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am “onion intolerant”, which is the term I have been using for the past 6 months. I noticed in my early 30’s I was getting nausea, incontrollable bloating and headaches. I always chalked it up to the stress of my career because I had been eating onions all my life and “who was allergic to onions?!”. I had heard about peanuts, gluten, etc. but never onions! But it’s not until the last year that I started getting diarrhea along with all my other symptoms. I went to the doctor and he diagnosed me with “IBS” which is when I started paying more attention to what I was eating. It is not until then that I noticed that when I ate raw onions ALL of the symptoms appeared all at once and for 2-3 days at a time. The nausea and bloating are the worst of all which is why I started being afraid of eating onions all in all. I thought I was going crazy because I had been eating onions all my life and love them, but I began researching and found several sites like these in which I found my situation isn’t unique. On one hand it made me sad to know I won’t be able to eat onions again but on the other it was nice to see I am not alone nor crazy! Thanks for sharing information on allium intolerance, knowledge is power and in this case less trips to the bathroom 🙁

    • The Gluten Free Traveller
      The Gluten Free Traveller says:

      Hi Laura – thanks so much for commenting and sharing your experience! I feel your pain, I also experience it and discovered through getting sick after eating onions and also too much garlic in some cases! It’s so hard to avoid, especially when eating in restaurants but as you say knowledge is power! And since sussing out what I’m intolerant too, my anxiety has gotten a lot better and yes less frantic running to the bathroom after a lovely meal out! 🙂

  6. Kerri
    Kerri says:

    I’ve recently found that I’ve got an allium intolerance. I can’t even touch red onions or my eyes will burn, if I eat it then I feel like my stomach is trying to turn itself inside out, same for spring onions and leeks. The pain, discomfort and need to run to the loo was what prompted me to cutting them out in the first place. Its not easy trying to avoid them in restaurants, some are quite accepting while others just give me strange looks like I am just being a fussy eater. However, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one! I’d never even heard of an allergy or intolerance to onions before and it’s good to know it has a name. I’ve worked out that I just have to completely avoid leeks, spring onions and red onions while I can tolerate a small amount of onion and garlic (2 small onion rings is my limit) though oddly enough, if there is onion in something, like a bolognese or curry, then I can handle a little more than normal. At least I can put a name to my intolerance now! Thanks for passing on your knowledge!

    • The Gluten Free Traveller
      The Gluten Free Traveller says:

      Thanks for commenting Kerri! I feel your pain, I had no idea either when I first realised I was intolerant to onions and garlic. Interestingly I can eat leeks and spring onions and a small amount of garlic and red onion but white onions are the real trigger for me! 🙂


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