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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.

104 Responses to Allergic Reaction to Hemp Foods

  1. Jane says:

    5 years ago I ate hemp hearts 3 different times (once in a smoothie twice with yogurt) and each time I became violently ill. I have never in my life had such bad stomach cramping with severe vomiting. Each episode lasted 7 hours with having some minutes of relief from the pain only when I was throwing up and that included bile when there was nothing left in my stomach. Because I had the hemp over a period of a month, it didn’t connect till the third time. I would not wish this on anyone.

  2. Susan says:

    In the past I have gotten violently ill from just eating a small amount of brownie crumbs from pot brownies. This herb does not like me. For some strange reason I felt compelled to buy a bag of hemp seed hearts probably from reading about good-for-you products. I don’t dare try them after reading about other people’s reactions. I’m quite sure my reaction wasn’t allergic but I definitely have an extreme intolerance. I would like to learn more about this.

  3. Mia says:

    I, too, have had violent stomach cramping and vomiting following the ingestion of hemp protein in smoothies on two occasions. I do my best to avoid a third encounter with this food to which I appear to have a severe intolerance.

    Also, I developed a persistent rash (took 2 weeks to clear)after a single use of a muscle salve in which hemp oil was the only previously untried ingredient. As a result, I suspect I am also intolerant of topical contact with hemp derived substances.

  4. Crystal Moore says:

    I’ve eaten a plant based diet for 7yrs with no issues. I always eat oatmeal in the mornings with flaxseed. One day I decided to mix it up and try the hemp seeds for extra protein. I started to break out in what I thought was spider bites. I tore my bedroom apart looking for a spider and nothing. Going forward I alternated the hemp with the flax only to get worse. I was covered head to toe in hives. I suffered from hives for 10months and went to specialist, doctors, dermatologists no one could tell me what the cause was till I finally had one cut off and sent to pathology. They said it was something I was eating. So after 10wks of hell I stopped the hemp and hives resolved. Never again will I ever eat them.

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