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.


  1. Reply

    I have got lactose and sweetener intolerance and today I realized that annatto, too, causes problems. I ate it in the evening (in the form of Alpro Vanilla dessert) and had pain in my lung (?) in the morning for 4-6 hours. My night was not good, either. Roughly 20-22 hours later of consuming it I had loose stool and quite a lot of stinky gas. There is another ingredient in the product called curcumin of which I am very suspicious but I think it is the annatto.

  2. Reply

    Annatto is the worst. My only allergy. If I have enough of it around a day later i will experience the most insane pain on the side of my head that will worsen for near a week and then vanish. But it’s crazy headache, toothache, and lower neck ache. It is the most insane sharp pain. Aspirin helps the most but only for a little while. I check all labels but not when i order out. Yellow cheese is definite. Cheez-it always.. Even with there white cheddar. Soft cookies for some reason seem to have it. The problem is that it is a plant so they can get away with natural color or natural flavor. It’s just a cheap alternative to beta carotene and it has more issues than any other synthetic color. I love seeing yellow#5

  3. Reply

    I am seriously allergic to annatto it took many years of the process of elimination to find the culprit. It has had a bloom in the last few years.It is becoming almost in possible to find food in the grocery store with it not in it. It’s in french fries,hot cocoa,crackers,and breads.

    • Reply

      I am very allergeric or food intolerant to annatto which is also called achiote in Spanish. In my case, it cases explosive diarrhea and the amount of time before onset is dependent on how much was eatten. Trace amounts can cause IBS type symptoms. I check labels carefully now and am pretty sure it is in carmel. Unfortunately, when eatting out most people have never heard of annatto so it is hard to determine if it might be in your meal. Beware that this spice is common in Mexican food. Annatto (achiote) can be used to make the colorful Mexican rice that is a side dish. So far in my travels in Europe, I have not run across food with annatto in it. In the old days, beta-carotene (from carrots) or food coloring were used to color food yellow-red to increase food appeal! I don’t know why the American food industry switched but maybe it is time for them to switch back?

  4. Reply

    Annatto and migraines. Annatto gives me severe migrains. eye sight goes and everything. I stopped getting migraines when i stopped eating annatto. IT sucks because I cant have most mac and cheese. I can only eat white mac and cheese. thank god panera bread switched its recipe.

  5. Reply

    I’m lucky myself not to suffer from this, but my Mother had bowel issues with an unknown cause, ending up with her losing a large portion of her bowels and nearly dying. Now she has no bowels (so to speak) for this to irritate, she comes out in hives. Surely something so damaging to some people needs to be highlighted, not just listed low down in the ingredients! I don’t know about in the States, but in the UK, this allergy/intolerance is pretty much unheard of.

  6. Reply

    Check out the public Facebook page called “Annatto Free”. There are many more cases of IBS and Annatto there as well!

  7. Reply

    Interesting to find this site. I self diagnosed Annatto reaction in myself over 10 years ago. My symptoms were itchy spots around the mouth whenever I ate products containing Annatto (lived with it for 50 years). Fortunately the discomfort was only mild but I stopped eating the products I knew contained Annatto. I don’t check in advance but every time I get a similar flare up I then check any new product I’ve eaten and it has always contained Annatto. No new product no flare up.

    • Reply

      Interesting! I still suffer with this. Every time I accidently ingest it (usually while dining out), the reaction is worse than the last. I now have a Rx for Zofran (rapid release tabs) that puts the nausea at bay. Hard to eat out – but it’s just the reality of it now. Good luck with that. (Annatto is in SO many things you’d never expect – even cooking sprays – who needs color added to THAT!)

  8. Reply

    Annatto! sorry spelled it wrong.

    • Reply

      I believe it can also believe it can also be listed under “natural colors” and flavors. Maybe you could try skipping it for a little bit and see what happens.

  9. Reply

    Wondering : Does the package actually say in the ingr. list ANNANO?? I do not see it listed on Cremora. Is it a different name. I use liquid creamer….I assume its in that too??

    • Reply

      Can’t answer clinically – but sometimes ‘caramel color’ sets me off – so safe to assume it’s in it. It is in most ice cream (vanilla & chocolate based), crackers, cheese, many packaged noodles, even non stick cooking spray!

  10. Reply

    Wow, I believe I have this!! Thanks.

  11. Reply

    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.


  12. Reply

    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!


  13. Reply

    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!

  14. Reply

    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.

  15. Reply

    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.

    • Reply

      Thanks for the insight Ben.

  16. Reply

    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!

    • Reply

      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.


  17. Reply

    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.

    • Reply

      You’re Welcome Doris, I hope it helped somehow. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      • Reply

        how will I know if products contain annatto? Is it always under this name?
        I’ve been using Publix brand non dairy coffee cream for years…never thought that could be the cause of my IBS d. I don’t see any mention of annatto on the label. So confused😩😩😩. Could it be listed as something else…another name maybe?

        • Reply

          Creamer is loaded with carrageenan, a known trigger for gut inflammation.

  18. Reply

    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.

  19. Reply 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”?

    • Reply

      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).


  20. Reply

    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.

    • Reply

      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 :).

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