I Discovered Annatto Caused My IBS Symptoms

By , 19 November, 2009 , 25 Comments
Marlene Stein... free of pain!

Marlene Stein... free of pain!

Do you suffer from IBS? Do you suffer from bloating, gastrointestinal pain or diarrhea? Maybe you haven’t seen a doctor because you don’t want to know what it is. Maybe you are plain embarrassed. These symptoms seem to remain in the closet: Who wants to discuss bloating, intestinal pain or diarrhea? For most of the 40 years I kept it a secret. I couldn’t make a Bridge date as I didn’t know how I was going to feel the next hour let alone the next day or week. Do you know where every restroom is in town? Do you quickly locate every restroom in the building? Are these symptoms running your life? Do you have a life?

My story might save you a lot of pain, suffering and medical bills.

Please feel free to read, learn and consider the information in this website. My life was changed by my personal discovery and I want to pass on the information… it’s that simple! I discovered that the simple ingredient called annatto was causing my IBS symptoms and was a food that I should avoid.

I can’t be the only one who has an adverse reaction to ANNATTO… and if you suffer from any  intestinal or bowel disorder that has no explanation or cure, it can’t hurt you to try this for a few days! It’s not invasive. It isn’t that you are doing something serious like surgery. To see if ANNATTO is your “trigger” food causing your discomfort and running (ruining) your life, wouldn’t it be wonderful if a simple thing like omitting annatto from your ingestion did the trick?

Read through my website to find out more. Leave comments or send me an email… I will get back to you as soon as possible.

25 Responses {+}
  • carole


    Are you saying Annatto is Good or bad for people with IBS? Thanks Carole

  • debbie

    I am a 42 year old female experiencing daily migraines and 20+ years of chronic diarrhea, along with a “laundry list of other conditions and disorders!!!)
    My GI doctor gave me a diagnosis of Ulcerative and Collagenous Colitis. After the gall bladder surgery I began taking NINE caps of Colazal and THREE caps of Entocort daily. By this point I was 75 pounds, having lost 20, between the nausea from the gall bladder and the flare up of “Colitis.” Well, the pill combo. helped, but I hated taking all of the horse pills. (Colazal is outragously expensive, too) I have the medicine protocol of an 80 year old woman, with all of my crazy chronic this and that. My doctor told me that he had a patient who had gotten down to taking one Colazal cap in the morning. Just to outdo, I tapered off of both GI meds…having read “Eating for IBS” book, including the diet and recipes and resolving to follow it to the letter-“tummy teas” and all. Guess what? I went for over one year without a single episode or flare up. I had a short bout while on a trip to Philly last Oct., but did a rigid BRAT diet and paid excruciating attention to labels and all that I ate and drank. I enlisted the owner of a local “Smoothie King” to find the highest calorie drinks and bars that are available—just for weight gain. He tested me for several allergies. I was off-the-chart allergic to wheat and gluten, but dairy was fine. I can’t afford to lose any more weight or fluids associated with the diarrhea!
    Anyway, my life is nearly in ruins. My husband’s patience is gone. I cannot focus on my work (we own a landscape lighting company and I run the interior, he the exterior) or anything else, for that matter. I have not been able to gain any weight back, despite my inclusion of many items from the Mediterranean Diet in conjunction with the IBS diet. NOW THIS AGAIN!?!?!?! I’m back to 10-15 episodes/day.

    ANY IDEAS/SUGGESTIONS OUT THERE FOR LITTLE OLE’ ME??? [oh, did I mention I am now shopping the kid’s departments and donning a girl’s size 8???] THIS IS CRAZY!!!

  • Marlene Stein

    Send me your email and I’ll send you the annatto list if you didn’t find it here.

    Do an elimination diet. Omit annatto from your diet for three to four days; if this is your “trigger” food, you’ll have a normal bowel movement and no pain or bloating. But, you have to make sure you don’t eat ANY annatto.

  • Marlene Stein

    Debbie, First, I am not a physician so I wouldn’t dare suggest you do anything but follow your physicians recommendations.
    Here’s a bit more of my story. At one time I was 102 lbs and a size 4. I am 5’7 1/2″ so I looked pretty awful. I was so weak and hardly did anything. I was diagnosed with celiac disease and lactose intolerance at one time or the other. Both apparently in error since my new discovery about annatto is the only thing that has made a difference. I now weigh 150. My husband is a retired Allergist. Like most physicians, they don’t accept much if there haven’t been clinical tests. There was one in the 70’s. It did link annatto as a cause of diarrhea in 71% of the people. Annatto was used as a laxative in the Aztec and Mayan cultures. My husband feels that omitting annatto from a diet is not “invasive” (like surgery, for instance), and he sees no reason or harm in omitting annatto and see what happens. It can’t hurt and it could work. If you do it and it is your problem, you will have a “normal” bowel movement in three to four days. And, no more pain! Let me know if this is your “trigger” food. It’s just a few days of your life. I have had IBS since the 60’s and I don’t have any symptoms when omitting annatto 100%.

  • Marlene Stein

    I am saying annatto could be the cause of IBS symptoms so omit annatto. If you do this 100% for three or four days and you have a normal bm, it could be your “trigger” food.

  • Maayana Kolly

    What is Annatto? And what kinds of food should I avoid having IBS. I suffer from severe stomach aches. I would appriciate it very much if you could get back to me
    Thank you,

  • Joy

    My 16 year old son had IBS for 9 months. