Popular Science

Why I can never eat onions or garlic again

Animal, vegetable, miserable
alliums

Wikimedia Commons

For the ancient Egyptians, eating an onion was like biting into a piece of eternity, so enamored were they of the vegetable's spherical shape and concentric circles, supposedly representative of unending time.

For me, the experience of biting an onion is slightly less transcendent. I have an intolerance that renders me unable to eat allium plants—the family of food that includes onions, garlic, spring onions, leeks, chives, and scallions—without severe gastrointestinal problems.

Though no good data exists on the number of people with this peculiar problem, I’ve come to learn that I’m definitely not alone.

When I learned of my unfortunate falling out with the allium family, I’d been sick for almost a year with no explanation. At the risk of oversharing, let’s just say I was experiencing the first four of Pepto Bismol’s five jingle symptoms.

A few nights a week, I’d go out to dinner with my family or high school friends. I’d order a sizzling cast iron skillet of fajitas at my favorite Mexican restaurant, my eyes as wide as saucers, only to find my stomach bloating up like a blimp (think: the Hindenburg) before the meal was even over. The same troubling sensation also came with every slice of pizza (turns out, there’s garlic in most sauces), bite of steak (most is seasoned with mixed spices, including garlic

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