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Allergic Reaction to Hemp Foods

Posted on July 9, 2014

Types of AllergiesAllergies and food intolerance seem to be on the rise. Poor physical responses to food are frustrating it makes something that is necessary and should be enjoyable — eating — uncomfortable and possibly dangerous.

One of the unintended consequences of food intolerance is that it makes people think more about the food and start to dig into the science. This is a positive over the long run, but for most consumers this is a bit daunting as food science is always evolving and food reporting through the media is sometimes not as up to date as it can be.

Some of the most common food allergies include: Eggs, Milk, Mustard, Peanuts, Seafood (Fish, Crustaceans and Shellfish), Sesame, Soy, Sulphites (a common food additive, usually used as a preservative such as for dried fruit), Tree Nuts, and Wheat (Gluten). While children are very susceptible, many allergies can be outgrown as the body’s immune system learns to respond to specific proteins. However, some allergies such as peanuts are very persistent, and are difficult for most people to outgrow.

Is Hemp an Allergen?

Hemp foods are undergoing a contemporary renaissance. The hemp food industry has expanding steadily for the last 15 years, driving acreage and building the case for hemp’s cultivation in the United States. In today’s market, hemp foods are available in many whole forms including hemp oil and shelled hemp seed as well as ready-to-eat and lightly processed products including milk, fiber, breads, bars, granola, cereal, ice cream, and more. One cultural paradox is that while hemp seeds have a long global history of human consumption, a lot of this tradition has been lost due to cannabis prohibition. As a result hemp foods are still relatively unknown and so we have people with no modern cultural connections with hemp trying it in their diets for the first time. It’s understandable there may be concerns about this “new” food because of its relative novelty. But like the tomato and potato, continental foods that went global, hemp has a lot to offer the world’s diet.

Whole Hemp SeedsFor those who might need a recap, the skinny on hemp is that it’s a great source of easily digestible vegetable protein, dietary fiber and healthy culinary oil packed full of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

The good news to date is that hemp has no documented allergies. However, there is no reason to suspect that there will not be reported allergies in the future. People being a diverse lot, we pretty much have to wait and see.

Further, there is a difference between a food allergy and food intolerance. True allergies involve a failure in the immune system and can create systematic shock and be life threatening, while a food intolerance derives from poor digestibility or adverse reaction. Only 1-4% of the population has a true food allergy, but many more are food intolerant. One theory is that food intolerances are increasing as more people become reliant on processed foods in their diets. Food engineering to increase gluten content, increased fructose levels, as well as preservatives to add shelf life and other additives are developments that the body has not learned to cope with.

After 15 years, we’ve learned a lot about hemp and food reactions. Here’s a few common experiences ones worth talking about a bit more.

Fiber

Hemp is an excellent source of dietary fiber, over competing bran, whole grains and peas, and some hemp food products like protein powder contain very high amounts, with 20 grams of fiber for every serving (30 grams is the recommended daily allowance). Given widespread reliance on highly processed ready-to-eat & food-in-a- box diets, a lot of people aren’t used to having that much good fiber. So it can be a small shock to the body. Some people find it makes their bowel movements more regular.

Fiber should be added gradually to the diet. The body needs a bit of time to produce the right amount of natural digestive bacteria. People aged fifty plus need less fiber — as a rule of thumb 80% of amount recommended daily allowance is considered sufficient for most.

Gluten

Gluten Free Foods

Gluten is a common protein found in wheat and other grains like barley and rye. Bakers prize it as it helps dough stay together. However, the protein is an allergen hazardous to people who suffer from Celiac disease, which is a genetic condition related to the small intestine that makes such a protein indigestible.The broader health effects are challenging, as many celiacs risk losing important nutrients (including fiber) in their diets. While Celiac disease is uncommon, and roughly affects 1% of the population, it’s reasonable to assume that many people are undiagnosed. Complicating the issue Gluten has also been identified as a health culprit in the larger population, through such popular books as Wheat Belly, and the trendy proliferation of gluten-free diets, but the science on these sort of claims is disputed. However, given what we know about food intolerances, there is probably something to chew on here.

