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Why I’m Not Eating Almonds Anymore

I’m a fan of almonds.

Raw, roasted, slivered. Drenched in chocolate. Chopped up and served atop a bowl of plain wholemilk yogurt with a drizzle of honey. Whizzed up into homemade almond milk. Or maybe ground up, mixed with butter, and used as a pastry crust. Oooh, and I almost forgot to mention almond butter.

Almonds and I? We go way back.

So what made me decide ‘I’m not eating almonds anymore’?

Good question.

It’s not because I’ve uncovered some secret evil thing about almonds. And it’s not to say you should stop eating them.

It’s because as much as my taste buds like them, my body doesn’t.

See almonds are among a number of foods that I tested reactive to when I got screened for food sensitivities recently. I also tested reactive to salicylic acid, a compound naturally found in almonds and many other foods (and the active ingredient in aspirin, which ironically is an anti-inflammatory for most people).

So although they are the go-to healthy nut praised for their calcium, vitamin E, fiber, protein, and monounsaturated fats, they are unfortunately a source of inflammation to my body.

I had actually guessed they might be a problem food ‘cause when I’d eat too many, I would get a canker sore or two in my mouth. But then again, I also suspected chocolate, which thankfully is not a culprit. And peanuts. And corn. And lemon. And eggs. All of which are in fact NOT reactive for me. Praise the food gods!

You see, it’s really hard to figure out what foods your body reacts to because the side effects of food sensitivities can be delayed up to 4 days after eating them (and actually, some food sensitivity researchers say it can be as much as 2 weeks!). So that handful of almonds I had on Monday could be the source of the canker sore that popped up on Thursday.

It feels really comforting to have answers, and I’m not gonna lie, a little disappointing to have to cut out certain foods. But having worked with dozens of clients with symptoms that are far more severe than mine and seeing them overcome seemingly insurmountable health problems (we’re talking avoiding GI surgery, getting off migraine meds completely, having 20+ years of joint pain disappear in 6 days), I know this works and I’m willing to make the small sacrifice of changing what I eat.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be taking the plunge, practicing what I preach, and making sweeping dietary changes to quell inflammation in my body. I guess you can say I’ve been talked into it by my clients’ own success stories and compelled to do this out of utter curiosity.

Nothing is more powerful than helping people heal through food alone and I’m excited to start my own journey!

I’ll be keeping you posted on my progress via email (be sure you’re on my email list by signing up below!), sharing what I eat and how I prepare it. Just like I have clients check in with me regularly, I’ll be checking in with you. Knowing that I have to be accountable to all of you will keep me motivated.

I also plan to post pictures of my culinary creations (or shall I say experiments) on my facebook page. If you’re not already a fan on facebook, you’ll want to “like” my page now.

If you’d like to cheer me on, tell me in the comments section below.

Until next week,

Lily

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Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition and exercise. Her work is known for being research-focused, thorough, and unapologetically critical of outdated dietary guidelines. She is the author of two bestselling books, Real Food for Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes.

74 Comments

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  1. I rely on almonds so much as a food staple that if I had to stop eating them I would need some uplifting encouragement too. YOU can DO IT Lily!!

    • Thanks for the virtual pat on the back, Dana!

      • Hi and thank you for sharing your experience. About a week ago, I substituted almond milk into my diet as an alternate source of calcium. Today I developed mouth canker sores on top of a facial rash which presented last night. I’ve not included nut products as part of daily nutrition before trying the almond milk. The almond milk is the only change in my health conscience lifestyle. I stopped the almond milk. There are other sources of calcium, although not as tasty:-)

        • I did the same thing and started getting a rash on my neck then on my face the only thing I came up with was I was having almond milk twice a day for 5 days only realized this today so now off almond milk.

        • Oh Im so relieved to see this. Ive started drinking almond milk and I’ve been having too much of it I know, because the chai with almond milk is so so good. BUT I now have ulcers on my lips and in around my teeth. I thought that could be the only reason. Guess I’m off it now too.

