Quinoa Causes Immune Reaction Similar To Wheat in #Coeliac Disease

An interesting study on quinoa and whether it is suitable for a gluten free diet came out in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in July (thanks to Alex at Food Allergy and Intolerance Ink for alerting me to it).

As TrulyGluten Free-ers, we are aware that all grains contain a type of gluten and that many coeliacs who are not getting well are reacting to these other non-gliadin types of gluten. This is not news to us. It’s nice when it is confirmed though.

Researchers here tested 15 types of quinoa and found that several of them actually tested as containing gluten (they were looking for gliadin as usual, not gluten per se, sighs), albeit at less than 20ppm. But it was there all the same and, as we know from FDA recommendations, even 1ppm is enough to trigger a coeliac response. I wonder if this is because of cross-contamination or because they actually contained gliadin in their protein fraction make-up. It isn’t clear.

Another two types were found not to contain gliadin but to actually trigger the same type of immune response as wheat does in coeliacs.

Fifteen quinoa cultivars were tested: 4 cultivars had quantifiable concentrations of celiac-toxic epitopes, but they were below the maximum permitted for a gluten-free food. Cultivars Ayacuchana and Pasankalla stimulated T cell lines at levels similar to those for gliadin and caused secretion of cytokines from cultured biopsy samples at levels comparable with those for gliadin.

This is BIG news and a confirmation that the grain issue is very real and slowly research is catching up with what our bodies are telling us – and what experts treating coeliac disease with grain-free diets before the 1950s knew all along. I hate having to wait for researchers to do the studies that confirm what we already know about ourselves, but our evidential knowledge is dismissed by albeit well-meaning doctors who have yet to catch up with us!

Every day I hear a story about someone told they cannot possibly be reacting to x or y because it is ‘safe’ or they don’t have coeliac disease when quite clearly they are reacting and they do have gluten sensitivity and quite possibly undiagnosed coeliac disease let down by the adherence to far from 100% reliable testing methods. Ooh, ranting! We have a lot yet to learn it seems and need to keep our minds more open in mainstream medicine when it comes to gluten and allergy/intolerance in general.

Anyway, just two quinoa cultivars found to trigger the same coeliac response is interesting. Is that because there are quinoa varieties that could be safe for us? Or is that because we haven’t yet looked for other types of body response because we don’t know how it happens and therefore what to look for yet?

The powers that be still say that quinoa is safe for coelaics. Personally, I have found most TGFs have a problem with it. I don’t know if we are all using a particular cultivar in the UK/US/Europe as I have reports from all those places, so it’s unlikely to be the same – I don’t know what varieties are mostly grown. Perhaps someone will tell us. For now, I take this as another confirmation that quinoa – and all grains – are not safe for gluten sensitives and, if your villi is not healing, continued consumption of supposedly safe grains could well be the reason why.

You can read the study abstract here.

14 Replies to “Quinoa Causes Immune Reaction Similar To Wheat in #Coeliac Disease”

  1. this is absolutely true and I confirm it from my own experience – when diagnosed some well-meaning friends said I could have quinoa and when I tried it I had an almost immediate coeliac reaction to it (within a few hours of eating) -haven’t touched it since!

  2. Thanks Paul, there’s another report then. I wonder if a few of you using quinoa could perhaps ask the supplier what cultivar of quinoa it is? Would be interesting, wouldn’t it, to see if we are all eating the same or different ones, and if those are the ones tested to cause the immune reaction?

  3. Hello Keen Wahs,

    This news you have posted is confirmation that from 1967 on they have been modifying the genome of quinoa. IAEA Bulletin #4, 1992 page 30.


    There is no doubt in my mind that the ancient grain that built civilizations didn’t have a component that gave the majority of the workforce Wheatbelly. There is, however, more to consider than just the focus on the ppm of the offending agent. When I go to the healthfood store and buy bulk quinoa, wash it, soak it in powdered vitamin C for ten minutes to detoxify the mold, cook it, eat it and get sick; then I go to the same healthfood store buy it months later after they have restocked it from another bulk lot, wash it, soak it in powdered vitamin C for ten minutes to detoxify the mold, cook it, eat it and don’t get sick: I think that perhaps the washing by the manufacturers in Peruvian waters to get the bitters off of the grain might have left a microbe that perhaps didn’t exist in the waters of Illinois. I also think that perhaps in the biofilm in my gut on the day I got sick there was a particular bloom of organisms that metabolized the unique properties of quinoa. I did not, however, suspect that it might have been the G/G connection until this post. I vote for all of the above. I try to put my foods in rotation so it is impossible to say what the trigger might be on the days when it makes me ill and when it doesn’t. I really like the red quinoa that smells and tastes like coffee that is so expensive you have to take out a loan to buy it, but that variety can go through people like kids on a waterslide. I tried growing my own quinoa and amaranth from seed that was supposed to be species lines of plants from remote regions but the weather and the insects in ILL ANNOYED are so bad that I barely got a handful of grain from a 50-foot row. Therefore, I couldn’t say if a particular cultivar is better than another.

  4. Although I’m not ‘traditionally’ coeliac, I’ve found I react to quinoa as badly as to wheat/oats/barley/corn etc – nice to have confirmation!

  5. Indeed- I kept sating last summer that quinoa didn’t agrea with me- so glad I believed in myself and gave it up – why make yourself ill when you can be healthy without it!

  6. Yes I agree with all this. As a newbie I was looking at a packet of supposed gluten free quinoa about 2 hours ago and thought oh well lets try it with my curry for tea. Hmm wish I hadn’t. Now feeling the effects in head and chest 🙁 oh dear that solves that dilemma then.

  7. I thought I would be safe eating quinoa and have been sick for days. I had a similar reaction with tapioca and tapioca flour. Canned corn also triggers the same response with is both physical and mental, as with brain fog and depression.

    1. Nasty. Yes, I would imagine cross-contamination with both of them is not helping at least, sadly. Careful with corn generally too; I find it usually crops up somewhere in gluten sensitives.

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