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Jun 19, 2010 11:54 AM

Allergic to Quinoa/Teff?

I love trying new grains, but after trying to get through a box of quinoa, I realized I may have an allergy to it - my lips get very itchy and slightly swollen, and my throat gets a little itchy, too. So I gave up on quinoa.

Today I tried teff porridge, and the same thing happened - very itchy and slightly swollen lips, slightly itchy throat. I've never had allergies to any other food before, so I'm not sure what chemical or what-have-you these grains might share or I might be reacting to.

First question: anyone heard of this or have any links?
Second: I now have a giant bag of teff that I hate to throw away. Do you think using it up in breads or something in which it is cooked longer might minimize the allergens?

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  1. I think you should calll your doctor. You were clearly having an allergic reaction to something. Don't mess around with this. You could die. No joke.

    1. There are no known allergies to quinoa. It could be cross-contamination, are the quinoa and teff thhe same brand, and do you see in the package if they are manufactured in shared equipment? You should check with a doctor for sure. Quinoa is one if the safest foods, but some comoanies pack it on shared equipment, so its important to check.

      7 Replies
      1. re: slgnunez

        I don't know what Teff is, but doesn't quinoa have a natural irritant on the outside of the seeds that you have to soak off before you cook it? Maybe you're extra-sensitive to it?

        (Wikipedia says it's got saponins on the outside of it, and some people have reported numbness of the lips and tongue after they ate if it wasn't fully cleaned.)

        1. re: slgnunez

          Honored, You wrote once that You work with quinoa? Would like to find out more about the cultivation of quinoa and some other wheat, would be grateful if You would share Your knowledge with me ( and give some tips how to manage it... Believe that there are more nutrients in so-called alternative wheat and that is one of the reasons why would like to start it, if it will be possible...

          1. re: slgnunez

            Anyone can develop allergies at anytime with any food product. There are plenty of people who have sensitivities or allergies to this seed. :-/

            1. re: LilithEats

              I absolutely had a severe allergic reaction after I purchased a bag of frozen, prepared, organic quinoa. My symptoms included facial swelling, including my eyelids, sore throat, swollen tongue, coughing, runny nose, cognitive impairment, and extreme fatigue. I had to immediately ingest 100mg of Diphenhydramine after it occurred to me that I was ill because of what I had just eaten. The following day (either because of the clearly poisonous food, or the dehydrating OTC meds I took,) I experienced awful bowl movements... Bricks. Ouch. I will never eat quinoa again! Strangely enough I had no issue with rice/quinoa blends, but, will avoid them after the scary reaction I had.

            2. re: slgnunez

              You can most definitely have a severe allergy to quinoa. My daughter just spent the night in the hospital after eating quinoa. Her face swelled up, her throat swelled and she was unable to breathe. Quinoa was the only new thing she had that day.

              1. re: slgnunez

                Clearly anyone can have an allergic reaction. Many people on this page have attested to severe symptoms after eating quinoa, including myself. To say there are "no known allergies to quinoa" is incorrect and misleading. Anaphalactic shock is real and can be life-threatening. I'd suggest that if anyone suspects an allergic reaction from quinoa to see a doctor and/or take 100 mg of diphenhydramine.

                1. re: timtriedit

                  Definitely. Having symptoms in two or more systems of the body (eg digestive and respiratory, or gastrointestinal plus a skin rash) is a sign of anaphylaxis and should not be taken lightly or perceived as a "mild" reaction. If your throat is swelling shut, that's not a mild reaction at all!

                  Especially in this era of people sneaking healthy and unexpected ingredients into normal foods (like beans in brownies), it's unlikely you can protect yourself unless you are extremely vigilant. Better to visit an allergist and carry allergy medicine with you in addition to asking before you eat something.

                  Definitely no one should think cooking it differently will make it safe.

              2. quinoa and teff aren't related - quinoa is a seed, while teff is a grain...and teff isn't coated with saponins, so it's strange to me that you reacted the same way to both. did you cook them in the same pot?

                5 Replies
                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Not only not in the same pot, but years apart and completely different brands - I tried quinoa about 2 years ago and gave up as I said, and only tried teff for the first time this week. Quinoa from Trader Joe's; Teff was Bob's Red Mill.

                  The quinoa was a more annoying reaction (though both were really quite minor) so I'm guessing it might have been the saponins (I'm pretty sure I didn't rinse it because I tend to be lazy about that sort of thing), but that doesn't explain the teff at all...So odd.

                  1. re: thursday

                    that's what puzzles me - my first thought was the saponins, but teff doesn't contain them.

                    i have a random question - do you typically eat iron-rich foods? both quinoa & teff are good sources of iron and there is such a thing as iron allergy, which you can develop in adulthood. i'd *strongly* echo c's sentiment above...get thee to the allergist.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      I eat lots of iron-rich foods - kale, spinach, red meat, blackstrap molasses... I'm not that worried about it simply because the reactions were extremely mild and they're very easy foods to avoid, I'm just curious to know where it might come from.

