Annatto Allergy

Could an annatto allergy be causing your IBS symptoms?

Annatto seed pods
Eating the ground up seeds of this funny looking annatto plant could be giving you diarrhea.
© Can Stock Photo

Annatto is a very common “natural” food additive. It’s used as an orange food dye and as a natural flavoring in MANY foods.

I’ve recently discovered information that links an annatto allergy or intolerance to all kinds of strange problems, including IBS symptoms.

Now I don’t know whether this reaction is caused by an annatto allergy or an annatto intolerance, so I’ll be using these terms interchangeably on this page.

How one woman found her “IBS” cure:

Marlene Stein reports on her website about her discovery that annatto was her IBS trigger food. I checked out her story, and was very surprised at what I found.

As it turns out, Marlene Stein’s husband, Herbert Stein is a retired doctor and allergy specialist. After multiple tests, Marlene had been diagnosed with celiac sprue and lactose intolerance. But these weren’t the real cause, and her IBS symptoms persisted.

However, Marlene reports that by eliminating annatto from her diet, she was able to completely cure the IBS symptoms that had been plaguing her.

This poor woman suffered with the awful symptoms of IBS for 40 years, and later found out one simple food additive caused all that misery!

Her and her husband discovered the annatto connection while on vacation. The foods at their location didn’t include annatto. Marlene’s symptoms disappeared… Until one fateful cup of coffee (the non-dairy creamer had annatto in it).

When Marlene’s symptoms returned the pieces fell into place. She discovered that annatto was causing her IBS symptoms!

Annatto allergies and intolerances… The search begins.

An apple with a syringe injecting NATURAL food additives.
I think we should ALL be careful of “Natural” food additives. Does this look natural???
© Can Stock Photo

After reading Marlene’s site I went off looking (like I always do) for other independent reports, or clinical studies to back up what she claims. I found a lot of reports of strange behavior (like tantrums, children banging their heads on headboards, etc.) and odd bowel problems. Many people report that these problems went away when annatto was removed from the diet.

The trouble is, I couldn’t really verify any of the odd behavior reports. But according Dr. Martin Floch in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, the people of Peru use annatto in traditional medicine as a mild diarrheal (a diarrheal is something that CAUSES diarrhea).

That’s right, annatto is used as a medicine to cause diarrhea or loosen stool!

The foods most people eat every day, are loaded up with something used as a medicine to cause diarrhea or loose stools. Now if you’re on the constipation side of things that may not sound like a bad thing, but if you’ve got IBS-D or the diarrhea variety, I think this should make you a bit shocked and angry.

What foods contain annatto?

If you have an annatto allergy or food  intolerance, you’ll have to become a faithful label checker. Be careful of “all natural labels” too. Since annatto is a “natural” food dye and/or flavoring, it can be included in foods that say “ALL NATURAL”

  • Crackers
  • Yogurt
  • Orange cheese (cheese is really NOT supposed to be that orange color)
  • Non-dairy creamer
  • Mustard
  • Salad dressing

And all kinds of other processed foods. Watch for anything orange in particular. Marlene’s site has a much better annatto “foods to avoid” list and I recommend her site if you think annatto is your problem.

Here is why I’m taking annatto allergy/intolerance and IBS seriously.

Red annatto seeds in a green annatto pod.
This looks a little creepy to me, but many of us eat this every day. Some people get diarrhea from annatto.
© Can Stock Photo

At least one out of 5 people has what doctors call IBS. That means at least 60 million people in the USA alone have this misery.

I have no idea how many people with IBS symptoms have annatto allergies or intolerance. But what if one IBS sufferer out of a thousand really has a problem with annatto.

And what if all those people found out about it?

That would mean 60,000 people could have their IBS cure. And that’s just using the USA numbers. How many people in the world could be helped?

Please help spread the word!

Thanks (especially to you Marlene).

Find out if you have a food intolerance with a food elimination diet.

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  1. Marlene says

    Wow, thanks for putting this on your site. All I want to do is tell people about the possibility that annatto could be their trigger food. All they have to do to prove it is do an elimination diet of no annatto for 72 hours. If the symptoms disappear, annatto is the culprit. I see you wrote the number 60,000. It is estimated 60,000,000 (million) may have IBS.

