Welcome to Cantola.com, the only source online (or possibly anywhere) for canola oil allergy/sensitivity sufferers.
2.15.11 - Updates all over the site.
We’re not professional experts or anything, but below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions and our best guesses at Answers.
What is Canola Oil?
Canola oil is an oil made from the rapeseed plant, and is one of Canada’s biggest exports. It is considered a type of vegetable oil. Because it is considered “heart healthy,” it is ending up in more and more foods lately, especially here in the US. It can be referred to as Canola Oil, Rapeseed Oil, or Vegetable Oil. If a Vegetable Oil doesn’t specify the type, it could very well be canola.
Can someone really be allergic to Canola Oil?
We’re not sure whether you can technically call it an “allergy” by classical definition. But whenever my husband eats canola oil, or is near where things are being deep-fried in canola oil, he has reactions ranging from chest pain to difficulty breathing to vomiting, so we find that labeling it as an Allergy is the most effective way to help people understand how serious his reactions are.
Anyone else who shares this problem would undoubtedly agree that it is an allergy, but as many of you have found out by now, an "allergy" requires a protein, and there is not one in canola oil. Many people have gone to many doctors trying to convince them that these symptoms are real, protein or no protein. It's all been very frustrating, and as of this writing, we have heard of a number of doctors who have accepted the seriousness of the condition and prescribed epi-pens or assisted patients in other ways, but we have yet to hear from anyone whose doctor has been able to explain why the allergy occurs in the first place.
We've heard that it's technically called anything from a "sensitivity" to an "intolerance," but if the oil causes you enough discomfort that you go out of your way to avoid it, we suggest just calling it an allergy, because it's the simplest way to get people, such as food servers, and well-meaning relatives, to understand how severe your reaction actually is.
Canola Oil? How did he figure out he was allergic to Canola Oil??
Well, when he was in college, there were some restaurants and foods that made him feel absolutely terrible after eating them, but it seemed there was no common denominator. It sounded like a food allergy, but with as varied as the foods that caused the reaction were, it would have had to have meant that he was allergic to some sort of oil, and that just seemed crazy, so we gave up trying to figure out what his allergy was. Then, one day we were visiting my parents, and my dad was deep-frying in the kitchen. My husband was in the other room, and started having a reaction. I ran into the kitchen to ask my dad what kind of oil it was. It turned out to be canola. So on that day, we not only solved the mystery, but also learned that he could have the reaction just by being too close to a deep-fryer of canola.
What kind of allergic reactions do people have?
The truth is, reactions vary greatly. If you have been having a physical reaction that you have traced back to canola oil, there is probably someone else who has that same reaction. We have gotten a lot of e-mail from people wanting to know if their reactions sound "typical." Honestly, there is no "typical" reaction. We've heard everything from vomiting to skin rashes to migraines to chest pain to vertigo. Every person's reaction is different. If you think that you're having a reaction to canola oil, you probably are. It's not an easy culprit to track down, so if you've been being caused some discomfort that you've managed to track back to this oil, it's probably safe to say that you're right: it's canola.
How can I tell if a restaurant uses canola oil?
Honestly, once this website is up and running, it’s probably going to be your best source for that information. Until then, “I have a canola oil allergy – it’s a type of vegetable oil – is there anything here I can eat?” is your best bet. The main responses to this usually are:
“Yeah, whatever,” and you end up sick for the rest of the night (this tends to usually only happen at cheap diners at dinnertime)
“No, we use safflower oil for everything,” when they actually mean that they use safflower for frying things, and not necessarily for cooking.
“I will talk to the chef about that,” which is the best answer you can get, and will either end in “Well, you can eat the green beans, the fish, and one of the kinds of rolls,” or “We can substitute olive oil in anything that’s not deep fried,” which is the absolute best answer for anyone with this allergy. When we get this site truly up and running, we will have a special empahsis on those restaurants that went above and beyond and made for a truly great meal.
And as a side note, a lot of olive oils get cut with canola to save money. Pay close attention when you’re buying olive oil.
Is there anything that can be done to stop the reactions??
Well, not really. Some people carry epi-pens. Judging by e-mails, there is a very, very small number of people who are helped by Benadryl, though many people have tried it. We would guess that the vast majority of people have no help for their symptoms, unless those symptoms are so severe as to warrant an epi-pen.
Are there any other celiacs with this allergy, or am I the only one??
A tiny handful people so far also have celiac sprue, meaning they already have to stick to a gluten-free diet on top of watching out for canola oil. If you're one of those people, and are interested in getting in touch with each other to swap ideas, frustrations, or other information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll see if we can get that started.
Does canola oil have a taste?
Kind of. I think it has a fishy taste, which I'm better at picking out than some people because I absolutely hate fish. If I'm eating something deep-fried and it has that taste, it always turns out to be canola oil. If I'm eating something deep-fried and it doesn't have that taste, it could still be canola oil, and I just wasn't able to taste it. I can't taste it at all in foods that haven't been deep-fried in it. So, the answer is yeah, kind of, but not enough of one to be of any help whatsoever.
I'm allergic to one of the many other plants that is related to rapeseed. Are other people?
Yes. Some people with this allergy are also allergic to one or more plants that is related to rapeseed (such as mustard), and some people aren't. We don't know why.
Disclaimer: We at cantola.com try our best to provide the most current, up-to-date information about products containing canola oil. We are not at all medical experts. We're just a couple of people who have been trying to work around a canola oil allergy. I would never recommend that you try eating something that would cause a reaction in my husband, but ingredients do change, and our information might not always be 100% accurate. We’re trying our best, but to be safest, always let any restaurant know about your potential reaction to canola/rapeseed oil before eating there.