                      1. re: thursday

                        But allergic reactions can go from mild to anaphylactic shock. Please don't fool around with this. I understand that there are now pretty easy blood tests for allergies vs. the skin test ones. And finding out if it's an allergy to some byproduct could make it more problematic. Stay safe.

                        1. re: thursday

                          i'm glad to hear it's not the iron - that can be a serious pain to manage. but i'd still encourage you to see an allergist. the reaction may not be bad now, but allergies can worsen with repeated exposure, and you have no way of avoiding potential exposure from other sources until you identify what's actually causing the reaction.

                          i'm not trying to tell you how to live your life, just watching out for a fellow CHer...i've witnessed numerous incidences of food-related anaphylaxis in my time, and it's scary stuff.

                  2. Sorry to be jumping into this discussion so late, but it seems I have developed an allergy to quinoa. It's a shame because I love it! I have been eating it regularly (once or twice a week since April) and the last four times I have eaten it, symptoms have become increasingly worse. About 6 weeks ago, I had quinoa 2 times (dinner and breakfast) while visiting my son and family and felt like I was coming down with something- chalked it up to the wear and tear of traveling. Bloating, stomach pain, indigestion. I wondered if it was the quinoa then but wasn't sure. Today, I am certain that I have a quinoa allergy! I cooked some plain last night planning to eat leftovers for breakfast. Within 30 minutes of eating, I had stomach PAIN, bloating and frequent visits to the bathroom. It lasted about 5 hours before I knocked myself out with 2 Benadryl because by that time, I had a rash on my arms and was itching like a dog with fleas! I was questioning the quinoa then, but just to be sure I was on the right track and wanting to be my own guinea pig--had a little bit for breakfast with milk. So, here I sit with a severe stomach ache and arm rash and prickling sensation again-- AND proof for my hypothesis. I am very unhappy about this twist because quinoa has been a wonderful asset in my repertoire of low-glycemic foods. I love its versatility and texture and will miss it.

                    1. I too have an allergic reaction to quinoa. I get facial swelling, swollen and numbness in my lips, breathing issues etc. It really upsets me when people say it's cross contamination or I just need to wash it thoroughly. Before I realize it was quinoa that was causing my allergies, I used to wash it thoroughly before and after the cooking process so yes it was fully cleaned.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: gourmet wife

                        I am very curious as there are no reported allergies to quinoa besides these. I am curious to know if the quinoa is from Bolivia or Peru. There is a difference in the cultivation- the Peruvian may be cross-contaminated at the field level with other seeds and plants. On the Bolivian side nothing besides quinoa grows as the crop is planted in a high altitude desert). The main Bolivian-only brands are Trader Joes, Alter Eco, Eden Foods, Ancient Harvest and CostCo's lines.depedning on where you are there are other smaller brands as well carrying the Bolivian. Now the next things besides cross- contamination either at the field level or at the copacking or store level (if in the bulk bin), there's the saponin question. All quinoa is not processed (washed/cleaned) the same way, so rinsing is recommended. TO see if you are allergic to quinoa try consuming baby quinoa, which is a cousin of quinoa that is gluten-free and has no saponin. I can send you a bag if you canot get it. Let me know!

                        1. re: slgnunez

                          I use the Costco Tru Roots quinoa exclusively. Thanks for the offer of the baby quinoa, but I will pass until I have some allergy testing to see what is going on with me.

                            1. re: toodie jane

                              excellent source of kaniwa (baby quinoa)- Edison Grainery. ON my comment above I made a mistake, I meant to say "to see if you are allergic to saponin try consuming baby quinoa". I don't think there are allergies to saponin, but hypersensitivities. Let me know!

                            2. re: slgnunez

                              Sorry for jumping in late. I never had any known food allergies. Grew up in Brazil, and traveling around. From 2012-14 our family lived in La Paz. i loved quinoa, and used to eat it frequently - until I got the horrific reaction of numb lips, face, itchy throat and difficulty breathing. Massive dose of anti-hystamics to come back to my old self. Quinoa from Bolivia, and organically cultivated. A month later, without knowing, ate a friend's house some salad dish with throughly cooked [ I later asked the host] quinoa. The reaction was worse, and i was taken to the med unit. My husband was trained on how to use the Epi-pen, in case I had a third reaction, with luckily never came to happen since I stopped eating it - which is a shame because i really liked it, and knew its nutritious value...

                              1. re: mirandafamily

                                Sorry to hear we both had the same reaction to quinoa.It's unfortunate because it is a super food,but,not for us. I have heard of another similar product called amaranth.I have not tried it but I hear that it is the consistency of oatmeal and has a nutty flavor like quinoa. Be careful if you try it though. Make sure you have your epi-pen in case you have another allergic reaction. Best luck and healthy to you. Salud y Buena suerte.