#PSA Wash your Quinoa Unless you Want a Food Allergy – life+running

#PSA Wash your Quinoa Unless you Want a Food Allergy

EDIT ON JULY 25, 2013:

For those of you just joining me from a Google search, Pinterest, or somebody else’s blog, please read my update on this situation when you’re done reading this article as it has more information about food allergies in general.

If you’ve eaten quinoa (washed or unwashed) and had an allergic reaction, you’ll likely have another allergic reaction to quinoa no matter how much you wash it next time. Your body saw the quinoa protein come in with the toxin and probably will recognize the protein AS the toxin. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild itching … to DEATH. So be very careful!


I don’t normally post twice in a day, but this is important. Very important. It affects my health, and it potentially can affect the health of many, many others as the popularity of quinoa has grown exponentially since the advent of Pinterest and paleo-esque diets.

I’m having a pretty moderate reaction to my breakfast right now. I had quinoa, which was leftover from a batch I had on Wednesday night, which was followed by a MASSIVE 8-hour-long stomachcrampfest and near-death pain (okay not near-death but it freaking hurt). I chalked it up to the fact that I had bananas (see my note at the bottom) that day, and figured I’d just quit the naners for a while.

I’m now making the connection as I’m having some of the same symptoms as the other day, and haven’t had a banana since (YES  I can have bananas again!).

So … you’d think if there was a toxic substance in a food that can easily be removed by washing properly, there might be a WARNING label somewhere on the package.

Nope. Not with quinoa.

Quinoa has a naturally occurring toxic substance on it that can easily be removed by washing it properly.

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. So you really should not eat it.

From what I’ve read all over the internets in my desperate attempt to find some relief is that if you have a reaction from quinoa like this, that if you ingest the saponin, your body will start to recognize the grain itself as being dangerous, and regardless of how much you wash it, you will continue to have reactions that worsen each time you eat it.

So bye, bye, quinoa. You are one of my favorite gluten-free grains. I guess I can add this to my already mile-long list of things I can’t eat. And to think, it could have been prevented if a simple WARNING LABEL was put on the packaging, or along with any quinoa recipes I’ve seen, giving proper cleaning instructions.

wash quinoa properly before eating or you could develop an irreversible allergy to the grain // lifeplusrunning.com // PLEASE REPIN

[source for original quinoa image]

Consider this your warning, and please pin this image and pass along as much as possible because it’s such a simple thing to do to avoid having to deal with a food allergy, or being in pain for hours on end. 

I’ve included a warning on all my quinoa recipes so that those who come across any of my recipes will at least have been warned of this issue.

This post about allergic reactions to quinoa gives instructions for washing your quinoa. Please read the instructions and wash this grain properly so you don’t develop an allergy and aren’t able to enjoy it anymore as I have done.

Here’s some more info about quinoa allergies.

I’m off to take some benedryl. I’m hoping that if I can wash a batch properly that I will not have this same reaction (send me some good vibes!)


Do you have food allergies?

I’ve never had an actual food allergy before. I’m sensitive to gluten and if I ingest a lot, I get really sick a few days later. I’m also sensitive to inulin, which is why bananas and onions sometimes make me sick (unless cooked).

98 Comment

  1. Dawn says: Reply

    I have been eating quinoa for some time now, and have be exsperiencing awful pain just below my ribs in the middle? Could this also be due to the quinoa?
    You speak of stomach cramps, but what part of the stomach did you exsperience pain?

    1. AshLey C says: Reply

      Dawn i have had the same pain In the same place you describe and its
      Awful!! The only thing i can link is that i Had eateN quinoa HOurs before the pain beGan and like you, I have eaten quinoa for years. No more Quinoa for me!!!

  2. Karine says: Reply

    Pepto Bismol! Tonight was the second time I had a reaction from eating quinoa. The first time I wasn’t sure what had caused it. Today I had some again and within 15 minutes of eating it, I started to feel severe stomach cramps. After spending 3 hours curled up on the bathroom floor, my husband went and got me Pepto Bismol. It was an immediate relief! Needless to say I won’t be eating quinoa ever agsin!

  3. Nicole says: Reply

    I’ve eaten the shite quinoa with no issues. However I had bought a bad with white, red and black. The first time I had it I ended up so nauseous and barfed until I was dry heaving and nothing was coming out. I needed gravol and spent the rest of the afternoon in bed. I chalked it up to a stomach bug. That was to months ago. Last night I thought I’d try it again. I made it for work this morning. I mixed in my seasonings and took a spoonful to sample. I was feeling fine at work then all of a sudden I had horrible stomach cramps and started to puke at work until I was dry heaving. Came home and dry heaved until it hurt so bad. I again took gravol. Both times it’s been accompanied by diarrhea. It may be a coincidence but this is the only thing common in both instances.

