Legume/bean allergy and intolerance

Legume allergy and Legume intolerance symptoms

This article aims to go into detail on allergies and also intolerance symptoms. Legumes are versatile food packed full of nutrients. They are a rich source of protein and are an important part of a healthy and balanced diet. Eating legumes can be especially beneficial for people who avoid eating animal proteins or have a restricted diet and need alternatives (like soy milk). However, legumes can cause problems for some people. Legumes like soy, peanuts and chickpeas, can cause uncomfortable digestive issues after they’ve been eaten, or they can be the cause of an allergic reaction. This article will look at how to tell if you have an allergy or intolerance to legumes, the types of legumes you can react to, and what foods you may need to avoid if you have a allergic reactions or intolerances. Legume intolerance symptoms can vary as well so we will try to cover the main ones and what to watch out for.

What is a legume allergy?

A legume allergy can cause allergic reactions to beans or other legumes such as peas, lupin beans or peanuts. If you have an allergies to beans or peanuts, your immune system reacts to them as if they are a threat. Your immune system then records this in its ‘memory’, and it reacts to it any time you smell it, touch it, or eat it.

Legume Allergy

What are the symptoms of legume allergy?

If you have an allergy, like an allergy to peanuts or other legumes, you may experience symptoms like:

  • itching or tingling of your skin
  • skin rashes or welts (known as hives)
  • swelling of the face, throat, or mouth
  • nausea
  • asthma
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain or cramps
  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
Symptoms of an allergic reaction can come on quite quickly and can occur within seconds or hours of being exposed to a food. If the reaction is severe, it is known as anaphylaxis. This type of reaction can cause a significant drop in blood pressure, leading to fainting and loss of consciousness. Although rare, an anaphylactic reaction can be fatal if medical attention is not sought immediately.

What causes a food allergy?

When the body has an allergic reaction, the immune system reacts to a protein – this may be a protein in the air (like dust) or a protein in the food. As we previously discussed, legumes are rich in protein. If you have a food allergy, your immune system captures these proteins and triggers the release of inflammatory chemicals to attack these protein ‘invaders’. The inflammatory chemicals, like histamine, cause the reaction (note: this is why you may have heard of ‘anti-histamines, a medication that is used to reduce histamine and, by doing so, reduce symptoms).

How common are legume allergies?

Allergic reactions are not particularly common, but they do occur in some individuals. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 0.2% of Americans have legume allergies. It is more common in children than adults; approximately 1-2% of children suffer from this condition. Specific symptoms can vary from person to person, with common reactions including itching, hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, or even anaphylaxis. It’s important to note that it is often confused with other forms of intolerance since some symptoms may be similar however true allergies involve immunological reactions and are much more serious.

Food Allergies

Are peanuts a legume ?

Peanuts are not considered a true legume, but they are technically classified as a “pseudocereal”. This is because although peanuts come from the same plant family as traditional legumes like beans and soya, they are not actually seeds. Peanuts are made up of an underground stem – or “hypocotyl” – that is high in protein and fat. They also contain several key vitamins and minerals including phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin E, and fibre. Although traditionally relegated to their status as “nuts”, peanuts are a great source of nutrition and can be used in many recipes to add flavour and texture.
We will include them here as they are aften classed as legumes and we wouldent want somebody to miss out on vital information but we highly recommend reading our article on peanut allergy HERE if you think you have a peanut allergy as this will go into a lot more specific detail. Also, peanut allergy is one of the more serious food allergies.


Peanut Allergy

Can you be intolerant to legumes?

A legume intolerance is different to a legume allergy. While an allergies involves the immune system, and intolerance does not. Intolerance is an unpleasant reaction to eating legumes. You may have experienced this after you eat legumes and you feel bloated, gassy or uncomfortably full. This is because legume intolerance is caused by an issue with how you digest the legumes.

Legume Intolerance symptoms

  • indigestion
  • heartburn or reflux
  • burping
  • tummy aches
  • nausea
  • feeling faint
  • asthma
  • bloating
  • excessive gas or flatulence
  • belly distension (e.g.looking like you’re ‘pregnant’)
  • changes in bowel motion (e.g. having loose motions or constipation)
The symptoms of food intolerance happen after eating a food and can occur over 1-48 hours. The reaction does not lead to anaphylaxis and is not life-threatening. However, intolerance symptoms can cause discomfort and lead to symptoms outside of the digestive tract, including headaches, tiredness, and brain fog.

Allergic Reactions

Why am I so sensitive to legumes?

Legumes are full of fibres, known as resistant starches or oligosaccharides. Some people do not easily digest these starches. When they are not properly digested, these starches are broken down by bacteria in the intestine. While the bacteria feed on the starches, the bacteria produce gases. These gases can cause your belly to feel distended and ‘gassy’. The poorly digested starches also draw water into the intestines. This water can make you feel full and heavy or give you watery or loose bowel motions.

Something we get asked a lot is …

Can you be intolerant to lentils?

The answer is yes, it is possible for someone to be intolerant to lentils. While not as common as other food intolerances, lentil intolerance has been documented in scientific studies. Individuals who suffer from this disorder may experience gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhoea and bloat after eating lentils or other legumes.

