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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.

      3 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 (minamian1712@gmail.com) 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. :-/

          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.

                  4 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. A few years ago I was regularly eating quinoa, that I bought in bulk and carefully washed, then one day I forgot to wash it. An hour or two later I suddenly went from feeling like a million bucks to feeling nauseous, and I vomited over and over until my stomach was empty. A few weeks later I ate some crackers, and did not notice there was quinoa in them. Violent vomiting until my stomach was empty. 4 years later - ate a few bites of quinoa by mistake, that was part of a hot meal that was served to me. An hour later: diarrhea and nausea. I made the mistake of standing up and I actually fainted (first time in my life). I do not generally have allergies or food intolerances. 55 years old.

                      1. I had two horrible experiences with Quinoa after having eaten it about 5 times and really liking it. That 6th time, my temperature sky-rocketed. I wanted to put my body in a tub of freezing water but I was afraid I would pass out and drown. It came out of both ends; I couldn't get to the phone to call 911 and started to cry because I thought I was going to die...and I have no other food allergies. About a month later, i tried just a little bit more. I had the same reaction but it was much, much milder probably because i ate so little of it. i know just make my dishes with bulgar instead.

                        1. For two years I thought I had a gluten intolerance, however my symptoms were just not going away. I had continued negative tests for celiac disease among many other tests for several other possible problems. So one day it dawned on me eliminate Quinoa from my diet for a couple months and then try it again. When I finally did try it again, I had a day of crippling pain along with vomiting and very loose bowels. This was all within a half hour of eating the Quinoa. So I started to do some research. It turns out that the Saponin that grows on this stuff acts in me as gluten does in a celiac patient. It was creating holes in my intestinal walls (thus such horrible pain). If you do not wash quinoa properly, you can ingest the naturally occurring saponin, which protects the plant from insect and fungal attacks. Saponin is soapy, bitter, and toxic, and is actually used to make detergents. However, for those of us who are allergic to Saponin; we can wash it all we want, but there will always be traces left.

                          Ever since I cut Quinoa out of my diet all of my symptoms have vanished. Its a shame because I really loved the stuff. Amaranth is a great alternative if you are looking for that flavor and texture without any horrifying pain.

                          1. A person can have an allergy to pretty much anything, quinoa included. Just because some people say there are no reported allergies to _____ doesn't mean it's impossible. It just means it's not common. I have allergies to some of the weirdest things that no one's ever heard of.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: LMAshton

                              Quinoa is high in protein, and many of the true allergies are to proteins. Nothing else to say, except for the need for testing.

                              1. re: lagatta

                                Yeah, allergies and sensitivities are not the same, but the general public don't seem to understand the difference and, if the word sensitivity is used, it isn't taken as seriously. It's usually easier to use the one word, allergy, for expediency.