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Never heard of lupin? It’s a new superfood that’s become increasingly popular due to its incredible dietary profile, being rich in protein, fibre, and other essential nutrients. Often referred to as lupini beans, this legume is commonly used in Mediterranean, North African, and Latin American cuisines, nourishing people since the time of the ancient Egyptians.

Whether eaten whole or crushed into flour, you’ll find it in everything from pastries to pies to pasta. But, while some are relishing its taste and health profile, others are discovering a severe lupin allergy. Here’s what you need to know about the lupin allergen.

What is Lupin Allergy?

Related to peanuts and soybeans, it’s hardly surprising some people would react badly to this superfood. Like any food allergy, the allergic reaction occurs because the body wrongly identifies the food as a threat. The lupin allergen triggers the immune reaction, leading to the release of chemicals, chiefly histamine.

Individuals already known to be allergic to peanuts or soybeans should be cautious of lupin. Cross-reactivity from peanut allergen increases the likelihood of a similar or more severe reaction to lupin.

Symptoms of a Lupin Allergy

Histamine is the main mediator of an allergic reaction. Expect to experience symptoms within minutes of consuming the food. Mild to moderate symptoms include:

  • Red, raised rash (known as hives or urticaria) anywhere on the body
  • Tingling or itchy sensation in the mouth
  • Stomach pain or vomiting
  • Swelling of lips, face, or eyes
Symptoms of a Lupin Allergy

If an individual is severely allergic to the lupin allergen, the response can cause anaphylaxis. Alongside the symptoms listed above, individuals will experience:

  • Wheezing
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Asthma
  • Tightening of the upper airway
  • Fast or slow heart rate
  • Stomach pain, diarrhoea, or vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dramatic fall in blood pressure

Hypoxia (or lack of oxygen) will set in as the swelling becomes more severe. The person may become weak and floppy until they eventually collapse or lose consciousness.

Furthermore, the rapid drop in blood pressure, characteristic of the most severe allergic reactions, is a cardinal sign of shock. Seeking immediate medical attention, taking an antihistamine, or administering an epi-pen (intramuscular adrenaline) are the best treatment options in this situation.

Peanut and Lupin Allergy Cross-Reactivity

Peanuts are commonly mistaken for nuts – they’re not; they’re a legume. In fact, as mentioned, peanuts and lupins are in the same family (Lupini). Little wonder that cross-reactivity occurs between people with a peanut or lupin allergy.

For the science buffs, the lupin allergens are primarily α- and β-conglutins. We use these kinds of allergens in our sensitivity tests. However, it’s not known precisely which allergens are responsible for cross-sensitisation.

How commonly does this occur? Here’s the latest research:

  1. A 2009 study performed skin prick tests (SPT) using lupin flour in 1,522 patients suspected of a food allergy. Only 25 patients (1.6%) tested positive. Cross-reactions to other legumes, including peanuts, were seen in 18 of 25 patients1.
  2. In peanut-allergic children and adolescents, one study found that 34% were also allergic to lupin, although less than 4% displayed any significant symptoms2.
  3. A literature review concluded that lupin sensitisation is seen in 15-20% of individuals with a known peanut allergy3.

Foods Containing Lupin Allergens

Anyone with a peanut allergy knows how frustrating it is to find safe foods. Almost everything made within the vicinity of peanuts is labelled as “May Contain Traces of Peanuts.” But lesser-known allergies, like lupins, often fly under the radar.

In the UK, lupin is one of the fourteen major food allergens. That means food manufacturers are legally required to highlight lupin in pre-packaged foods. Lupin is commonly used in gluten-free or soy-free foods as an alternative to wheat or soy products.

Look out for lupin in foods such as:

  • Baked goods, e.g., bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries
  • Pizza
  • Protein shakes
  • Sauces
  • Chocolate drinks
  • Deep-fried vegetables
  • Hummus
  • Pies and pastry cases

Diagnosing and Treating Lupin Allergies

If you suspect you have a lupin allergy (or an existing peanut allergy and want to check for cross-sensitivity), you need an allergen test. Our Individual Ultimate Test is one of the more comprehensive allergen assessments available at Sensitivity Check.

It detects 975 sensitivities, helping find the underlying causes behind IBS, headaches, and fatigue. Alongside lupin, it also tests for everything from angora wool to black cherry tree to polyester.

Currently, no sensitization treatment is available for lupin – meaning you cannot get used to the allergen; the allergy is for life. That means individuals must take the necessary precautions, depending on the severity.

Consuming prescribed antihistamines is suitable if you suffer from mild to moderate symptoms. However, if there’s any risk of anaphylaxis, individuals should contact a doctor to get an epi-pen (or preloaded adrenaline auto-injector). To find out if you are sensitive to the lupin allergen, buy our Individual Ultimate Test today. After receiving your sample, you’ll receive a result within 3-5 working days.

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This article was written by Joseph, our Health and Science Copywriter and Qualified Doctor

You can read more about them on their page.