    • Hi Lily
      Thank you so much for sharing your experience concerning almonds. I do have a slight trace of rheumatoid arthritis which I treat naturally so a gluten free diet works for me. However several months ago I decided to buy various cereals which was nut based. I then developed the most awful body pains caused by inflammation. I put this down to the condition and bought lots of supplements to try to reduce the inflammation but to no avail.
      To cut a long story short a friend suggested a food intolerance blood test which I did privately. Almonds, were one of the main culprits. Since eliminating this together with other foods from my diet the inflammation that I was experiencing has now gone.
      So thank you again for sharing your experience.
      Jules

      • Wonderful news about your inflammation dissipating, Jules. I’m glad you were able to get tested and figure out that almonds were one of your food triggers. Sad to give ’em up, but when you feel good, the trade off is well worth it!

        • What tests are you both doing for intolerances. I need to get this done asap!! Thanks! I have cut out so many many things but I still feel so puffy a lot of the time!

          • I use the mediator release test to determine food sensitivities and to guide a customized elimination diet and reintroduction diet, as described here.

            Keep in mind “food intolerances” are different from food sensitivities (i.e. you can have lactose intolerance (a localized digestive reaction), but not a food sensitivity to dairy (meaning not a systemic immune response)).

  2. Lil–love your blog! Wish I could take your class. If you do come up with a long-distance workshop or webinar or something, I’d be interested. So sorry about the almonds! Mare

    • Muchas gracias, Mare! Hosting webinars is on my agenda for 2014 and I’ll announce it to my email subscribers when the time comes. 🙂 I shed a small tear for almonds this morning, but luckily I have a whole bunch of other delicious foods to eat instead.

  3. Fascinating about the almond sensitivity. Thanks for all the informative posts. Pilates Nutritionist is my go-to for nutrition and food based questions!

    • Appreciate your loyalty, Nancy! And I’m so glad my posts have been helpful to you.

    • Yes, I did note cancker sores after eating almonds. So, these are eliminated.
      Thanks for the onfo’.

  4. Looking forward to hearing how you do! Now I am curious about testing for food allergies myself!

    • Yes Jenni, and the tests for food allergies are different than food sensitivities. I’ll go into that further in future posts.

  5. Lily, I love almonds! So I can only imagine how sad it is to give them up. However, I am sure you will feel so much better once you body adjusts to not having those pesky nuts irritating it. There are a lot of other yummy nuts too! I particularly love pecans. 🙂 So hopefully you can still get your nut fix from time to time.

    • Jessica, there’s still a half-full container of almond milk in my fridge, so I’ll need to pawn it off on friends. 🙂 And just to give you a quick update, it’s only day 2, but I practically leaped out of bed this morning. There are a few nuts I can choose from, so it’s definitely doable.

  6. Ah the poor Almonds! Very curious to how I would fair with a test. Through an elimination diet I’ve figured I’m sensitive to wheat protein, mushrooms and milk in large quantities but not cheese or yogurt. I know it may not be so accurate.

    • Hi Sarah! Elimination diets are standard practice and accurate if done carefully. It’s all about paying attention to what you eat, listening to your body, and tracking symptoms. For me, getting tested has provided a GPS to guide my elimination diet, so I can heal faster and spend less time guessing (or waste time on an elimination diet that contains foods I react to!). I suspected some foods, but I never would have suspected salicylic acid, so this has already been a game changer.

      And major props to you for figuring out some of your food sensitivities!

  7. Does this apply to almond milk too?

    • Teniel, yes. If you have a food sensitivity to almonds, you’d need to avoid all products made with almonds.

      • Oh my goodness … I love almonds and also suffer badly with stomach cramps after eating them. I also have rheumatoid arthritis and had a bad allergic reaction to Salfazaladine (spelt wrongly) now I’m wondering if I am in fact allergic to almonds as you mentioned they contain salycilic acid?!

