>Sulfites: The New Carbs

>Every so often, a “medical fact” rides in on a wave of paranoia and shoddy research. It reaches a screaming crescendo that one can measure by how many bestsellers are trotted out on the subject, and then, after a few years of no real change in anyone’s quality of life, the wave rolls back out to the sea of misinformation where it will swell again with a new generation that doesn’t realize we’ve all been there, done that and it failed miserably.

Atkins comes to mind. So does invading a foreign country.

Now this! The rampant self-diagnosed “allergy to sulfites”. Correction: not self-diagnosed. Someone on the internet told you their mother has it, too, so it’s a communal diagnosis.

I’m not saying there aren’t many people out there who have bizarre (and varying) reactions to different alcoholic beverages.

I’m not saying you haven’t figured out what makes you feel worse and what makes you feel better, and therefore created a rational list of Things to Avoid.

I’m saying lots and lots of people are still grasping at straws. And I want to help you narrow it down.

Next time you ask me if any of our wines don’t have sulfites cause you’re allergic to them, I would ask you if you’ve eaten any dried fruit lately. Or deli meat. Or nuts. Or anything that has been packaged. Sulfites are a preservative found in EVERYTHING. You wouldn’t want to drink a wine without sulfites. It would be a bunch of rotted, moldy grape juice.

To diagnose your unique problem, don’t ask anyone on the internet if they have similar symptoms. The internet is a wasteland of screaming ignorance. (Irony alert!)

But here’s a recap of the Scientific Method we all learned in high school:

1. Observation through experience: Consider the problem and try to make sense of it. Look for previous explanations (i.e. are you throwing up and headachy? you might have drunk too much, or have a problem metabolizing alcohol. If you are having symptoms you’ve had before with things you are allergic to, you are, naturally, allergic to this as well.).
If this is a new problem to you, then move to step 2.

2. Form a Hypothesis: Try to state an explanation (“When I drink red wine I feel rotten in ways I haven’t felt otherwise or before; therefore I must have some weird reaction to something in red wine.”).
3. Conclude Something: If you assume 2 is true, what consequences follow? (“Red wine contains sulfites, therefore I might be reacting to sulfites”)
4. Test Conclusion: Look for the opposite of each consequence in order to disprove 2. (Drink white wine, sparkling wine, beer; eat fruits with sulfites in them – if you still feel rotten, 3 may be correct; if not, forget the sulfites thing and think about what else goes into red wine that white wine doesn’t share. Contact with grape skins. Skins contain tannins. So revise 3 as “I might be reacting to tannins.” Now test by drinking tea, coffee, grape juice. And so on.)

Many of mankind’s troubles stem from trying to PROVE our theories rather than disprove them. Religion, paranoia, conspiracy theory – anything that eschews science, the devotion to truth via the process of elimination – relies on proving what you already believe to be true. It is about as far from truth, then, as one can get.


About emc

Out beyond any ideas of right-doing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you in it.
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