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Quinoa..now feel ill..

I made quinoa for the first time yesterday. The recipe I used did not inform me that quinoa was a 'dirty grain' and that it needed to be rinsed... so I did not.

Also, the box has a SELL BY DATE of 3 months ago... which I did not see when I used/consumed it (also, online sources say it should be fine.).

Nonetheless, I have had severe nausea and a headache since I ate it. Has anyone had this type of reaction? Is it due to not rinsing it? Or could it be that it was old? Allergy?

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  1. Coincidence. We ate quinoa, fo years, in many poor conditions living in Bolivia. Never got sick.

    1. Quinoa is coated in a soap-like substance. Not rinsing it away certainly could cause stomach upset but I would have thought that you'd have tasted the saponins and found the flavor to be unpleasant.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Njchicaa

        It was mixed in with a sauce and lots of spices--so I did not taste anything odd--but since I have never had quinoa before, unfortunately, I doubt I would know it was 'odd-tasting.'

        1. re: GraceW

          There would be no mistaking the soap taste, even with spices and sauce. It is POTENT (and awful tasting) if the quinoa wasn't rinsed. I doubt the quinoa itself caused the issues. I would look to the other ingredients in your sauce, other things you ate that day (as food poisoning doesn't necessarily hit instantaneously), or chalk it up to mere coincidence.

          1. re: GraceW

            The first Quinoa that made me sick was Bob's Red Mill I think, it was past the expiration date as well, I didn't rinse it... I cooked it with organic chicken broth and flavored with salt and olive oil that I used every day. The second quinoa, was already prepared and frozen and tasted great from Trader Joe's and I cooked with organic vegetable broth and I felt sick again.

        2. What brand of Quinoa was it? Bob's Red Mill Quinoa needs rinsing to remove the saponins, while Ancient Harvest Quinoa comes pre-rinsed. I have used Ancient Harvest many times without rinsing and have had no problems.

          I doubt that the "age" of the quinoa was the cause of your ailments; could have been a reaction to the saponins on the quinoa, or something else you ate, or as another poster mentioned, a mere coincidence.

          2 Replies
          1. re: janniecooks

            I use the white (brown?) quinoa from Whole Foods bulk bins and I have rinsed and not rinsed and did not get a soapy taste (saponins - new word for me) at all. I guess they are pre-rinsed then? Does anyone know if this is the case or do different WFs carry different varieties of quinoa.

            1. re: Dax

              Different WFs will sell different ones based on regional availability of commodities. For example, I know that the red and white ones available here in BC are triple washed and guaranteed up to something ridiculous like 99.3% purity. The black ones are only single washed and come with no purity statement. Or at least, that's how it was 2 years ago. 4 years ago, the white was only single washed.

          2. As others have said, the coating that needs to be rinsed has an unmistakable soap flavor. If your dish didn't taste like soap, chances are the quinoa you used was pre-rinsed. If it didn't smell rancid and there wasn't visible mold, I wouldn't worry about the sell by date. Quinoa is a staple food, and the sell by date is not the same as an expiration date. Finally, in my experience stomach illness is rarely related to the food we think it is. You could have a virus, or could have eaten something the meal or day before the quinoa that just happened to catch up with you when you ate the quinoa. I supposed it's possible you are intolerant to quinoa, just as some people with gluten intolerance get headaches and digestive distress. It's also possible that something else in the dish disagreed with you.

            I wouldn't write quinoa off based on this one experience - try in again with a different recipe (and making sure it's rinsed). If you get sick again, it isn't proof of a quinoa intolerance, but it would be enough for me to avoid it in the future.

            1. Nothing bad can come of not rinsing quinoa unless it's contaminated by something other than its own dust, and quinoa remains viable (i.e. sproutable) for years, so being past the sell-by date shouldn't be a problem for anything except flavor. But quinoa does have a weird chemical makeup and is hard for some people to digest. For years, I used to eat it as my principal grain, but when my health slipped, I found it harder and harder to digest until finally it gave me a stomach and head ache every time I ate it. My doctor suggested that in my compromised state I wasn't producing the same digestive enzymes I used to. Maybe yours is an enzyme/digestion/food sensitivity issue, too.

              1. I get horrible headaches after eating quinoa. It doesn't seem to matter whether I use Bob's Red Mill or other organic brands - they all give me headaches. I can't eat gluten, so I hate to lose another grain. :(

                11 Replies
                1. re: jjlliiaa

                  Quinoa is not a grain....

                  So you're fine if you can't eat gluten.

                  1. re: latindancer

                    Is it a vegetable then? How does one classify it? Aren't rice and corn considered grains and they are gluten free. Are you sure it isn't a grain?

                    1. re: melpy

                      I think you'll see below that I mentioned that it is a seed, not a grain. Grains are members of the grass family, and quinoa is a chenopod and is related to beets (of all things)...

                      1. re: freia

                        I have read Quinoa is a relative of Spinach. where did you hear about the beet correlation?

                        1. re: pyrodiva

                          Spinach, beets, quinoa, chard, amaranth are all in the same plant family: Amaranthaceae, and subfamily: Chenopodioideae.

                        2. re: freia

                          Don't you just love gastronomical taxonomy? Always there are surprises!

                        3. re: melpy

                          -- Quinoa is a grain in the way most people use that word in regular speech. You certainly couldn't classify it as a vegetable unless you're talking about the leaves. But it's not a true grain in the botanical sense, where grain always means a cereal grain -- the edible fruit of a number of plants in the enormous and diverse grass family.

                          Those grass plants (like rice, wheat, barley, corn) make many little fruit that are completely fused with their seed, and so does quinoa, so saying one is a fruit (or a grain) and the other a seed isn't quite right. Both can be seen as fruits and seeds of their respective plants (in fact, a nut is a fruit too, -- another case where the seed and fruit are fused so the fruit doesn't open to release a seed). Quinoa (and amaranth) just aren't from grass plants, that's all. And even though there are some differences in nutritional makeup, in general, as a food, quinoa is more like a grain than, say, sugar, which is in the same cereal family of grasses as "real grains".

                          1. re: ninrn

                            It is considered by many a "pseudo cereal" but strictly speaking, it is a seed, much like sunflower seeds are seeds, not grains, no matter what the colloquial referral term is. There is a botanical difference between a seed, a fruit, and a nut, too. But at the end of the day, quinoa is a seed not a grain.

                            1. re: freia

                              Yep, I said quinoa is not botanically speaking a cereal grain. But making the distinction that one is a seed while the other is not isn't quite accurate. While many people refer to quinoa as a seed, it is also the fruit of its plant -- a fused seed/fruit, -- like grains and like nuts. Grains, quinoa and nuts are all, botanically speaking, fruit. They are all fruits in which there is no fleshy part that separates to let the seed part out.

                      2. re: jjlliiaa

                        Curiously when I search on 'quinoa' and 'headaches' I get an entry that claims it is beneficial
                        "If you are prone to migraines, try adding quinoa to your diet. Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels, preventing the constriction and rebound dilation characteristic of migraines."

                        This source uses "grain", in quotes, in recognition that while not botanically a grain, culinarily it is.

                        I do take the health claims on WHFoods with a grain of salt.

                        1. re: paulj

                          Sea salt? Or rock salt? LOL
                          Me too -- WHFood claims often include a heavy dose of marketing.

                      3. The box I bought last week said it was pre-rinsed, so I didn't rinse it. No ill effects.

                        1. I cook alot of quinoa and have never rinsed it. I've never tasted a soapy taste so perhaps that is brand specific.
                          Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain! You may be having a reaction if you are also sensitive to other seeds and/or nuts.
                          I don't believe a 3 month out of date "sell by" date means much at all. Just like rice, if stored properly it will be fine.
                          Hope you feel better!

                          1. I just made Bob's Red Mill quinoa last night and the bag said it was already rinsed and ready to cook. Made a salad out of it with dried apricots. I too don't think it was the oldness of the quinoa that bothered you, probably just what you had with it. Some times combinations don't agree with us.