        • Luckily sulfer/sulfa drugs and salicylic acid are entirely different. But if you suffer from eating almonds specifically, you could have a sensitivity.

  8. Have you found you are sensitive to any other nuts, or simply almonds?

    • Luckily just almonds. But nuts can be hard for me to digest if they’re not prepared properly, however I seem to do fine with any nuts (other than almonds) when I prepare them like this. This trick works for a lot of my clients as well.

  9. Me too… I realized after making paleo friendly chocolate chip cookies with almond flour this weekend that I must have a sensitivity. My joints are worse than they have been in awhile…

    • Bummer, Lexi! Perhaps it’s the almonds or maybe something else in the cookies.

      If it is almonds, there are many Paleo-friendly replacements, such as cashew flour/meal or coconut flour. Cashew flour makes a delicious tart crust as well!

  10. I, too, love almonds, but they just don’t love me back! It’s nice to find someone else experiencing the same thing. Are you avoiding other related foods?

    • Hi Katie,
      I don’t have a sensitivity to other nuts, but I am reactive to salicylic acid (which is found in almonds), so I have to be careful I don’t over-consume other foods that contain it, such as mint.

      If you have issues with almonds and other nuts, I suggest trying this preparation method before giving up on them entirely.

  11. Hi Lily,
    Came across your site after bad stomach pain from eating nuts! Started a 2 week detox and incorporated nuts as a snack… couldn’t believe how bloated I was on day 2! Your other post about digesting nuts became very clear so thank you for that helpful info 🙂
    I took an allergy test before as my stomach is fairly sensitive but not sure how accurate it was, I feel I may be sensitive to wheat but it didn’t show anything – may I ask which one you have used or would recommend?
    Thanks so much, sorry about the almonds 🙁

    • Glad you found it useful, Chloe!

      Yeah, allergy tests are notoriously inaccurate. I prefer food sensitivity testing, since food sensitivities are more often linked to digestive issues than allergies. Here’s the one I suggest.

      For more on gluten/wheat issues, check out this post. Many people have subclinical reactions to gluten, so if you feel better without it, there’s really nothing nutritionally available in wheat that you can’t get in other foods (and often with fewer side effects).

  12. Not sure how old this post is – curious if cutting almonds improved your symptoms? I have been having digestive issues for about a year and just got testing back saying I am intolerant to almond. Hoping so much that cutting them will do the trick!

    • Hi Kathy,
      Yes removing almonds and a variety of other foods + food chemicals that I am sensitive to made a world of difference. You can read about it here.

  13. Thanks for sharing,, i like almonds but by body doesn’t either :|.. some with most nuts really. Inflamation and kidney pain are my symptoms

  14. What tests can be done for food sensitivities and by who?
    I’m really trying to figure out what foods bother me. Some are tricky.
    Example…I know peanuts bother me.
    I can eat almonds and even a protein bar with almond butter and almonds in it. If I eat almond butter alone I get phelmy throat and sinus symptoms. Weird

  15. I have noticed over the years that when I eat almonds (which I love) I seem to have joint pain, gout, etc. It wasn’t until eating almost a cup of almonds last night and waking up not being able to walk this am, AND finding your blog, that I realized that almonds may indeed be the issue. Dang it! Going to miss them but not the pain.

    • I have joint pain in my feet and lower legs, I am suspecting almonds. Thank you for the info.

  16. You mentioned getting screened for food sensitivities. I was wondering what test you did? Do they draw blood for it? I want to get one done and was wondering which one you’d recommend. Thank you!

  17. Hi Lily,
    So I just came across your website because I was googling “almond intolerance”. Thank goodness for SEO! I got my Cyrex lab results back today and found out I was off the charts intolerant to almonds, that sweet little innocent nut that I drink and eat almost every day. Anything over 2.5 was considered out of range and my score for almonds was 4.18. It was 3.30 for roasted almonds. The weird thing is, I don’t seem to have too many symptoms other than joint aches, which is something I thought was cause because I’m a “senior” ballet dancer and teacher. lol I was diagnosed years ago with Crohn’s and have had very few problems because I stay away from most dairy and gluten. I decided to go ahead and get this testing done because I was afraid that I might still be eating foods I shouldn’t and voila, it’s almonds! I am very intolerant to Brazil nuts too and mildly intolerant to pecans and sesame seeds. It’s been two years since you wrote this post. How are you feeling? I am still in mourning about my beloved almonds but thank you so much for sharing this information. I adhere to a Paleo diet and almonds are in so many of the recipes. Time to restructure my eating plan! Thanks again for sharing!

    Karin 😎

  18. Hi Lily!

    I’ve suffered with many of the same symptoms you mentioned above and have had little success with GI docs but have had some limited success with eliminating certain foods- what is this food sensitivity screening you mentioned? That sounds really cool!

  19. Hi,

    I’d love to know more about the test you had as I am also finding it very hard to distinguish which food causes me bloating!

    Thanks

    • You can learn all about it here. 🙂

  20. it’s very interesting – i made the connection of almonds to recent wrist pains (and feet swelling, maybe?) last night and this morning got online to see what google says. for every article about possible almond joint pain/other side-effects there are scads of joint and inflammation pro-almond websites!

    yours is the only commentary that specifically explains that almonds can indeed cause these issues and why it might happen.

    I’m fairly convinced it’s these smoked almonds i’ve gorged on that caused these wrist pains, and maybe my foot swelling i encountered last night. it’s clear that people’s unique chemistry provide unique reactions to certain foods.

    i’m also wondering if there’s a gluten issue with almonds – haven’t read a thing on gluten before reading through some of these articles…

    thanks for your studies!

    • You may want to rule out the possibility that flavoring ingredients or other additives in the “smoked” almonds aren’t the culprit before ditching almonds. 😉

  21. Hi There –

    Would you happen to know what these foods have in common: avocado, eggs, and almonds? I used to be able to eat these without any problems, but now I am intolerant! I get severe stomach pain, and I’m down for the count for about 5 hours after I eat them. I don’t have any issues with other fruits, veggies, or nuts. I don’t eat meat, but I do sometimes eat fish and don’t have issues. I’m just baffled. I had my gallbladder out about 12 years ago, and this pain that I get reminds me of that, before I had it removed. While I can be exposed in super small amounts (like some egg in a potato salad), I cannot eat them plain (like a handful of almonds would kill me), and no more scrambled eggs or omelets. What has happened to my body? Someone suggested I was allergic to ovals (LOL) but I don’t think that’s it.

    If you have any advice or can point me in the right directions, I would be grateful.

    Thanks!
    E

    • I have the same issue but add bananas to that list. My almond reaction was just recent and so severe I had to go to the ER.

  22. Without thinking as I was working on a document through the day, I realized I had munched through 50 almonds.. I was in joint pain hell the next morning.. I was feeling fine the last few days, no flu, no other problems.. just almonds.. Perhaps if I had eaten just a handful I might not have noted the toxicity I had to almonds.. No more almonds for me.. bummer.

  23. I have for most of my life suffered from kanker sores. It took me 55 years to figure out that nuts, especially almonds , was the cause. My mother used to roast almonds for all holidays! I had kanker sores all the time. Love them but do not eat them anymore.

    • Interesting, John. I, too, get canker sores from almonds. So annoying!

  24. I have frozen shoulder and when i eat something wrong, it acts up immediately. last night i couldnt sleep…. I was rolling my arm in pain throughout the night. I had no idea what it was. And then i remembered I had a glass of almond milk. Something I’ve not done before. This was my first time drinking almond milk. I think it could be that…. Went online to search and found your blog. Will continue reading. I think you hv a lot of useful information in here. Thank you so much.

