Lessons Learned: Buckwheat Allergy

About a month ago, in my ongoing quest to eat naturally, I decided to try alternative grains. I don’t view wheat as a villain, but since I’m of African and Native American ancestry, some grains should be more compatible with my body than others. Since I’ve reduced my carbohydrates, what I get should be digestible and pleasant to taste. In that wheat is kind of so-so and neutral.

So I went to my favorite staple and bulk foods merchant, and got some buckwheat flour. A few days later, I made the most awesome smelling two loaves of bread I’ve made in my life with oat flour, buckwheat flour, and minimal wheat flour. I broke out the butter, and my family and I enjoyed it very much. I noticed though, that it tasted a bit peppery to me. I was warned that buckwheat has a “strong” taste, and I thought this was what they meant.

Four or five bites in though, my lips and throat were burning, and my esophagus began to spasm. After a very painful upchuck, I was still spasming, and I noticed that my skin was starting to itch. I went to the emergency room, and was told that I very likely have a buckwheat allergy.

Buckwheat allergy is not so common in the west, but is more common in Asia, where it is used more often.  Apparently, exposure to sobakowa from pillows and mats can “max out” a person’s tolerance if they have the allergy, and cause extreme reactions when they eat buckwheat, even if they don’t break out from touching hulls or fibers.  This is one reason it can be a surprise.  Someone who has used sobakowa pillows and tatami mats without a bad reaction would be caught unawares when eating buckwheat noodles.

So if you’re introducing new foods into your diet, make sure that you are prepared for the possibility of discovering new allergies.  Have a plan for getting emergency care quickly.