Nut allergies, and to a lesser extent seed allergies, can be really annoying.
I’ve mostly avoided eating nuts and seeds for many years because whenever I eat them, I pay a price. I can expect to see symptoms in at least two categories pop up whenever I consume them in an unprocessed form:
Skin: Small rashes appear and disappear on my skin relatively quickly over the course of an hour or two, and my skin itches, particularly near my joints. Within 48 hours, acne usually appears on my face.
Digestive: I suffered from an autoimmune bowel disease called colitis through my teen years up until around 2005, when I brought it under control with a raw food diet. But raw nuts usually cause my colitis to come back to some extent. I can expect to see extra gas, bloating, pus/mucous in my stools, and various other digestive issues crop up when I eat them, and the more I eat over an extended period of time, the worse the symptoms are.
Ditching My Seed And Nut Allergies:
As I’ve written before, many foods that people consume on a regular basis are high in a number antinutrients that can cause health problems in the susceptible. The one I’ve noticed the most problems with in my own life are a group of glycoproteins called lectins, which have been linked to a wide variety of digestive and autoimmune problems.
I beat my colitis by eating a very low lectin diet based around raw fruit and leafy green vegetables. But not all raw food is low in lectins, and not all cooked food is loaded with them.
Researchers have demonstrated that it’s possible to lower the lectin content of food through various types of processing, the most effective being soaking followed by pressure cooking.
So it begs the question – can you reduce seed and nut allergy symptoms by reducing the lectin content of the food?
A few years ago I started experimenting (originally with nuts and seeds) to find out. At first, I stuck to the traditional method of the “overnight soak,” then added baking soda to the water and extended the soak time, and finally started experimenting with sprouting, boiling, baking, steaming, and pressure cooking. You’ll find my results below.
Warning: My reactions may be considered allergies, but they are not of the life-threatening variety. Consult with a doctor before eating something you know you’re allergic to if you have reason to believe the allergy could trigger anaphylaxis or another life-threatening reaction.
The Lectin Reduction Method:
Initially, I tried simply soaking the nuts and seeds in plain water overnight (roughly 12 hours). Eating the nuts and seeds in this state didn’t seem to make much of a difference for me. I then tried a 24 hour soak, and then 24 hours in water with a quarter teaspoon of baking soda added in
The later method made a difference, but with the exception of flax and and chia seeds, they still were still triggering a significant seed and nut allergies.
My next attempt was sprouting the soaked seeds, but my symptoms were roughly the same as when I just soaked them.
I then tried just pressure cooking them (with an instant pot pressure cooker) for 30 minutes. This reduced nut allergies far better than soaking alone, and I found that chia and flax seeds could be rendered asymptomatic, but the others were still problematic.
Finally, I tried a 24 hour soak in baking soda water followed with the pressure cooking for 30 minutes, and found this to give the best results, although it totally changed the texture of the nuts. Unless otherwise noted, my scores are for the 24-hour soak and pressure cooker method.
Rating My Seed & Nut Allergies
The testing of these nuts and seeds was carried out over the course of more than two years. Since there’s so much subjectivity involved in the scoring process and confounding variables that could throw off my results, I tested each one at least three times, with each test lasting at least three days. I tested only one food per three-day period, and then took enough days off from the testing to let my skin and digestive system recover. Every day I ate at least an ounce of the nut or three tablespoons of the seeds being tested.
A score of 0 means that I experienced no noticeable seed or nut allergies after consuming the food being tested. A 10 represents a significant reaction. A score of 0-3 means that my subjective score of symptoms ranged between no reaction and a mild reaction between the various times I tested the food.
Before reducing lectin content, my scores in each of these categories were have been between four and 10.
Seed Testing Scores
Chia Seeds: These turned out to be the best option of all the nuts and seeds I tested. They were producing only minimal symptoms after a 24-hour soak in baking soda water (though this his turned them into a gelatinous goo). I then found that simply pressure cooking them without the the soak rendered them perfectly digestible.
Other Seeds: Overall, I found that the seeds I tested created fewer negative symptoms than the nuts after the same amount of processing.
Nut Testing Scores
Other nuts: Several of the nuts were caused symptoms in the same ballpark at the walnuts, and overall I’d consider them to be reasonable. The larger nuts seemed to cause the most problems.
The Size / Nut Allergy Connection
It occurred to me during these tests that the smaller nuts/seeds tended to cause fewer symptoms. This may be because they have more surface area relative to their total size exposed to the soaking/cooking. It’s possible that taking something like a Brazil nut (which is large and caused some of the most significant nut allergies) and chopping it up before processing may improve my reaction to it. I may test this in the future.
It’s clear to me that I can significantly reduce the seed and nut allergies I normally experience (in some cases totally eliminating them) via soaking and pressure cooking. Most of these reactions went from “too problematic to consider”, to “mildly annoying and worth thinking about”. While none but the chia seeds digested as well as ideal fruit, most were surprisingly easy to handle. Reducing lectins and other anti nutrients seems to work.
In future articles and videos I’ll be delving into my attempts to use similar processing methods on nightshade vegetables, spices, root vegetables, and legumes.
Get Free Of Your Symptoms:
If you want to be free of your digestive problems, my standing suggestion is to use a raw food elimination diet to get symptom free, and only then consider adding back in some more problematic foods in a systematic way. I describe how you can do this in The Raw Food Digestive Tune-Up.