Almonds are a rich source of protein, vitamin E, fiber and many other nutrients. Many people enjoy them as a healthy, guilt-free snack. However, some find themselves regretting their choice a short time later when mild to severe abdominal pain sets in. Almonds, especially raw almonds, can create stomach pain for several reasons. Although the reaction is usually harmless, it can occasionally be symptomatic of a dangerous food allergy.
MedlinePlus reports that tree nuts such as almonds are the cause of one of the most common food allergies. A mild food allergy can include gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, lightheadedness and nasal congestion. More serious symptoms include constriction of airways, rapid pulse or loss of consciousness. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reports that food allergies can be made worse by exercising within two hours after eating.
The skin of raw almonds contains enzyme inhibitors which make them difficult to digest, and this can be another source of stomach pain. However, raw almonds have more nutrition than roasted almonds, so many people prefer eating them in their natural state. Soaking the almonds first removes the enzymes. Put 4 cups of almonds and 2 teaspoons of salt in enough water to cover, and let them soak for several hours. Drain and allow them to dry for a day.
In 2004, millions of packages of raw almonds were recalled in response to salmonella contamination, prompting the Food and Drug Administration to require that all almonds be pasteurized before sale. These almonds are still labeled as raw. However, it is still possible to buy unpasteurized almonds from farmers' markets and vendors outside the United States, and there is a small chance these nuts could have salmonella or other bacteria.
Mention stomach pain and almonds, and you just might have someone helpfully informing you it's cyanide poisoning. It is true that the bitter variety of almonds produces cyanide, also known as prussic acid, when digested. However, that is the very reason they are not sold as food. The sweet almonds you buy in the store produce no cyanide.
In most cases, abdominal pain from eating almonds is a harmless and temporary condition. If you consistently have pain after eating almonds, even roasted almonds, it may be a good idea to consult your doctor to rule out the possibility of allergies. If you experience other symptoms -- such as difficulty breathing, shock or severe dizziness -- contact a doctor right away because these are symptoms of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
- PubMed.gov: Anaphylaxis - facts and fallacies
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: Oral Allergy Syndrome and Exercise-Induced Food Allergy Oral Allergy Syndrome
- Nourishing Days: Soak & Dehydrate Nuts for Optimum Digestibility
- The New York Times:Raw Almonds Are Recalled After Reports Of Salmonella
- The Almond Board of California: Almond Pasteurization
- University of California, Riverside: Legumes, Nuts & Seeds