Citrus Intolerance Guide

Cirtus intolerance guide

Cirtus intolerance guide

Citrus is the combined term used for a genus of flowering trees and shrubs in the rue family (Rutaceae). These plants produce edible

citrus fruits that are eaten fresh after peeling the bitter rind. 

Citrus fruits are also commonly juiced and used to complement soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, while the more bitter fruits are used in jams and preserves with sugar to adjust the taste.

Citrus fruits list

Here is a list of fruits containing citrus, that could be causing you symptoms:
  • Lemons.
  • Limes.
  • Oranges. 
  • Grapefruits.

Citrus intolerance or sensitivity

Citrus fruit sensitivity or intolerance is where a person presents various digestive symptoms after the consumption of citrus-derived products. A less severe condition than an allergy, this condition can still be uncomfortable and embarrassing for the individual. Take our test to find out if you have a citrus sensitivity.

Citrus intolerance symptoms

The common symptoms include:
  • Bloating.
  • Diarrhoea. 
  • Tiredness.
  • Heartburn. 
  • Acid reflux symptoms.
  • Gas.

Citrus allergy

Allergies to citrus fruits are rare because the ingredient present in them, citric acid, is a simple molecule and the body doesn’t produce antibodies that would trigger any allergic reactions to it. 

However, the allergy is sometimes seen in people who have similar pollen allergies, which is known as cross-reactivity. People who are allergic to grasses in particular, may experience allergy symptoms to citrus fruits.

A 2013 study of 72 children and young adults with grass pollen allergies studied exposure to fresh lemon, orange, and clementine with a prick test. It found that 39 per cent of the participants who were allergic to pollen also had sensitivities to citrus.

39% of people who are allergic to pollen also have sensitivities to citrus.

Natural vs synthetic citrus allergy

Natural citric acid is extracted from fruits, while synthetic citric acid is the natural acid that is chemicalised commercially. One thing to note here is that if you only react to citrusy fruits, it could be an indication that you’re allergic to the fruit, not the citric acid. 

Citric acid intolerance food list

Citric acid is added in many different foods to give a tarty flavour, to act as a preservative and to provide a longer shelf life to foods such as:
  • Pre-cut and packages fruits and vegetables 
  • Processed sweets 
  • Beer 
  • Wine 
  • Caramel 
  • Sorbet
  • Ice cream 
  • Baked goods

Citrus allergy symptoms

  • Intense tangling and itching of the lips, tongue, and throat 
  • Reddening and swelling of the face, lips, and gums 
  • Rash or hives 
  • Dry, flaky skin 
  • Abdominal cramps 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Anaphylaxis (rare)

Citrus intolerance nutrition

Citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C, the nutrient that helps the immune system and keeps your skin in good condition. Citrus also has a decent level of other vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and copper.

Citrus foods to avoid

  • Raw citrus fruits or juices 
  • Unripe citrus fruits
  • Citrus fruit seeds and rinds 
  • Vitamin C supplements 
  • Artificially flavoured sweets 

Replacing key nutrients when eliminating citrus

It is imperative that you use alternative items in your diet when undertaking either a short or long term elimination diet to maintain nutrient balance.

Below are good examples or nutritional alternatives when eliminating citrus:

B Vitamins

Oats, rye, buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, brewer’s yeast, peanuts, mushrooms, soybeans, split peas, pecans, sunflower seeds, lentils, cashews, chickpeas, broccoli, hazelnuts, peppers.

Vitamin C

Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peppers, spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, leafy greens.


Dried apricots, salmon, mackerel, tuna, monkfish, white beans, lentils, kidney beans, avocado, butternut squash, spinach, mushrooms, bananas, potatoes.


Brown rice, oats, rye, quinoa, chicken, turkey, pork, liver, sardines, scallops, salmon, mackerel, crab, milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews.


Buckwheat, rye, millet, brown rice, quinoa, kelp, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, peanuts, walnuts, tofu, coconut, soya beans, figs, apricots, dates, prawns, corn, avocado, spinach, kale, broccoli, Swiss chard, turnip greens, collards.

How to diagnose a citrus intolerance or allergy?

It can be hard to diagnose an intolerance or allergy to citrus due to it being very rare. However, if you’re experiencing symptoms after consuming foods or fruits containing citric acid, we would recommend taking one of the following tests: 

You can learn more about how our allergy and intolerance tests work, and find out which one you need here.