                            1. I have no idea. I have problems digesting certain things--this just adds to the list.
                              So I won't be using the rest.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: GraceW

                                I am currently researching potential causes for the awful abdominal pain that has kept me awake and miserable since dinner last night. I had a similar episode a few weeks ago right after dinner- although not as long-lasting, it was the same kind of stomach pain. The pain is not really a flu feeling- more like my stomach is being turned inside out and tied up into knots. At any rate, both times I ate quinoa at dinner. From what I can tell from other websites and forums, quinoa definitely affects some people with abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches- even itchy skin and sore throats! While many point to the saponin on the quinoa and suggest rinsing it to prevent symptoms, there were many "victims" who experienced side-effects even after rinsing. I won't be eating quinoa again, which is quite disappointing, but I'm not willing to risk going through this for a third time. Interestingly, it doesn't bother my husband, so he'll be finishing the leftovers. Oh well. Just know that you're not the only one! :)

                                1. re: kschrei

                                  Your pain is so strikingly similar! It's odd because I grew up eating coucous every night mostly.. and it seems so similar.. but it definitely is not.

                                  1. re: GraceW

                                    No, couscous is basically pasta -- so, white flour, water and salt. Quinoa is a whole 'nother critter with a weird chemical make-up.

                                  2. re: kschrei

                                    I know this is an old post, but the same thing happened to me. Quinoa's now on my list of "intolerant to" foods, along with mushrooms and a few other odds and ends. Bummer too, because it's such a hot ingredient right now - but I simply can't eat it without suffering!

                                    1. re: littlemrslarge

                                      All mushrooms? You're pretty much talking about an entire kingdom there. Me, I don't do shiitake anymore, they make me bloat. I know a woman who can't eat Laetiporus species. Maybe it's just the agarics that make you ill. Perhaps try sampling other species?

                                      Cook whatever mushrooms you try. Raw buttons and their ilk contain hydrazines, which are very toxic. That might be what is making you sick.

                                    2. re: kschrei

                                      I realize this is an old post, but I just wanted to say that I have SEVERE stomach pain whenever I eat quinoa. Mostly in the form that you describe of intense cramping and feeling like my insides are being tied in knots for up to 12 hours. This is no joke and most DEFINITELY is caused by the quinoa. I have known about my intolerance/sensitivity for a few years now and no longer eat it. But, last night it happened again when I neglected to read a 5 grain pasta with one of the five grains being quinoa. I think you need to be careful not to consume it because in my experience the sensitivity is becoming more pronounced each time I have consumed it.

                                      Those that believe it is not caused by the quinoa almost certainly do not have the sensitivity. It's a very distinct and crippling gastro-intestinal pain that I recognized even after not realizing that I had consumed quinoa. In my case, the pain is so intense that I have considered going to urgent care or the hospital.

                                      I think it's possible that the sensitivity developed from eating unwashed quinoa, because the first few times I had it I did not have these stomach issues. However, now that I have the sensitivity, I think it doesn't matter how well washed the quinoa is - I will always have the stomach pain.

                                      1. re: Frinny5456

                                        Thank you--that is what has happened to me.

                                        Do you have sensitivities or allergies to any other foods?

                                  3. I'd suspect correlation, not causation. That said, I've tried many times to love quinoa and just can't. Taste is not bad, I find that I don't like the look of it. My wierdness.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: tcamp

                                      Are you bothered by those cute little 'worms' that uncoil from each seed? :)

                                      1. re: tcamp

                                        i can't get over the fact that they look like tiny latex condoms (still rolled up)

                                      2. I've wanted to try quinoa but haven't mainly because of cost, after all the carrying on here I don't think I'll bother.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                                          Cost? It's like $2/lb at Whole Foods in the bulk bins. I've eaten quinoia about 15 times in the last year and have not had any issues except I think it's kind of boring.

                                          1. re: Dax

                                            Quinoa's boring like rice is boring, or pasta is boring. It all depends on how you cook and eat it. Although the allergy issues make it more interesting in a broader sense....

                                            And, sadly, I haven't seen it for close to two bucks a pound for several years.