The good news is that hemp is verified gluten free. It is also reckoned to be complete protein. Hemp Protein contains edisten, which is similar to the human body’s own globular proteins found in the blood, hemp is extremely digestible. So not only is hemp a good substitute for other grains, it is also a better protein in many ways.

Do You Know More?

This is a short article, and we’re really just touching on the subject. Food and diet can be a very personal experience, and people have diverse needs and conditions, reactions and preferences. Global Hemp is interested in hearing more about folk’s reactions to including hemp in their diet: whether negative or positive. Let us know how hemp has worked for you by commenting below.

About the Author

is a Canadian writer who has been covering the growing hemp industry on a professional basis since 1997. He has contributed to numerous farm and nonfarm publications regarding the many aspects of industrial hemp. In 1999, he started the Hemp Commerce & Farming Report, later renamed The Hemp Report, as an online magazine to serve and promote the North American Hemp Industry.

  • sirderek

    i have an extreme hemp seed allergy

  • JS

    My whole mouth swells up when I drink hemp milk. Who knows what would happen if I ingested a lot of it.

  • jimbo

    I too have had horrible allergic reactions to hemp protein powder. Ive tried it twice deliberately and once without realising the product was hemp based. Similar symptoms to those others have described: within minutes a tingly throat and feeling rotten; within an hour my eyes and nose are streaming and then I’m violently sick; anything that isn’t chucked up later comes out violently the other end! Bloody horrible stuff! :-0

  • SnarkAint4Sissies

    Do the world a favor and down a few gallons (with your Hennessy) LoL

  • JS

    Troll on troll. *Yawn you are boring*

  • SnarkAint4Sissies

    Look you stupid homey, I would shove my foot up your ass but I don’t want to lose a shoe. Now stop stalking me and fuck off.

  • Jeremy Goodell

    For the third time, my 13-year old daughter got violently ill from hemp seeds last night. She didn’t even know she’d eaten them, but it was listed near the bottom of the ingredients for a Peace Protein Flakes cereal. Each time she’s gotten sick from hemp seeds, it results in her throwing up 3-4 times about an hour after ingesting. I’ll definitely be searching out hemp in all ingredients lists from now on. Would be nice if it was listed as an allergen like wheat and nuts. I’ve seen PLENTY of people reporting this condition on various articles about the benefits of hemp seeds.

  • Melissa Ambacher Schoenbachler

    I have the same exact symptoms as well!! I thought I was going to pass out from it. My mother and son are also allergic to it.

  • Dot Hamilton

    Isn’t it good to hear you are not alone Melissa…. I was so scared at first about what was wrong with me as I had read about what a great food for health hemp was….so I didn’t associate with the hemp right away…..it was only after another few weeks of having green smoothies with this in it that I managed to isolate the cause……I had absolutely no idea it was the ‘cousin’ of cannabis. I do now know this to be 100% the cause as I have been fine since I stopped ‘using!!!’. Take care xx

  • Barry Simmons

    Yes Yes Yes….two hours after drinking a smoothie I broke out all over…had to go to ER with IV meds…kept me over night. Went back to the place and they said the protein boost was hemp based. Never again!

  • cory

    Unfortunately I am allergic to hemp as well. I first found out by eating hemp hearts. Various articles stated it could be pollen and unwashed hemp hearts. I then found out even more severely through hemp protein powder. The hearts made my body itch, I was sweating, throat closed slightly and I became sore in the throat with coughing and my eyes were red and watery. The protein powder made me vomit within 10 minutes and I also was it itchy with hives. It socks because the Omega ratio is near perfect for our bodies. You win some you lose some.

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  • Beadybonce

    Alas it is often histamine which is the culprit rather than an actual allergy. Seeds and nuts are either high in histamines or are histamine triggers. So if you suffer from histamine side effects, monitor your hemp intake. Perhaps buying hemp which is not hulled is better if you make your own milk? Then sieve it rather than use hulled seeds which made have oxidised. Either way, I had to cut it out of my diet.

  • Beadybonce

    Actually its the histamine levels. The current fad for replacing protein with seeds and nuts will see more of this type of reaction. Hemp is not the wonder food we’d like it to be.

  • Beadybonce

    A double dose of histamine then. Hemp and sea food.

  • Beadybonce

    This is classic histamine overdose and the fact Benadryl sorted it out proves the point!

  • Beadybonce

    No you aren’t! Lots of people have this reaction to hemp! Check out the histamine diet and see what else you might react to. Plus any oily food which is oxidised can become pretty deadly.

  • Nicole

    After reading so many posts on bad reactions I’m so disappointed. :(( this is my second week making hemp protein shakes and I LOVE them! But I thought these headaches and nausea was bc the hemp was detoxing my body. But I have THE worst migraine and I don’t think I have experienced this ever in my life. Almost feels like I’m having mini brain seizures in my head. Is that even possible?? I feel like I should go to the dr. For blood work my body feels extremely weak as well.

  • Bryan Clarke

    What was your symptoms?

  • I_Heart_Slurpee

    I had a severe reaction to hemp hearts within 20 mins of consumption. Spent the day in ER getting a Benadryl IV drip. The doctor said that hemp allergies are more common than most know.

  • M.Dillon

    Hi ~ Thank you for your article. A relative of mine sent me a box of vegan protein shakes w/hemp in it and, since I had severe reactions to its cousin marijuana, admittedly, I was concerned. You have allayed those fears. 🙂

  • Kyle Reid

    Hi, I am allergic to hemp hearts. I have gone into shock, my lips swell up, body gets covered in hives and it gets hard to breathe. I now carry an epipen and need to go straight to the ER to get a steroid to reverse the reaction or I will likely die.

  • Lindsay Bannister

    Surprised this article says no reports of it being an allergen…
    I’m allergic to hemp.. If I consume even the smallest bit my symptoms are coughing, itchy mouth/throat, blisters or hives in my mouth, and mucus secretion from my airways inflaming. So yes, anaphylactic shock symptoms. Glad I only had a tiny bit on the tip of my finger to try out the taste and had Benadryl . Reaction happened within three minutes. I’m not saying it means it isn’t healthy, I wish I could consume it. But I think anyone allergic to anything in its family they know of should avoid it or be cautious. It IS a weed. I’m allergic to weed pollens, so it could be why.

  • Graham Ansell

    Everybody is different, Hemp seed, oil and protein gives me headaches and dizziness, but that’s just me body talking.

  • Graham Ansell

    I get dizziness and headache, nausea too ..

  • Åtgaum Engelskvold

    I have read these negative hemp comments elsewhere,with different names.All bundled together,like it was prob. done in a day.Someone is trying really hard to give Hemp a bad name.

  • Jennifer

    I am researching issues with hemp seeds and have found this page. I have had two distinct episodes of sudden and intense naseua, stomach pain, diarrhea, and dizziness. I had a different bar each time that contained hemp seeds. It seems as though I am having a reaction to them. The ingredients are very simple, but all of the energy/protein bars I normally consume do not have hemp seeds in them. I am sitting here having just gone through the second reaction after eating only a curate bar. I need to isolate what caused the reaction. I don’t care to do this a third time.

  • Gabriel de Cuba

    Wondering if my situation is unique? I’m a regular cannabis smoker (about 10 yrs) with a, recently discovered, bad allergy to hemp seeds/oil ! I found out the hard way after making a hemp smoothie for the first time. An hour later I had hives (itchy) everywhere, headache and the most painful stomach ache of my life. Seriously, like curled up in the fetal position in the shower kind of pain. I still continue to smoke cannabis without any adverse side effects. I find this sort of odd. As a test, I rubbed cannabis buds on my wrist and sure enough, about 15 minutes later I had a small itchy rash, with hives and all. (neutralized with apple cider vinegar) Anyone else out there have a similar situation ?

  • Matt Grimm

    Last night I ate an apple cinnamon hemp seed heart snack bar made by Manitoba Harvest. Halfway through the snack bar my mouth instantly became itchy. What followed that was the worst 4 hours of my entire life, sicker than I have EVER been. I have NO known allergies to anything else, other than a very, very slight intolerance to walnuts. HEMP seeds were 100% the cause of my allergic reaction that left me feeling like I was going to die. They are absolutely an allergen.

  • disqus_bVgYuQ9ebZ

    Bad reaction to hemp hearts!!!

    So I bought myself some hemp hearts from Costco yesterday after seeing one serving has 10 grams of protein! Came home, had a smoothie with other ingredients I have on a daily basis (except chia seeds which I’ve had on occasion in the past), and then it started.
    I’ve had minor allergic reactions to some foods before usually apples that have been doused in pesticides which caused my lips to itch and swell and also gave me a little tickle at the back of my throat but nothing ever like this.
    Throat swelling, chest tighten really bad, everything on me is hot and itchy to the touch within minutes. I immediately took a reactine and like an idiot tried to tough it out but gave in and called 911 by the 20th minute or so of symptom onset. I’ve never ever had a reaction like this before. They give me a puffer, check my vitals and ask me to go with them to which I refused. They said I probably should get some benadryl which I did and took. I puked after that, diahhera, more puke. Looked like blood but it could’ve been the blueberries from the shake.
    Never having anything hemp every again!!!

  • Marisa

    I just had a tiny sample of a vegan ceasar dressing from ‘Hampton Creek’ and had a very bad allergic reaction as I did not realize it contained hemp seeds. The inside of my mouth and throat feel inflamed and my fingers were tingling. This is the 3rd time I’ve had an allergic reaction to hemp. The first 2 was after consuming a smoothie and chocolate containing hemp seeds–i didn’t know i had a hemp seed allergy at the time. I just took some Benadryl, hopefully it will help. So yes, hemp seed allergies do exist. We all need to be on the look out as food products containing hemp products are becoming more and more popular.

  • John T

    If you have Latex allergy then you’re allergic to hemp and any derivative of cannabis. Sad but true.

  • Matt Sawler

    I am a 27 year old healthy male and I discovered I have a very severe allergy to hemp seeds. I purchased organic hemp hearts from Manitoba Harvest.

    Two teaspoons landed me in hospital with anaphylaxis. (Severe swelling in throat and tongue, extreme difficulty breathing, vertigo, hives all over my body).

    It is my only known food allergy and scared the hell out of me because I had never experienced a serious allergic reaction.

    I think it’s a great health food for people. Though to claim it as allergin free is outrageous, it could have killed me!

  • Amy Honnert

    I’m very jittery right now after trying hemp hearts for the first time. I know I’m allergic to latex. How did you discover the correlation?

  • “No Documented cases of hemp allergy.” I can’t see how this is true. I have definitely had an allergic to hemp food and if anyone with marijuana residue walks by, I get an intense allergic reaction. I know hemp and marijuana are two different things, but they are related plants.

  • If you look it up, you will see that many people have had allergic reactions to hemp, though they may have not tried your foods. Not all hemp reactions, or allergic reactions in total, are officially reported.

  • Terry Hagen

    Yes, how did you discover?

  • Kathryn Guillaum

    I seem to be sensitive to hemp. It doesn’t take much to give me that brain foggy kind of feeling; even with the shelled hemp seed. I’ve also found that same kind of reaction when I eat “cannabis” leaves raw. I ate 3 small fans yesterday and it effected me most of the day.

  • VintageHollyGolightly

    This is absurd. I had an allergy panel and tested highly allergic.

  • VintageHollyGolightly

    My allergist tested me via a basic allergy panel. Just a pin prick.