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Food Allergy to legumes & cross-reactivity to pollen

Food allergy to peanuts, beans, peas, lentils, chick peas, lupine, and soy

Food allergy caused by eating legumes is not rare, and is increasing. Easily the most famous of these legume allergies is peanut allergy. Peanut allergy can be very dangerous, deadly, and some 80% or more of people (often children) with an allergy to peanuts, will also test allergic to different kinds of pollen.

Cross reactive with peanut allergy:

Cross-reactivity occurs when the immune system mistakes a similar protein or chemical composition for an allergen, causing an adverse reaction. The immune system may react to foods or to pollen from plants in the same botanical family.
Since peanuts are in the legume family, anyone with peanut allergy would be much more susceptible to pollen from peanuts or other legume plants. In the garden or landscape these would include: flowers of sweet peas, flowers from vines like wisteria, and from the pollen and flowers of shrubs and trees such as acacia, honeylocust, locust, catalpa, carob, mesquite, redbud, and jacaranda. None of these would be good choices for planting in the yards of anyone who had allergy to peanut…or for that matter, in the yard of anyone with any serious food allergies to any legumes.

In addition, there is considerable food allergy cross-reactivity within the legumes themselves. Someone who is allergic to any legume food, be it peas, lentils, beans, peanuts, soy, etc. will be almost 80% more likely to already be allergic to at least one other legume food….and one out of three with a known food allergy to any legume, will turn out to be allergic to all of them.

Often the reaction from a food or pollen allergy to legumes will exhibit itself as atopic dermatitis, as an itchy skin rash. Skin rash caused by soy or soy products is more likely to cause this dermatitis than is allergy to peanut.

In some areas the most common food allergy is one caused by lentils, and this is always an area where lentils make up a large part of the diet due to local customs. Likewise, in certain other areas, the most common food allergy to legumes is caused by eating chick peas (also known as garbanzo beans), and this too occurs in areas where they are a frequent part of the common diet.

In certain parts of northern Europe lupine seed is ground up, made into flour and eaten; sometimes lupine seeds are eaten whole. Cross-reactivity between peanut allergy and lupine allergy is quite common, and in areas where lupines are consumed, as many as half of all those with a food allergy to peanuts, will also become allergic to eating lupine seed or flour.
With the above in mind, all those who have a legume allergy of any kind, would be wise not to grow lupines in their own gardens.

Hormones & Legumes:
There is another possible health consideration with legumes that might be worth considering for some, hormones. Certain foods tend to be either estrogenic (female) or androgenic (male). Because of over-use of estrogenic compounds in agriculture (to get hens to lay more eggs, to get animals to fatten up quicker, to get cows to give more milk, etc.) there has been considerable contamination of our food products, our water, soil and air with these estrogenic compounds. When you read about male fish developing ovaries, for example, that is an example of excess estrogen. Furthermore, pollutants from pesticides and plastics leach out hormone mimicking substances that are often estrogenic…these are called xanoestrogens, and they are very powerful.
With this above to consider, it can be helpful to know that legumes as a whole are estrogenic. Too much estrogen is thought to trigger many diseases, including prostate and breast cancers. This is not to say that we shouldn’t eat legumes, they are often high in protein and contain useful vitamins, nonetheless, it could be wise not to eat them too often.

One last tip here: Allergies, food allergy or pollen allergy, or any other kind of allergy, “allergy most often occurs because of continued over-exposure to a possible allergen over an extended period of time.
Knowing this, it always makes good sense not to eat the same foods over and over again, day after day. With legumes this would include such things as peanut butter, tofu, soy sauce, lima beans, pinto beans, white beans, red beans, green beans, lentils, and chick peas. This kind of constant repetition can result in over-exposure, and thus help trigger an initial allergic reaction. Once an allergy to food or pollen has been triggered, then, in the future every time one is again re-exposed, the symptoms become worse, and in the case of legume allergies, more dangerous. It always makes sense to avoid triggering an allergy in the first place.

MD Ibáñez - “In our study, 82 % of the children allergic to legumes had a sensitization to pollen. “
Legume cross-reactivity: Ibáñez MD, Martínez M, Sánchez JJ, Fernández-Caldas E.
Servicio de Alergia del Hospital Niño Jesús, Madrid. Spain.

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