                                            1. re: wasny

                                              Right now it's at 4.25 a lb. at Costco, and it's organic. It' used to be 12 bucks for 4 lbs for a long time, and then all of sudden it jumped to 20 bucks/5 bucks a lb, which was greed to the fullest. I complained big time and not just because of me, but collectively the rise in cost was everywhere, and it finally came down to 17.00 for 4 lbs and has stayed that way. Sure it's getting more popular, but to gouge the public so quickly tells me it can't be supply and demand because the price would have risen more slowly. If your a vegan+dairy, ( there's a word for vegan who do dairy but forgot it), quinoa acts as a filler food for a guy who has an appitite, so I'd hate to give it up, but long time usage, I think, has caused digestive problems.

                                              1. re: Jerryjohn

                                                Demand has increased ten-fold in the last decade for a product that's been a staple in areas of South America. Supply has not been keeping up and local demand (and prices) have been an issue in Bolivia and Peru. Unless and until we can start producing it locally in significant volume the price is going to stay higher for a while.

                                        2. Over on Serious Eats, they started a food allergy thread and someone mentioned Quinoa. So maybe you had an allergic reaction?

                                          1. Being 3 months out of date generally wouldn't make it unsafe to eat. Most quinoa sold in America does not need to be rinsed. It is pre-rinsed and all of the saponins are gone.I've yet to find any, even in bulk bins, that isn't pre-rinsed.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                              The thing is, I've read that quinoa should be stored in the fridge...

                                            2. I have celiac disease and know of several celiacs who cannot eat quinoa, though it is indeed gluten free. BUT it must be marked gluten free as sometimes it is grown next to wheat. Even so, a few friends react to quinoa the same way they react to gluten - they get incredibly ill. They are unsure precisely why but I do know that many react to other foods, including corn, as they would gluten. It is highly individual. Their bodies see these foods as gluten and react accordingly. I can handle quinoa but I do keep it refrigerated and only purchase certified gluten free quinoa.

                                              1. I work with quinoa. Peruvian quinoa is cross contaminate with wheat: there is an average of 1 wheat kernel per lb of quinoa- this will trigger a gluten test of 15-20 PPM. This is still considered gluten free by the USDA standards. But for gluten sensitive people this will not do. Solution: buy Bolivian large-seed quinoa (Ancient Harvest, Eden, Alter Eco, and some others- make sure to check origin and size). Bolivian quinoa grown where no other crop growns- no potatoes beans, and much less any evil grain like wheat (which came from Europe with the Spanish). Next figure out if you are hyper sensitive to saponin. We test saponin content on our quinoa to be under 26 mg/100 g- beyond this the quinoa tastes bitter. Saponin is not necessarily bad: it increases the permeability of the gut- helping you absorb more of the nutrients in your food (some medicine capsules are coated with saponin to increase absorbancy). This said, saponin can taste bitter and can cause upset stomachs. Some are more sensitive than others too. If your quinoa is foaming in the pot it's a good sign of a badly washed quinoa. Again, top brands have better quinoa.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: slgnunez

                                                  Very interesting comments, signunez. Thanks.

                                                  1. re: ninrn

                                                    My husband used to get bad stomach pains and a headache whenever he ate quinoa. He never had this kind of reaction to any other food. He stopped eating it, obviously. Then, just over a year ago, he cut gluten, processed foods and sugars, as well as dairy (for the most part) out of his diet. After a few months of feeling great and losing weight, he tried quinoa again. Now he can eat it, no problems at all.

                                                2. Yes!!! This happened to me too and nobody else could explain it. It has happened to me twice after eating quinoa. The first time it was dry, in a package and I didn't rinse it because the instructions did not say to rinse. I was violently ill, severe cramping and stomach burning, nausea, and diarrhea. (I rarely have stomach issues so I was shocked). The second time it was a frozen quinoa, kale, sweet potato dish that just needed to be heated with a cup of vegetable broth added (from TJ's). I only got mildly ill this time, but the stomach burning and nausea were there. Coincidentally, I had been researching fermented cod-liver oil and had just read about histamine intolerance. I have had allergic skin reactions to many things in the past year, including coconut oil. I could not figure out what was wrong with me. I looked up quinoa and coconut and many histamine intolerance sufferers cannot tolerate them either and have similar reactions! I know that I can tolerate Gluten, so it isn't Celiac. Reading more about histamine and quinoa is how I stumbled upon this page. Maybe you have the same thing going on?