    • says

      Thanks for your comments Marlene. What I meant was, there are about 60 million IBS sufferers in the USA alone. If one IBS sufferer per thousand really just had an annatto allergy, then 60 thousand people could cure their IBS by eliminating annatto from their diet.

      I hope that’s clearer. I don’t know if it is :).

  2. Marlene says and have published articles about annatto. There is an FDA number we can all call to report their experience with food additives. I’d like to get additives out of our food. And most people are fooled that it is the artificial things causing us problems. Annatto is from a tree therefore organic. Whole foods carries annatto on their spice rack. Coincidentally, with IBS being on the rise, so has the use of annatto. Or, is it a “coincidence”?

    • says

      As I was telling Eileen from, it’s ancient knowledge that “you are what you eat.” Yet people (including me) usually forget that. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that as the use of chemicals and other food additives has grown, that physical and mental health have declined. There are all kinds of “mysterious” new diseases, or increases in previously rare diseases. I don’t think it’s a coincidence though in my opinion, it may be a crime (at least of ignorance).


  3. says

    Thank you for this valuable information. I can’t believe what a reaction I have when I eat any products containing Annatto especially Cheezits and GoldFish crackers.

  4. Doris Hunter says

    I was diagnosed with IBS many years ago. MSG plus many preservatives make me suffer. Many supplements have bad fillers. Was
    curious about Annatto, and ran onto
    this. Appreciate new info.

  5. Christine V says

    Discovering this page changed my life!!! Within the past three months, suddenly things like velveeta cheese, popeye’s chicken, a cheese sauce served on burgers, a white cheese dip served with chips, ranch flavored sunflower seeds, and various other things LITERALLY made me want to die, with the pain they would make me feel in my lower colon. I would begin to bleed within 10 minutes of eating these things, and would spend the next 48 hours recovering, with 2 bowel movements an hour for the first 12 hours. I couldn’t figure out for ANYTHING what the common factor was. Googling “velveeta cheese rectal bleeding” certainly didn’t turn up any results. Then I was looking at the IBS forums, and found this list of foods talking about annatto. I have eliminated annatto from my diet completely in the last two weeks, and have no had one single attack. I am SOOOO grateful!

    • says

      Christine, I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear this today. I AM SOOO GLAD THAT YOU ARE BETTER!!I am SO grateful to Marlene Stein listed above, who first told me about annatto allergies. Sometimes it’s hard working on this site, with all the other things in life that have to happen. Stories like yours, and your comment make me realize that I need to keep going on. So THANK YOU for letting me know of your story.


  6. ben says

    Annatto is very toxic for some people myself included and I have found another very toxic ingredient that is in almost everything it is palm oil I am highly allergic to that as well. Stay on the lookout for anything with palm oil or annatto. GL and get well.

  7. Su Deacon says

    Just wanted to say I have annatto sensitivity too. I found out by noticing the difference I felt when eating orange or yellow cheese. I’m not sure if it is in some palm oil too and tend to avoid products with it in. This is such an informative site, thanks.

  8. Brandy says

    I figured out about 5 years ago (by keeping a food journal) that annatto and yellow food dye are big triggers for me. As long as I don’t have any and stay as stress free as possible, I can keep my (self diagnosed) IBS under control. Now I’m noticing that it flares up when I drink alcohol. So I guess it’s time to give that up too! I just stumbled upon your site today and I love it! Thank you for all of the great information. I think I’m going to make an appointment with my doctor to get the official diagnosis, and after whatever testing they do, then I’m definitely doing the food elimination diet! I’m going to forward the info on to my mom who has Chron’ s!

  9. Nicole says

    I knew it! Ok, so I have IBS-D and my new LACTOSE FREE coffee creamer was killing me every morning! I couldn’t figure out why. I’m lactose intolerant so I figured I was good.

    Um, no. Lol. My IBS has been off the charts since I started with the creamer. Quit using it 3 days ago and I’m feeling great!! The other things listed with annatto in them I’m sensitive to as well!

    Great article! Great Info!


  10. says

    This was a great read for me! I have had GI issues with Annatto for years. Had testing done – but was told the results were negative – even though they almost called an ambulance for me during the test. (Blood pressure thru the roof, anxiety, room was spinning, etc.) Skin reaction was negative. I have the most sever nausea and vomiting to the smallest amount of annatto.

    My question is this – is it included in ‘caramel color’? I am an avid label reader – yet sometimes seem to have issues with the caramel color.


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