Discovery of a Canola Oil Sensitivity–Leon’s Story

This is a guest post. Last week on My Oil Intolerance post, a man from Canada posted in the comments the full story of how he discovered his sensitivity to Canola oil. I thought it was worth it’s own post because the story really goes to show that every oil sensitivity is different. I’d like to thank Leon for sharing his experiences and giving me permission to re-post his words.

“Like many people, I trust the doctors to advise me on what is making me sick and what to do about it. I got to know a lot of specialists because of an allergy that just came out of the blue at the age of 47 (I’m 50 now). The day the hives started, with painful cramps and bloating, and then the throat closing – my heart goes out to every person that fights an allergy that can hammer your body.

They eventually gave up finding a trigger and said “we have nothing left to test that we can test for, keep a log and figure it out yourself because that’s as far as we can go”. Fair enough, they did try very hard. The problem was trying to identify the trigger. In my case that was compounded by a lack of certainty – how do you know what is in the food someone else prepared for you? Labels have so many generic components, and substitutions abound. The doctors had just ruled out most trigger foods – this wasn’t going to be easy.

The common literature talks about preservatives and other added chemistry for a variety of reasons. It sure is easy to declare that a generic boogey-man in all the food we eat and just suffer along, at least until the next time my throat starts to close or my gut stops moving food and I have to wait a week plus to take a #2. Apparently waiting for the answer wasn’t in the cards for me.

I got lucky, in a way. I suddenly had a huge infected lymph node on my neck after two years of this condition. Back to the doctors I went, and they confirmed I had some kind of infection in my body that decided it was time to declare itself. Apparently doctors love to use the word “declare” to tell you that something is now incredibly obvious to them. Three weeks of IV antibiotics cleared that up. Funny thing was about 2 weeks after the antibiotics ended, all my joint pain and arthritis, plus my food sensitivities – vanished. I felt like I was 30 years old again! My memory and thinking was greatly enhanced. I could move without pain. My chiropractor and physiotherapist were crying because I didn’t see them anymore. Work I struggled with was now a breeze. The love making with my wife was so much better! Sounds good eh? Alas.

Two months later I noticed that my stomach pains were coming back. My spine would inflame, my ankles would swell, my Achilles tendons in both feet would hurt like they were turning solid. Oh boy! Then the knee and hip pain would flare up, picking a joint seemingly at random to hurt to the point that I had to stop walking mid-step several times a day. This problem wasn’t constant, but it was the same activation pattern each time. This was new.

This wasn’t as bad as before the antibiotics, but it was gradually getting back there. The doctor said it was probably a new variation of my food sensitivities, since eating was a trigger within 90 minutes of stuffing my pie hole. It took a while to see a trend, but I noticed when cooking at home I had no or little reaction, but eating out or prepared food would guarantee I would be stiff enough to not be able to bend over and pick up anything I’d drop on the floor for three days. The process of identifying the trigger was going really slow, and my life was turning into a black hole. Thinking was getting harder, feelings of depression for no reason, my mind and body felt ill. The doctor used a buzz word to describe it in general – reactive arthritis. I called it a pain in the a**. When I had a really bad episode I actually felt suicidal for no reason, and that is so unlike me. I finally hunkered down to play detective.

I’ll skip to the conclusion – yes canola oil would light me up my allergies and arthritis like a dried out Christmas tree that just caught fire because of a shorted out light bulb. Thanks to my brother in-law for bringing home that super tasty container of greasy Chinese noodles that I woofed down in one sitting. You could see the blood vessels breaking in my swollen ankles over the next few days. I had to throw out the shoes I was wearing at the time, stretched out to clown size because of my ankles expanding. I called in sick for 3 unpaid days because I couldn’t move. My doctors were stunned, but useless beyond offering pills to help with symptoms. I’m not doctor bashing, just noting that the symptoms were all they could treat because they couldn’t be confident about a root cause. Fortunately there isn’t much to reverse engineer in a noodle dish that I make myself at home without issues. I called and asked them what they used, the only difference was the oil. I use avocado oil, they use canola.

That turned my life around for the most part. I’m trying to figure out how to eat on the road, and I’m still working on that one. Any label that declares vegetable oil is suspect and eliminated. Steaks could be grilled on cooking surfaces greased with canola oil, so I always ask. Many staff just have no idea what they use, it just shows up for them to use and is generically called vegetable oil. One component in a meal, like fried onions, can be fried in canola while the rest of the meal is “free”. Sigh. Hello eating lots of raw, boiled, or steamed food. Companies can lie about the oil in their product, I find olive oil is commonly mixed with cheaper canola oil without that being declared on the label. Yes, I can swill pure olive oil without effect. Worked my way through all the oils and canola was the only one that showed a reaction I could measure within a few hours that lasted for 3 to 5 days. Is canola oil in medications? Yup, even powdered ones.

So what did the doctors say? The family doctors and specialists all said the same thing when I told them – “Not surprised, that’s why we try not to use it with our families.”