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: nightnday99

                                                    Thank you--I read a little so far, and that was really interesting. I also suffer from migraines (the first immense episode started after a special birthday dinner: with red wine, meat (I haven't had meat in years), and dark-chocolate)--so I am going to have to look into histamine intolerance. If you have any suggested sites, let me know.--Thanks!

                                                  2. Okay so I posted in here that Quinoa made me have terrible stomach pain once. Update, it does it every time now! Washed or not. I am suspecting it's a digestive enzyme thing as mentioned below by someone. I do have gallstones. However I have had them for years with no problems eating Quinoa until after the birth of my son when my whole body changed and I developed intolerances I have never had previously. Hmm.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: nightnday99

                                                      You don't have to share, but are you intolerant/sensitive to wheat, gluten, or dairy?

                                                      1. re: GraceW

                                                        Surprisingly I do just fine with wheat/gluten, and, dairy. Other intolerances I have had are salmon, dates, and also skin allergies (itchy swelling) to sunscreen, and coconut oil, and a lot of make-up that I used to be okay with.

                                                      2. re: nightnday99

                                                        My daughter is a vegetarian with celiac who's never had a stomach ache in her life. I tested negative and have struggled with IBS forever. The list of foods I don't eat (If it pisses off your stomach, never eat it again!) is long. Quinoa is now added. 3 times, and each time horrible pain! Last week, I had pasta made from quinoa. Again, awful! I was afraid to try amaranth and now I"m sure i won't.

                                                      3. I have a latex allergy, crossing over to foods, a long list to avoid.
                                                        However, just ate quinoa for lunch, I think the first time - and have the same sort of acute pain from latex protein foods. (waiting for it to pass through, usually violently). Epipen at the ready. On researching online I find there have been a few cases of latex intolerant allergic reactions to quinoa. If you have had a reaction to it, check out the latex allergy lists to see if any other foods link to you.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: ascotlady

                                                          Thank you--I will definitely research this.

                                                        2. I love quinoa, it's more of a seed than a grain, as it sprouts when cooked. Sometimes I rinse it, sometimes I don't, i mainly eat organic quinoa from the health food shop so it's pesticide free.. I eat it from breakfast and dinner too, i don;t tolerate actual grains Wheat, oats, rye, corn etc, but quinoa is top notch

                                                          1. I have severe allergic reaction to Quinoa and amaranth leading to anaphylactic shocks. Be very careful using them. Strangely it started after I had a tri color variety. Now I carry an epipen.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Hsudan

                                                              Are you allergic to anything in addition to those two things?

                                                            2. Quinoa makes me very sick every time I eat it. About 2 hours after consumption I get horrible stomach pain. The pain comes in waves and than it makes my intestines spasm. It makes me feel like I'm going to throw up, but I never do. Thowing up would probably save me from the painful process of digesting it. For my body it's poison.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: mamspam

                                                                Thank you--that is what has happened to me. Do you have sensitivities or allergies to any other foods?

                                                              2. okay. I've eaten it twice. first time I ate it like a large serving of rice. horrible upset belly. tonight (a year later) I ate a teaspoon of it in a salad (I forgot how I was sick) about an hour later I started having nausea, belly pains, pressure, it was awful. I have had an upset stomach all night… I had a work event I had to speak to 75 parents I was completely uncomfortable, and discomfort, pain, bloating, distended belly. I am convinced, beyond a reasonable doubt that quinoa is the culprit. I will never eat it again. so I don't believe that you ate too much I think you have an intolerance or allergy like I believe I do. I eat mounds of rice for years and I've never had an issue. I tried mints (tonight), soda, alka seltzer, it took the edge off. but this is 8 hours later and I'm still sick. :( same thing last time. this time was worse though. good luck. :)

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. The 'sell by' date is virually meaningless, as it is widely known to be on many foods.

                                                                  Rinsing it is a good idea, though.