Chickpea Allergy Guide | Lifelab Testing

Chickpea Allergy Guide

Last Updated: 21st November 2022 · Written by Kate Young

Chickpeas, or Garbanzo beans, are dried seeds called pulses. Chickpeas belong to the legumes family and are an essential food source to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. It is also a common source of protein for those following vegetarian and plant-based diets. In the UK, chickpeas are primarily consumed in hummus and falafel as core ingredients. The most commonly consumed types of legumes are lentils, chickpea, beans, and peas. The most common legume allergy is lentils, followed by chickpeas {1}.

Even though chickpeas allergy exists, it’s not as common as other allergies such as milk and eggs. Common symptoms of chickpea allergy include skin reactions and, in severe cases, anaphylactic shock. Even though an uncommon allergy, chickpea allergy can be severe and life-threatening. Within this guide, we will discuss chickpea allergy as well as intolerance, and methods of testing.

What is chickpea allergy?

As with all food allergies, chickpea allergy occurs in extreme cases when one eats or touches this legume. Upon proteins in chickpeas getting into the bloodstream, the immune system treats them like invaders. Certain proteins in chickpeas like globulin, albumin, and prolamin are retained even after cooking, and they’re the cause of allergic reactions. Once your body assumes these proteins are harmful invaders, it makes proteins called IgE antibodies. These antibodies then attach themselves to the proteins leading to the release of chemicals known as histamines. The production of histamines is what causes chickpea allergy symptoms.

Chickpea allergy symptoms

Chickpea allergy symptoms are similar to those of other food allergies. You’ll notice that symptoms appear soon after consuming chickpeas or in a few hours. The severity of chickpea allergy symptoms varies from one person to the next. While some people have mild symptoms, others have severe and intense symptoms. Common chickpea allergy symptoms include:

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  • Burning or tingling in your mouth.
  • Itchy mouth.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Nausea.
  • Swelling in the mouth, throat, face, or other body parts.
  • Throwing up.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Red, itchy skin without bumps.
  • Sneezing.
  • Itchy eyes.
  • Wheezing.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Itchy, red, raised bumps called hives.

Sometimes it can be difficult to ascertain which food item is causing your allergy symptoms, since there can be many ingredients in food products. Because of this, taking an allergy test is beneficial to rule out different foods and get an indicator of which items your body doesn’t agree with.

Chickpea allergy cross-reactivity

When suffering from chickpea allergy, it is possible to experience allergy symptoms when eating foods processed or cooked in the same environment or facility as chickpeas. These foods can be contaminated with chickpea protein leading to cross-contamination.

Cross-reactivity also occurs when you eat foods that contain proteins similar to those in the one you’re allergic to. For example, if you have a chickpeas allergy, you can have cross-reactivity to foods like {2}:

  • Green peas.
  • Kidney beans.
  • Fava beans.
  • Fenugreek.
  • Black-eyed peas.
  • Peanuts.
  • Black beans.
  • Haricot beans.

Therefore, it’s important to be aware if you’re trying a different legume, you may experience the same symptoms.

Chickpea allergy in babies

Usually, food allergies develop within the first year of life. Because of this, you will likely notice a chickpea allergy when you begin to introduce baby food containing the food item into your child’s diet. Chickpea allergy in babies shows up within a few minutes upto two hours of consuming these legumes. Symptoms of chickpea allergy in babies may appear after inhalation during cooking, touching, or oral ingestion. If your baby is allergic to chickpeas, you’ll notice similar symptoms to the ones listed above. Common symptoms include skin redness, hives, rashes, and inflammation. In some cases, chickpea symptoms can worsen, and anaphylaxis can occur, a very severe condition that, if not treated, may be life-threatening. If your child suffers from chickpea allergy, you must have an EpiPen to carry at all times in case of an emergency.

Chickpea intolerance

Even if you don’t suffer from chickpea allergy, you may experience symptoms because of chickpea intolerance. Chickpeas intolerance arises when we lack the enzyme required to digest it. This leads to fermentation in the large intestines and gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating and stomach ache. Unlike chickpea allergy, chickpea intolerance isn’t life-threatening, nor does it trigger the immune system. The symptoms can be uncomfortable and diminish your quality of life, but they won’t threaten it. You can learn more about the difference between a good allergy and food intolerance.

We do not possess the enzymes required to break down certain FODMAPS, and chickpeas are among those. Chickpeas are made up of oligosaccharides. These sugars can also be found in foods like rye, onions, and garlic. This means that chickpeas can easily pass through the mouth, stomach, and small intestines without breaking down. Upon arrival in the large intestines, they ferment, causing you a lot of discomfort.

If you have an intolerance but want to continue eating chickpeas, the best way to reduce the chances of symptoms is by soaking them overnight. This reduces the sugars in them significantly, preventing you from having gas problems. Another way to help your stomach, too, would be to supplement the enzyme that could aid in the digestion of chickpeas. Supplementation allows you to consume chickpeas and not suffer gastrointestinal issues.

When you’re suffering from certain digestive tract diseases, it is wise to avoid chickpeas as they may worsen your condition and symptoms. These conditions include:

  • Crohn’s disease.
  • Ulcerative colitis.
  • Diverticulitis.
  • Chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction.
  • Lactose intolerance.
  • Hirschsprung disease.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome.

Chickpea Intolerance Symptoms

The severity or mildness of chickpea intolerance symptoms varies from one individual to the next. The most common symptoms include:

  • Bloating.
  • Headaches.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Excessive gas.

If you’re unsure which food is causing your intolerance symptoms, we recommend you order a complete intolerance test, which analyses your sample against 159 food items. Your results will indicate which items could be causing you issues, so you can begin to make lifestyle changes, starting with an elimination diet.

References

1. Martínez San Ireneo, M., Ibáñez, M. D., Sánchez, J. J., Carnés, J., & Fernández-Caldas, E. (2008). Clinical features of legume allergy in children from a Mediterranean area. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 101(2), 179–184. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1081-1206(10)60207-4

2. Bar-El Dadon, S., Pascual, C. Y., & Reifen, R. (2014). Food allergy and cross-reactivity-chickpea as a test case. Food chemistry, 165, 483–488. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.05.138

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