    • Keep in mind if it was commercial almond milk, there’s more than just almonds in there. Sometimes the additives can be to blame. This post goes into 5 especially harmful food additives. Good luck on your quest!

  25. Thank you for all of the helpful information! I’ve been reading through your food sensitivity posts today.

  26. After 3 years of eating almonds, almond milk and raw almond butter daily, I developed daily headaches, lethargy, and severe breast and lymph node pain. Appears too much Vitamin E and raw almonds are pretty bad for you. Who knew?

  27. I don’t know how old this blog is but I just wanted to put my 2 cents in. I eat whole raw almonds everyday 6 after every meal and just randomly throughout the day.. what I’ve perceived from eating them is that you have to drink a LOT OF WATER in order for them to move through your system properly or you will suffer from bloating and internal problems including canker sores from dry mouth.. almonds are high in fiber so it’s almost like your taking fiber powder without adding water.. if you don’t drink (flush) the almonds through your system your gut will suffer.

  28. What tests did you get done to discover your food sensitivity?

  29. would like to hear more, thanks

  30. My canker sores are caused by eating most nuts and seeds, but oddly, not cashews.

    My migraines are caused by eating raw onions and garlic, especially red onions

    It took me years to figure this out, but even with this knowledge I still end up eating these things when I’m at restaurants and I forget to mention it or eating at other people’s houses.

    Does anyone else have these sensitivities?

  31. Wow! I have a headache today when I woke up. I rarely get them since I gave up nutrasweet. but I had less than 10 almonds late last night! I feel they’ve bothered me before, but it doesn’t make sense, I eat nuts every day. Could find nothing online, in fact, they are supposed to be good for headaches-ha. At least I can still eat a couple in the day. Glad to see I’m not alone!

  32. I did the same thing and started getting a rash on my neck then on my face the only thing I came up with was I was having almond milk twice a day for 5 days only realized this today so now off almond milk.

  33. My blood pressure goes through the roof when I ate almonds or took aspirin. Today, ate grapes and same thing happened. Good to have a link between them.

  34. Hi there! Great article! I found it when I was looking up possible causes of canker sores. I have a small one right now, and I had one few months ago too. It’s worrisome. I wanted to ask you how you go about getting a food allergy test? Should I go through my general practitioner or who provides these?

  35. I’m happy I came across your page, I have stopped drinking almond milk after having one canker sore after another for a year and now I’m going on 3 weeks of NO cankers! Thank You!

  36. I am so glad to find your post. I ate almonds this morning and my knees felt uncomfortable through my whole workout. I’ve had the experience before but kept ignoring it. I will not any longer.

  37. I’ve eaten almonds twice in the last couple months, first time I wasn’t sure they were the problem. Second time extreme bloating occurred within the hour, to the point I thought about going to Urgent Care. Extreme pain dissipated about an hour and a half after eating. Also happens with broccoli.

  38. I am finding after years of smoothies that almonds tear up my throat ! I am stunned about such a healthy food.

  39. Hi!
    I have been having stomach issues for over a year ( on and off nausea , stomach pains, over salivation…) and some break outs on my forehead… My gastroenterologist thinks I have food sensitivities…(other doctors simply want me to bury myself in acid suppression meds.. arghh) Reading your website, i am realizing he may be right. How did you get tested for exactly what you are sensitive too? I need answers and am running out of patience!! thanks so much for your help! I am definitely getting your book!

  40. Great site: Great Gal

  41. Did you eliminate everything with food and start at beginning ?

  42. interesting, about 3 months ago I noticed sores in my mouth and stomach issues. finally narrowed it down to Almonds that I was eating. Backed off and sores went away…. today tried again (i’m hard headed) and definitely Almonds are causing the issues. I searched online and found your article, just to verify I wasn’t the only person with this. Thanks for the information

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