    1. dancingtree says: Reply

      The black & red quinoa is undigestible to my system. Even with tons of digestive enzymes & bitters. Apparently the white is much easier to digest. Hoping that switching to the white quinoa will help both of us!

  4. Susie says: Reply

    Thanks for this! I ate quinoa porridge in two cool cafes with 8 days between eatings. Had a violent reaction both times! Confirmed intolerance to quinoa. Both times severe abdominal cramping, diahorrea and vomiting.

  5. Kristy says: Reply

    Huzaaah just had a breakthrough moment where I now know it was the quinoa, not the other food I have eaten that is causing this horrible pain. I had made a chilli con carne (not too spicy) and we tried to be healty and have this with quinoa instead of rice. Both times I tried to eat this for lunch, two seperate days I was sick. I am talking worst heartburn like symptoms ever, nausea and general discomfort enough to spend those two afternoons in the work toilet vomiting.

    I didn’t eat the chilli con carne again. My partner had no issues ever. Today…2 months later I have had quinoa in a super food salad and a half hour later, bam the familiar pain! So now I know it is the quinoa, not the spice or the tomato in my chilli. Feel shocking now.

  6. Pascal says: Reply

    After eating Quinoa for a week and some change without rinsing, i broke out in hives all over my body. The hives are responsive to heat, so they would flare up after a hot shower or a heavy blanket. For awhile I had no idea what was going on. I rushed to the doctor only to have them PRESCRIBE me a steroid, which i did not take, but instead eliminated the quinoa from my diet completely. It’s day 6 since i last had this wonderful Seed that i adore, and my symptoms are lessening. I’ve been fasting for the most part and when i do eat, I eat fresh veggies. Also I’m taking a B12 SUPPLEMENT which helps control the hives. No one ever told me to rinse it! I’m so sad! I wish I had done some research on prep. Feeling so foolish.

    1. Calee says: Reply

      Bummer! I feel you. I haven’t touched it since I wrote this post years ago. Good luck!

  7. Niki says: Reply

    I had the same reaction even after washing and soaking my quinoa. I treid amaranth the other day and the same thing HAPPEned – terrible stomach pains that lasted 6-9 hours, curled up in a ball. Watch out for amaranth as it’s in the same family.I’ll never eat quinoa or AMARANTH again 🙁
    Also, Like SUGArfoot mentioned in the comments – I too cant eat bell peppers (or honey dew and CANTALOUPE melons), i get the same reaction as the quinoa. Still trying to figure out what those foods have in common….. Thanks for posting about this!

  8. Janelle says: Reply

    Washing makes no difference.

    I Ate quinoa – washed, sometimes soaked – once every week or so for about a year with no problems. Then I had the stomach cramp reaction after eating a quinoa and vegie bake. I thought maybe it was the cheese topping or perhaps the spinach I used had been a bit wrong and once I had recovered thought no more about it. Two weeks later I ate quinoa again – one mouthful of a pizza made with a quinoa base. Just one mouthful. The stomach cramps came again, even worse, and this time I worked out what was causing it. Both times the quinoa had been thoroughly washed.

    I don’t eat quinoa any more. I don’t really miss it, I was never all that fond of the taste.

    I’m getting really tired of seeing quinoa constantly promoted as a ‘super food’ though. t’s not so super being curled up in a ball feeling Like you are about to re-enact the alien emerging from the human body scene in ‘Alien’.

    1. Calee says: Reply

      Yeah — once you have the allergy, washing makes no difference. I have to be super careful about it being an ingredient in food (WTF … I saw it’s now in some multigrain cheerios???).

      LOVE the description of the Alien reenactment. ACCURATE. Let’s avoid quinoa together! Cheers.

  9. Thank you so much for this post! I am now sure I’m allergic to quinoa. I ended up in the emergency room twice last year with horrible stomach cramping thinking surely I was dying. I put it down to eating too much raw kale (part of a quinoa salad) and stress. Last week I had quinoa and ended up so sick within an hour, then again today and surprise, surprise, I am back in bed abdominal cramps. Never again!!

  10. namda says: Reply

    Yep. I tried for first time quinoa as read from many pages how great seed it is. None of those pages told to be really careful. However i washed pretty propelly the seeds in cool water (probably boiling water would have been better option after all). Cooked about 30 mins. After couple first spoonfuls i got strange stomach vibrations but i didn’t realise i should be careful. Kept eating almost whole plateful until realised things really aren’t right. Got increasing vibration sensation around body. Itchy all over the body. Heat sensations. Sort of pains around body. These lasted whole day. So my first and last time i ate quinoa. They should warn ppl to be more careful and really wash in boiling water at least.

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