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Spill The Beans

Spilling the beans on bean allergy!

spill the beans

Do beans agree with you?  If not, read on.  Beans are just one type of edible legume.  Other well known legumes include alfalfa, clover, peas, lentils, lupins, mesquite, carob, soybeans, peanut, tamarind and the woody climbing vine wisteria.

While there are over 40,000 types of beans in the gene banks, a small number of bean varieties are used for human consumption.  The common bean belongs to the genus/species Phaseolus vulgaris which includes pinto bean, kidney bean, black bean and green bean.  Other common beans are the fava (broad) bean (Vicia faba), lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus), and chickpea or garbanzo bean (Ciser arietinum).  Beans are an important source of protein and proteins are responsible for triggering allergies!  Interestingly, as common as beans are in the human diet, allergic reactions are uncommon.  Even though peanuts are legumes, in a U.S. study performed years ago, only 5% of children with a peanut allergy had allergic reactions to other beans tested.

In India and the Mediterranean, lentils and chickpeas have been reported to be the most common legume triggering allergic reactions in young children.  In one survey, more than 1/3 of food-allergic individuals who responded reported allergy to chickpea.  Anaphylaxis to chickpea is rare with only 1 case report published in the journal Allergy in 1997.  The 8-year-old girl with asthma developed hives and wheezing 1 hour after ingesting chickpeas.  Previously, she had asthma symptoms after inhaling the flour or the vapors when being cooked.  Her evaluation revealed positive skin and blood tests to chickpea and on ingestion challenge in a medical setting with a small amount of chickpea, she had a decrease in lung function, decrease in blood pressure and wheezing on examination.  Legume allergy, mainly to lentils and chickpeas, is the 5th most common cause of food allergy in Spanish children.  In the U.S., severe bean allergy or anaphylaxis is rare or rarely reported.  In 1998, I published a case report on bean anaphylaxis in an adult patient. Click here to read this brief report

Adverse reactions to beans:

  • Allergic: hives and skin reactions are the most common followed by rhinitis and asthma especially in children.  Bean anaphylaxis in children has not been published in the medical literature.  There is much cross reactivity between chickpea, lentil and pea but less similarities between these legumes and beans.
  • Non-Allergic: Flatulence or “gas” is the result of the bacterial fermentation of resistant starches or oligosaccharides when the usual enzymes in the gut cannot digest these carbohydrates.  This is very common and although not dangerous can be embarrassing especially in a public setting.

Treatment for Bean Allergy:

As with other food allergies, identifying and avoiding the specific bean and those beans that are cross reactive is the primary approach.  Being ready in case of an accidental exposure with self-injectable epinephrine is of paramount importance in those individuals at risk for anaphylaxis.  Cooked beans can be more allergenic than raw beans and even bean protein inhaled from cooking fumes may trigger an allergic reaction such as asthma.

At Family Allergy & Asthma Care of Montana, we investigate a wide variety of food-induced allergic reactions.  If you suspect you have had allergic reactions to beans (non-flatulent) or any other food, contact us, we can help!

This information is solely for informational purposes and not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. 
  1. Mark MarloweMark Marlowe04-08-2016

    My eyes became ichy when hit by a bit of the cool vapor coming out of a pressure cooker with mixed beans. Curious.

  2. amanda gowanamanda gowan04-07-2017

    ive never been to the doctor about this or been diagnosed by an allergist but here is what i know about myself. i have heard it called an intolerance. when i eat pinto or white beans, within minutes, it feels like my chest is caving in and its hard to breathe and i cant swallow and it lasts about 20 minutes which is a long time when you are feeling like that. however, i can eat black eyed peas, or purple hull peas. so i’m not sure what it is but it isnt fun.

    • DanielDaniel01-27-2018

      I have the exact same reaction. I also have this reaction to cucumbers and bananas

    • Bobby G.Bobby G.12-23-2018

      I have symptoms like that except my heart begins racing after a couple bites of pinto beans and then I felt kinda strange and a bit short of breath for about 20 minutes and sort of funky for a few hours after. Never had it happen to me before, started last year just after I turned 61. I thought at first there was poison in the been so I threw them out. I made some a few days later and it did the same thing. Is this an allergy or what?

  3. JeremyJeremy09-09-2017

    I drank a isolate protein drink. I think it’s made from soy bean vs whey protein, anyway I got extreme upset stomach. I threw up within 5 min. My throat was swollen and was definitely an allergic reaction. Today I ate a raw bean from my garden. Only had one but I feel the same reaction as I’m typing. Much less extreme of course. Again only had one.

  4. KarenKaren12-27-2017

    One never hears much about legume allergy. I had a reaction the last time I ate hummus. My mouth started burning as if on fire. I remember going home from school after eating beans the day before. I had gas all the way up into my chest. It was terrible pain. I love the texture and flavor of beans, but every time I try to eat them I end up paying for it… even with Beano. It’s so painful. I guess my body just doesn’t have the enzymes necessary to digest them. Anyone else?

  5. JenniferJennifer01-30-2018

    Hi. My daughter is allergic to beans. She’s Caucasian Northern European. She had an anaphylactic response to black beans when she was 19 months (immediate severe hives/vomiting, EPi administered). She is six now, went for a food challenge today after recent blood work and skin results came back negative. A second skin test showed positive and we canceled her challenge. She is also reactive to pinto, lentil. Allergic to peanut.

  6. ALYALY04-22-2018

    I didn’t realize this was rare, but my child has severe reaction to chickpeas. After ingesting and touching hummus he broke out in blistering hives all over his body immediately, his face got puffy, lips blue, instantly soiled a diaper and the crying was out of this world. The paramedics sort of did the wrong thing and treated him with antihistamine not epinephrine, however, it did help. He was less than a year old at the time and tested positive on a blood test shortly after.

  7. Rev. Robert H. Grube Jr.Rev. Robert H. Grube Jr.05-09-2018

    I’m a 40yr old, white male. I’m extremely allergic to only takes minutes from the time I eat beans b4 my face, tongue, and throat begin to swell. Apparently this is such a rare allergy that I’ve even had Drs tell me that there is no such thing as a bean allergy. But, I’m here to tell you that it’s real and very dangerous. I’ve been rushed to ER several times before I figured out what was causing it Drs were no help whatsoever and still have an issue with Drs believing it. I’m allergic to kidney beans to peas to chick peas. I don’t even dare to try anything with any sort of beans in it. Surprisingly enough, I am NOT allergic to peanuts. Which after reading this has me confused. I love peanut butter so I’m extremely happy that I’m not allergic to them. I even have nightmares of eating beans.

    • LizLiz10-25-2018

      I just had an food allergy test panel done and I tested positive for dry bean, but not peas, soy or peanut. I would really would have liked a better definition what a dry bean allergy is. I’m apparently also allergic to strawberries, white potato, oysters and sesame.

    • SharonSharon10-01-2019

      I am severely allergic to all legumes except peanuts, my face, tongue and throat begin to swell very quickly. I don’t seem to have issues with soy, but I still avoid it.
      Even a bean sprout that is cooked in my food and not eaten can cause anaphylaxis within minutes. Also allergic to pork and sage.

  8. Lois AvciLois Avci03-04-2020

    My grandson was diagnosed with a severe allergy to soy. After he reacted violently and immediately (asthma, vomiting) to other beans, we talked with his allergist, who explained that the reason they mostly test for soy is its ubiquity as an additive. A patient who gets sick every time he eats a plate of beans is likely to make the connection. One who is exposed to a small amount of soy at most meals and is chronically a bit ill might not.

    I have a blog with recipes that do not contain soy or other beans, peas, lentils, any of the other 8 most common allergens, sesame, corn or yeast:

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