In addition, symptoms of anaphylaxis have been reported in some cases. It’s important to note that this form of intolerance does not necessarily mean a person is allergic to all legumes—it simply means that their body has difficulty digesting lentils specifically.


Other Legumes

Types of legumes

Legumes are a large family of plants that include beans, peas, soya, and peanuts. One possibly surprising plant of the legume family is the herb fenugreek.

Sometimes legumes are called ‘pulses’. The term ‘pulse’ refers to the legume seeds that have been dried. This is often the case when you buy raw chickpeas and lentils. Pulses include green peas, kidney beans, tamarind, and other dried peas and beans.

If you have an allergy or intolerance to legumes, you may react to any of the legumes. The most common legumes to cause an allergic reaction are peanuts , soybean, chickpeas, peas, mung beans, and red gram. If you have a food allergy to one legume, such as peanuts, you may also react to another legume.

The legumes that you can be allergic to or intolerant to include (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • peanut
  • soy
  • lupin (often ground into flour-like wheat flour)
  • lentils
  • kidney beans
  • green beans
  • mangetout
  • sugar snap peas
  • black-eyed beans
  • haricot beans (also called navy beans)
  • locust bean gum
  • chickpeas
  • mung bean
  • butter beans (also called lima beans)
  • cannellini beans
  • pinto beans
  • broad beans (also called fava beans)
  • guar gum

Cross reactivity and how to deal with it

Cross reactivity between legumes and other foods can cause a number of issues for those with a issues. Cross reactivity occurs when the body mistakes one food for another and produces an allergic reaction, even if the person has never encountered the original food in question. This is why some people who are allergic to peanuts may also experience a reaction when they come into contact with certain tree nuts, such as almonds or cashews.

This can be difficult to diagnose because it may cause symptoms that are very similar to those caused by an actual allergy to the first food. If you have been tested for allergies and suspect cross reactivity could be at play, speak with an allergy specialist about further testing. They may suggest taking an elimination diet in order to determine which foods are triggering your symptoms.

Finally, it is important to manage your diet carefully and avoid foods that could trigger a reaction. Carry antihistamines and an epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times and be sure to wear a medical alert bracelet if needed. Taking these steps will help ensure that you remain safe while living with a allergy or intolerance.

How to test for a legume allergy or legume intolerance

If you think you may be allergic or intolerant to legumes, then it’s important to test for it. Knowing what legumes you are reacting to is essential for managing your reactions and getting the help you need to reduce your reactivity.

To test for an allergy, you need to see a doctor or allergy specialist (called an allergist or immunologist) who will organise allergy testing for you. Allergy testing includes either a blood test, skin prick test, or both.

To test for intolerance, you need to do a food intolerance test. You can test for legume or bean intolerance through our food intolerance test, which can be ordered online HERE.

Allergy Specialist

Our food intolerance test looks at over 350 different foods, and the results can take as little as three days from when our lab receives your sample.

Getting a food intolerance test from IntoleranceLab can be incredibly beneficial if you suffer from legume intolerances. Unlike an allergy test, this test is designed to detect intolerances and sensitivities only. This makes it ideal for those who experience symptoms but don’t necessarily qualify as being allergic.

The process of getting tested is simple. You can easily do the testing from home by simply taking hair samples, sending them to their lab, and receiving results in a short amount of time Plus, IntoleranceLab offers a full money back guarantee if you are not satisfied with your results.

Overall, getting tested with IntoleranceLab is a great choice for those who suffer from legume intolerances and want peace of mind that they know exactly which foods they need to avoid.

How to live with a legume allergy or intolerance

Living with a legume intolerance can be a challenge, but there are ways to make it easier. The first step is to learn which foods contain legumes so you can avoid them. Maybe print out our list above as a start but also do your own research.

It is important to read food labels carefully to make sure that your food does not contain any hidden legumes or their derivatives.

You should also incorporate other sources of protein into your diet such as lean meats, fish, eggs and nuts. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables will also help supply the body with vital vitamins and minerals. If needed, you may want to take a supplement such as Vitamin B12 or Iron to ensure that you are getting enough of these essential nutrients.

Finally, it is important to stay informed about the latest research on legume intolerances. Speak with your doctor for more information and keep an eye out for new treatments or lifestyle changes that could help manage your symptoms.


Today we took a good look multiple legumes – that can cause our gut and immune system to react. We looked at how legumes can cause an allergic reaction and what symptoms you might expect if you have a legume or bean allergy. Then, we compared a bean allergy with an intolerance. We learnt that an allergy involves an immune reaction, while intolerance is an unpleasant response to poorly digested legumes. Expanding on this, we discovered that an allergy is a reaction to the food protein, and legume intolerance is a reaction to the fibre (or starches). 

We explored all the legumes that can cause an allergy or intolerance and then looked at what testing you can do to find out which legumes you are reacting to. We covered legume intolerance symptoms and we learnt that an allergy test can be done through a blood or skin prick test, and a food intolerance test can be ordered through our lab online HERE.

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