To be fair, there is no official stance in the medical community that I could find advising anyone to avoid canola oil. You’d be a fool in Canada to go up against the mega corporations and the government bodies that regulate the advice you can dish out as a licensed medical practitioner. The best advice you can get is what I was told – “Listen to your body. Be mindful of what you eat. Listen to your survival instinct, it will serve you well.”

To anyone with a canola oil or other vegetable oil sensitivity I leave you with this. You are not crazy. People who don’t suffer from this can’t relate, and that’s just the way it is. It doesn’t matter how something toxic to your body is processed in a factory because you don’t control what variation goes into prepared foods.

I suspect there will be more of us as people start to tie subtle symptoms into eating patterns. This is a prime example of a food item activating the immune system in our bodies in a harmful way. It harms the mind and the body in ways I’d never heard of before. Maybe I should be grateful I got front seat tickets to the food sensitivity show, because I could live to tell you about it. If nothing else I can vouch that it’s real. Respect the risk and listen to that survival instinct, you only live once.”

Thanks again to Leon for sharing his story. I have edited it slightly for clarity. If you would like to send me your story of oil sensitivity I will consider giving it a guest spot on the blog. It would great if you include your whole experience from the beginning, as well as what general symptoms and specific triggers that have been identified so readers can really understand where you are coming from.

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12 Responses to Discovery of a Canola Oil Sensitivity–Leon’s Story

  1. Genevieve says:

    People with sensitivity to oil should look into histamine and/or salicylate intolerance. I have these conditions and they include sensitivity to oils. Look at the following websites for more details: &

    • Thank you for sharing some resources. I’ve read about salicylate sensitivity before but I hadn’t read about Histamine Intolerance yet. Both sound very uncomfortable to deal with.

  2. Greta T. says:

    My heart goes out to Leon! That sounds both scary and insanely painful. It just isn’t intuitive to think “Oh I have reactive arthritis and the beginnings of anaphylactic shock: must be canola oil.” I’m so glad Leon figured out what the trigger was. Thanks for sharing

  3. BEVERLY LUST says:

    Thank god I just found this article. It will take me awhile to accept the fact that eating potato chips causes me to sleep my life away but today I finally made the connection. No chips. No problem. I feel happy and alert. Eat some chips and the gas and bloating start. Within a half hour my only friend is my bed and my favorite pillow where I spend my days and nights feeling too sleepy to get up and shower. I already have so many food allergies that having to add oils to the list may just break me emotionally but at least now I know I have a choice. No chips for me thanks.

    • I hope that you feel better knowing whats bothering you rather than worse. I struggled with anger at loosing some of my favorite foods when I initially discovered my intolerance but I don’t mind now. I just like being healthy. I’m afraid oils are in a lot of things though, so if it helps I have a list on my blog. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Thank you for your article about oil sensitivity, I also have the same problem, and thought it was only me. I can tolerate grape seed oil, which I rarely use. Hate going out for dinner with friends, I’m usually sick for days after. I substitute vegetable broth in my recepies when it calls for oil.

  5. Mili says:

    Thanks so much to Leon, i fell the same for about 20 years (I have 33 now)… a week ago i discovered my problem is oil and gluten (but im not celiac), i made a food diary for 1 month. I hope next year be a better year. 🙂 (sorry for my english i speak spanish) And thank you for so much for your blog.!

  6. Steve M says:

    Hi and thanks for the article.
    I have developed a chronic resistance to almost all oils and fats that play havoc with my auto immune system. If I go near any oil or dairy fats my finger tips flare with eczema. It feels like I’ve put my finger in a flame and soon thereafter the skin peals and cuts appear. It’s so sore and sensitive that I can barely type. It never clears up completely but it’s mostly under control if I stay away from oils as best possible.
    I would do anything to clear up the sensitivity and resultant eczema. It’s debilitating. I live on poached fish and chicken white, fruit and vegetables. Over 3 years now and lost over 16kg.

    • I am sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. I have a post where I talk about the vitamins and supplements I take to assist in with my allergic reactions. I wonder if they might help make you more comfortable as well. I can’t imagine how bored you must be with such a limited diet. That sucks. Take care.

  7. Jenny says:

    I am relieved to read these stories. My husband diagnosed my condition as psychological! We have a nice breakfast every Sunday morning. I usually am nauseous afterwards, but today I was nauseous as he cooked bacon. I have a sensitivity to pork (fatty pork). Not sure what I have yet, but relieved to know I am not alone.

  8. Louise says:

    Hi I have been living with a canola/rapeseed oil allergy for several years now. I have to cook all my own food and pretty much everywhere in the UK uses rapeseed oil on their resteraunts which makes me sad often as I can’t enjoy the experience of eating out which is a normal human social experience. If I do go out I have to have plain baked potato and cheese. It’s in mayo, sauces, bread and bakery items, biscuits, cakes, crisps, some cold meats, ready meals, packs of ready made sandwiches etc, toiletries ( I have learned the latin name which is used on cosmetic bottles etc) list goes on. Sometimes it gets me really down when people go out for meals etc and I can’t join in but I try to tell myself this is the way I am and I have to try work round and with my allergy. X

  9. Joseph kirkwood says:

    I am walking like a 90 year old, but I am 65. Thanks to you I know now why I am doing that .

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