Peanut Butter on Bread

Despite a seemingly growing number of kids and adults forming peanut allergies, peanut butter is a great source of potassium, monounsaturated fat and niacin.  That said, some people experience extremely uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues after eating peanut butter.

Origin of Peanut Butter

Peanuts are a species of plant that is indigenous to the Americas, and the first peanut butter was made by the Aztecs in South America.  Of course, that peanut butter would have been quite crude by today’s standards of what peanut butter should be.  Conversely, it would likely have been less salty and, of course, they would not have added sugar, salt or vegetable oil as is frequently done in peanut butter manufacturing today.  The nut is lightly roasted and then ground down into a butter-like paste.

While many people think that peanuts are of the nut family, they are not.  Peanuts are legumes, like kidney beans and lima beans.  Like other legumes, peanuts are difficult for some people to digest.  This is often indicative of bigger issues though.  People with healthy gastrointestinal function usually have no issue digesting peanuts at all.  However, others do.

The Issues with Eating Peanut Butter

When there are issues with eating peanuts, it may be indicative of bigger problems in the system.  Full-on peanut allergies that cause wheezing, blocked airways and other symptoms of the body’s reaction to the release of histamines are still relatively rare.  However, when they do happen, they are severe enough that many schools have banned peanuts and any product that may have trace peanut residue.

Interestingly enough, there is a hypothesis floating around that suggests peanuts are a suspected cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Many who suffer with IBS find that removing peanuts and other legumes from the diet can help reduce flare-ups.

Is the Problem Really the Peanuts?

While peanuts can exacerbate and cause symptoms of gastrointestinal distress, it is a good idea to talk with the doctor about it.  A doctor can order an allergy test to see if a person does actually have a peanut allergy or not.  It could be that you can eat roasted peanuts in that form, but you cannot eat them when they are processed into peanut butter.  Others can eat a little peanut butter occasionally, but find that problems start when they eat a lot of it.

If that is the case, then you may not have a peanut allergy so much as intolerance to peanuts or the chemical changes that happen when the ground peanuts interact with the additives in peanut butter.  Peanut butter often contains additives.  People, who should not eat refined sugars, including those who are dealing with diabetes, may find that they can eat "natural" peanut butters that consist of nothing but roasted peanuts and maybe a little salt to preserve it.  This type of peanut butter is closer to what the Aztecs would have eaten, and it is free of most chemical changes that a regular peanut butter undergoes during processing.

Alternately, try other butter-like spreads like cashew butter, almond butter or macadamia nut butter.  These have similar textures, come in crunchy and smooth varieties, and they are often free of the additives that are usually put into peanut butter.  Each of them, especially cashew butter, tastes great in the same recipes that peanut butter does and they are used in equal measures.  Recipes include sandwiches with jams and jellies or cookies.

Last Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013