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HAVE A QUESTION? > Quinoa inflammatory issues

I read that quinoa may cause an inflammatory reaction in people who have celiac or gluten intolerance. Now, I'm afraid to eat it. Has anyone noticed any issues with feeling sick after eating quinoa?
September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
HI Heather, I spoke to Sheila George, MD, and she will be getting back to you on the answer to this question with a more complex answer, b/c there is some debate about quinoa.

The first thing, however, that people must double check as far as quinoa goes is whether or not has been cross-contaminated with wheat or other gluten-containing grains during processing. If the company does not source from a dedicated gluten-free farm, does not ship by dedicated gluten-free means, does not have a dedicated gluten-free facility and does not test for gluten, the risk for cross contamination is high. In other words, people could be reacting b/c their quinoa has been cross-contaminated. Stay tuned for more answers on this from the doc.
Reactions to quinoa are most likely often related to issues of Leaky Gut Syndrome, and the fact that many people with gluten intolerance and Celiac rely on quinoa as a replacement staple grain. When you have leaky gut, any food that you eat regularly can potentially become a problem. In my experience, I had to eliminate all grains for a while in order to heal my gut. I was seriously overdoing it on the brown rice and quinoa, and had a bloated belly after meals, and noticed that my digestion wasn't quite right, even after a few years of being totally gluten-free. I used the GAPS diet to heal my gut, and have been much healthier ever since!
September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke Kaufman
Thanks, Brooke!
Whether you consider quinoa a grain or a seed, if you are gluten sensitive you may react to quinoa as if it were gluten. When foods have similar enough amino acid sequences as that of the gliadin/gluten molecule, these foods may bind to the gliadin/gluten antibody in the body and trigger an immune response. This is known as cross-reactivity.

Other foods besides quinoa that may possibly cross-react with gluten include cow's milk, yeast, oats, coffee, sesame seeds, corn, buckwheat and tapioca. If you do not feel well or continue to have elevated gliadin antibodies despite a gluten free diet, you may want to check for additional food allergies and for the possibility that other foods are cross-reacting with the gliadin/gluten antibody. Cyrex Laboratory does comprehensive testing for gluten sensitivity and gluten cross-reactivity.
thank you Sheila!
Here is an article about a study on quinoa. Apparently, some quinoa varieties may be unsuitable for strict gluten-free diets. The study found that people reacted to certain varieties but not others, however, they are not releasing which passed the test until further study is done:

"A new study has questioned advice to include quinoa in gluten-free diets for those with celiac disease, finding that some varieties may trigger symptoms."
Thank you for your reply. I think I'll slowly reintroduce quinoa and see how it goes.
October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Thanks for the question, Heather. Let me know how it goes, will you?
My 8year old daughter sometime in nov 2011 started sleep walking something she never did before. Then shortly after that she complained about an itch in her bone she could not scratch days after that she complained about a stinging and pain in her ankle then the stinging became worst and travel through out her body. She then complained about severe headaches, chess feeling tight, itchy throat, throat feeling tight , cough, bad stomach aches, heart beating hard and fast, hives, mild fevers, nasuea and a few other issues this lasted a few months and It started shortly after eating QUONIA. Doctors said no , but no one could tell me why she was becoming so sick. I finally figured out that it had to be this food . We had never eaten this before.
Can anyone tell me if they felt this way
October 23, 2012 | Unregistered
Hi Austinskyeler...

I sent your question to Sheila George, MD, CA, of the Center for Metabolic Wellness, and she said that it might be time to get an evaluation by a seasoned functional medicine physician. Make sure you write down the time frame around the adverse reaction your daughter is having, if she has this with gluten as well or any other foods. If you haven't had her tested for food allergies, she suggests doing so, as well as consider other causes with the doctor.

Functional medicine is an emerging field of medicine that moves beyond treating symptoms to finding and alleviating the underlying causes of disease. Get a couple of opinions.

Here is a press release from the Dr. Oz show, actually that describes functional medicine very well:

To help rule out any allergies to quinoa or other foods, these articles will help you communicate with the doctors you are interviewing / seeing.

Best wishes & I hope you can figure this out soon!


Check the above. I don't have a gluten allergy, but I do react badly to quinoa.
November 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBKV
ive been on a gluten free diet for about 8 or 9 months now and eat quinoa almost every day.about 3 months ago i started getting this severe rash all over with hives just out of the blue and have been on steroid pills and shots that work temporarily,but im off them now.ive had food allergy tests and all negative and have been eliminating foods to see if i can figure out what it is and just thought about it and that i eat quinoa a lot for about a yr now and never wash it.
i just found out today out of curiosity because i couldn't think of anything else other than maybe buckwheat that i eat.i also noticed that i have stomach pains after i eat it.going to stop for a while and see what happens.the bad thing is is that quinoa is one of my staples and i have lost a lot of weight as it is and cannot afford to lose more.
January 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterb haverly
Hi B Haverly,

have you been tested for celiac disease? if you haven't, there is a rash called dermatitis herpetiformis that is celiac related. A lot of doctors are not familiar with this, yet.

Here is how you get tested - review this whether you have had the test or not, it is the latest info from the Center for Celiac research:

Another thought is that you need to get gluten-free quinoa and gluten-free buckwheat - if not certified, tested gluten-free, many grains and quinoa and flax etc. are often processed with gluten grains. Since they share the same factory and machinery, a great deal of cross contamination can occur. In other words, even though buckwheat and quinoa are naturally "gluten-free", the grains you buy could be heavily cross contaminated with gluten. If you have gluten sensitivity, you can have serious symptoms that are similar to celiac diseae, but it appears that the small intestine is not damaged. It's a newly discovered immune response. Read more here:

Also, quinoa & buckwheat have similar proteins to wheat, so there is something called a cross-reaction that tests might not pick up. Your body thinks that you are eating wheat, b/c the structure of the protein is similar enough to wheat that your immune system gets confused. There is a new test called the ALCAT test that tests for the white blood cells. something to ask your doctor about, perhaps! But it is thought to be much more accurate than the IgG testing, and catches different types of immune response than the skin prick (IgE) testing does.

Finally, there are people who have allergies to both quinoa and buckwheat. Again, it depends upon what type of allergy testing you have done, but there are some alternative testing that is a bit more accurate.

Does this help? All of this is something to discuss with your doctor and I hope this helps you!! Feel free to ask more questions and in the meantime, much success and healing to you, and let us know if we can help you further on your healing journey.

BKV - thank you very much for the link to the lovely blog in Finland!
Hi there
I've just tried quinoa for the first time in the past few days. I have now had two episodes of incredibly painful cramping in lower left intestinal area. At first I thought it was just a regular monthly ovulation pain (it's in the same area), but that pain has never been this bad! My husband suggested "maybe it's the quinoa" simply because I'd never had it before. I am not coeliac, nor am I gluten intolerant, so this sensitivity as far as I am concerned has nothing to do with either. I am wondering whether the quinoa is simply causing some extra gas production and perhaps that is what is causing the pain. Very disappointing as we really enjoyed the quinoa (well, my husband still can, as he's had no problems)
July 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkaz
Hi Kaz!

Thanks for your comment. What a mystery! It is possible, according to my consulting nutritionists and physician, to have an allergic reaction of some kind or a sensitivity to quinoa without having one to gluten. However, I would make a visit to a very good doc to be sure that the pain doesn't have to do with a deeper issue.

Feel better!
As a person who suffered a life-threatening reaction to the stuff (3 times over so yeah I'm sure - I watched my 14 month old suffer the same on one of these occasions) I can tell you that a quinoa reaction needn't have anything to do with gluten contamination. Unwashed or improperly washed quinoa contains saponins which produce a toxic reaction in some people. Subsequent exposures produce increasingly severe symptoms, even when quinoa has been washed as the body has already flagged this food as a threat.

It may not necessarily be healthy just because it's a health food trend.
August 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmaphi
Thanks for your thoughtful and informative comment, Amaphi. Your reactions to quinoa sound dreadful, and you are not alone. We'll do a post on quinoa sensitivity/allergy in the future to help break this down further.
I just found this forum but felt the need to add my experience with quinoa. I too developed very bad stomach cramping after eating the quinoa. I did not rinse it because I didn't have anything at the time to strain it with and had no idea about the harmful toxins. I had quinoa flakes as a hot cereal prior to this experience and didn't get sick like that but didn't necessarily feel good after eating it either. I made some quinoa with chicken and veggies and shortly after eating it got extremely bad stomach cramps, felt nauseated and alternated between being hot and cold. The next day I felt like I had the flu so didn't make the connection. Two days later I had the same dish as I had leftovers and I got the same reaction. I know for sure that is what I ate on those two days because I've been logging my meals on a calorie counting app. Thanks for all the posts. I see now I'm not the only one reacting to quinoa.
October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle
Thanks very much for adding your experience to the forum, Michelle. I'm finding it interesting how many people are reacting to quinoa. It's such a great food, but people aren't aware that it must be washed, and there are some folks who have mild to severe reactions to it.

Thanks again for piping in!

After eating quinoa in a salad today I immediately felt nauseous and sick and as it is the second time that this is happening now I googled to find out if other people have experienced the same and I'm glad I found this site. Me too I'm not gluten intolerant or on a special diet, it's just quinoa!?!? I'm not having anymore, just the thought of it makes me want to throw up now :( I would love to learn more about this problem, hope somebody has more information to a possible sensitivity to quinoa without being gluten intolerant!
November 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKris
Hey Kris! Thanks for your question. It could, indeed, just be the quinoa! there are a couple reasons I can summarize for you:

1. saponins (see above): even if it says that the quinoa is pre-washed, make sure you wash it. Keep filling a bowl with the quinoa and water to rinse of all "suds". Then soak and rinse for 5 minutes before boiling

2. It could be the TYPE of quinoa. Some are more digestible than others, is what I"m finding. Two of the 15 types, Ayacuchana and Pasankalla are not safe for people w/ celiac disease or gluten allergies or sensitivities. If you don't have these issues, this might not be it.

3. Lectins can also cause problems in the small intestine in anyone, like saponins. Fermenting quinoa can reduce the lectins by quite a bit. Fermenting can be a great practice for other grains as well.

We are doing more research on this as we can. I also found a really great article on another blog that I'll post, but I'd like to have one of my consulting nutritionists take a look at it before I do. Some people handle quinoa just fine, and others do not. It might not be the food for you! or it might simply be that more prep needs to be done. And some people can have a quinoa allergy, too.
Here is an article, too, that we had posted above, about the different types of quinoa and some of the research being done on it. Seems good to post again.
I too have had the nausea / stomach cramp / hot & cold feeling after eating quinoa. I had eaten it several times with no reaction and then all of a sudden I reacted badly after luch out one day eating a quinoa salad. Didn't link it to the quinoa then but cooked the flakes as porrige one morning a couple of weeks later and had an even worse reaction, with the pain and nausea unbearable until I brought it all up! Definitely not my style as it was 24 years since I had vomited! I have tried it again recenty to see what would happen and had the same reaction, I did all the right things and rinsed it super thoroughly but I'm sorry to say it's no more quinoa for me. Glad to hear I'm not alone. Will be interested to hear any furthur information as it comes available.
November 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCate