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What to Know About a Chickpea Allergy

Chickpea allergies are a less common food allergy, but the symptoms are the same. Here's what you need to know.  

Chickpea Allergies

Chickpeas are dried seeds called pulses, which belong to the legumes family. Some people are allergic to chickpeas. 

Allergies happen when your immune system reacts to a normally harmless food. When you first eat the food, your immune system senses the food as a threat and makes proteins called IgE antibodies. ‌

These antibodies attach to the food proteins and cause a release of chemicals called histamine, which gives you symptoms. This is called an allergic reaction.  ‌

Sometimes people have what's called non-IgE mediated food allergies. These are a different type of food allergy caused by different immune cells. There aren’t any tests to diagnose these very well. Non-IgE mediated food allergies usually affect your skin and digestive system. 

Who Can Get a Chickpea Allergy?

Anyone can get an allergy. But you might be more likely to get a food allergy if you have:

  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Hay fever
  • A family history of allergies

Allergies tend to show up more where people eat the food as a regular part of the diet. Chickpea allergies are more common in India.

Symptoms of Chickpea Allergy

Chickpea allergies are like other food allergies. Symptoms show up pretty soon after you eat the food. Some people can have stronger and more serious allergic reactions. 

Symptoms of a chickpea allergy include:

  • Burning or tingling in your mouth
  • Itchy mouth
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling in your mouth, throat, face, or other areas
  • Nausea
  • Throwing up
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Itchy, red, raised bumps called hives
  • Red, itchy skin without bumps
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes 

Non-IgE mediated food allergies might take longer to show up. You might notice symptoms a few days after having contact with chickpeas. Symptoms of these usually affect your skin and your digestive system. They include:

  • Eczema
  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Throwing up
  • Diarrhea

Diagnosis of Chickpea Allergy

If you think you have a chickpea allergy, it’s important to talk to your doctor right away. Your doctor might refer you to an allergy clinic for some tests. 

You will likely do some skin prick tests and blood tests. A skin prick test involves putting a small amount of different proteins on your skin and watching for a reaction. If you have an allergy, your skin will swell up and turn red and itchy. 

It’s important to have reliable tests done. Allergy tests should also be done with a doctor or health professional in case you need medication.

Treatment of Chickpea Allergy

The best treatment for food allergies is avoidance. If you have a chickpea allergy, you should not eat chickpeas or products that have chickpeas. 

These include:

  • Garbanzo beans
  • Hummus
  • Falafel
  • Canned soups that have chickpeas
  • Pulse or legumes mixes that have chickpeas
  • Crackers made with chickpeas

Pea protein is a popular ingredient and is found in lots of products. You should avoid pea protein unless it clearly labels whether the source is from chickpeas or another ingredient. Pea protein is often found in:

  • Vegetarian burgers
  • Soups
  • Sauces
  • Pancake mixes
  • Snacks
  • Cereals 
  • Baked goods
  • Gluten-free products

Make sure to read labels closely to avoid accidentally eating chickpeas.

Check menus, and verify with chefs and restaurant staff for clear information on ingredients before you eat out. ‌

Sometimes you can buy legumes and pulses in bulk, but people often mix up the spoons, which can cross contaminate other foods. It’s best to avoid bulk food stores. 

You can also use antihistamine medications to help with mild symptoms. Your doctor will also give you an auto-injector epinephrine pen to carry with you in case of emergencies.

Complications of Chickpea Allergy

If you have a chickpea allergy, you can also get sick from foods that have been processed or cooked in the same place as chickpeas. These foods can be contaminated with chickpea protein, which is called cross contamination.‌

Sometimes people with allergies in one food group might also get an allergy to other foods in the same group that have similar proteins. This is called cross-reactivity.

A chickpea allergy cross-reactivity is most common with foods like:

  • Green peas
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Peanuts 
  • Black beans
  • Haricot beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Fava beans
  • Fenugreek 

‌Sometimes people can have a strong, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This is an emergency. Symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest tightness
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble swallowing 
  • Trouble speaking
  • Swollen tongue
  • Fainting or collapse

If you have these symptoms, use your auto-injector pen or have someone give it to you. You should also go to the hospital right away. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Food Allergy Diagnosis.”

Anaphylaxis Campaign: “Legumes (Including Pulses).”

Annals of Allergies, Asthma & Immunology: “Chickpea: a major food allergen in the Indian subcontinent and its clinical and immunochemical correlation.”

Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy: “Peanut, Tree Nut and Seed Allergy.”

Food Allergy Canada: “Avoiding cross-contamination.”

JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE: “Anaphylaxis,” “Food Allergy.”

NHS: “Food allergy – Causes,” “Food allergy – Treatment,” “Food allergy – Symptoms.”

World Allergy Organization: “Food Allergy.”

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