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The Mysterious Case of the Pine Mouth...

A food lover and adventurous eater tries a natural cure that results in a puzzling malady.

Hello again.  I mentioned in my last article that I had experienced both good and bad culinary adventures.  The standing rib roast was definitely the good.  Now for the bad.  

My friend, Geri, heard me complaining about mouth ulcers a couple of weeks ago.  I have always attributed them to overdindulgence in certain foods, like sharp cheeses, cured meats, and eggplant and indeed, I had had a veggie lasagna chock full of eggplant the night before.  Geri said she thought it might be h. pylori, which causes all kinds of troubles for the gastrointestinal system from top to bottom.  I told her it certainly was not, but of course I went home and Googled it and immediately decided I had it.  

Not wanting to head to a doctor for a long series of tests, followed by medication trial and error, I researched natural cures instead and the clear winner seemed to be pine nut oil.  WELL, OKAY then.  I love a cure that's delicious.  In fact, I really don't see why chocolate can't be incorporated into more therapies.  Anyway, I immediately ate a half cup of pine nuts.  I felt better already.  

The next day, I found the oil at Fairway ($23.99 for a rather small bottle.  If you ever meet my husband, play dumb).  I drizzled a tablespoon of the stuff onto my spinach and clementine salad and thought I had gone to Heaven.  It was a few hours later that the trouble started.  I started to notice a bitter taste in my mouth.  No matter what I ate or drank, it would not go away.  It was almost the same feeling as when you eat a citrus rind by accident.  I woke up the next morning with the bitter taste and it persisted through the day and into the night.

That's when I went back to Dr. Google, the cheapest medical practitioner on Earth.  I plugged in my symptom and, lo and behold, what popped up but something called "pine mouth." Apparently, certain people have a sort of allergic reaction to the pine nut oil that results in a bitter taste in the mouth.  Web MD said that it sometimes lasts a week after the last pine nut is consumed. I quit the oil, and gradually, the bitter taste disappeared and hasn't been back since.

Will I stop eating pine nuts?  No way.  I love pesto, for one thing.  The second is that my sister-in-law's mother makes these awesome Italian pignoli cookies at Christmas.  I'll just be aware of the bittersweet price I'll have to pay later.  And now, dear readers, you will, too.  I wonder how many of you have experienced this allergy?  Please let me know.

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Lauren Imbruglia January 25, 2012 at 03:55 PM
My mother had it happen the last time she ate pine nuts at my house. It was a metallic taste that lasted about a week. Maybe it won't happen when you eat pine nuts in a prepared dish or sauce, maybe it was just because in the oil, it was so concentrated?
Kathy Skrzypczak January 25, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Pretty sure I just overdid it. I do love them, though!
Christine Shea January 27, 2012 at 02:32 PM
That happened to me a few months ago after I made fresh pesto. I ingested only a few pine nuts but suffered for days. My research finds that a lot of pine nuts from China cause this. I purchased my pine nuts from one of my favorite stores (Trader Joes) and that seems to have happened to a lot of people. Apparently, pine nuts from Italy are okay...
Kathy Skrzypczak January 27, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Yes, my sister told me the same thing. I guess that would explain why it doesn't always happen. I checked the bottle and it is from China. I don't know if you saw it or not, but there was a recent controversy over Chinese truffles being sold as French. Apparently, they are inferior as well. I'll have to bring my reading glass with me to the store from now on so I can read the tiny print! Thanks for the comment, Christine.
Maureen Huntley-Sheahen February 04, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Hey Kathy~ Great blog post and conversation! Pine nuts, like peanuts and other legumes/nuts are most often left in barrels that create mold, for LONG periods of time. Mold creates issues, health issues. Lots of them. ie peanut allergies and nut allergies. Mouth sores show up because of an over acidic environment within the gut flora. Our mouth is the first point of digestion, not our gut. Everything in moderation is tough to "swallow" when you're a huge pesto fan. (Pesto can be made w/other nuts).
Kathy Skrzypczak February 04, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Thanks Maureen. I do have a mold allergy, so I can see why the presence of it in the nuts would throw a monkey wrench into my digestive system. Thanks for the info. I've been making walnut/spinach pesto in the meantime. It's really good rubbed on a whole chicken before roasting.
Elaine Hesser Giuliano February 14, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Almond/spinach works pretty well, too!
Kathy Skrzypczak February 14, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Thanks, Professional Foodie!

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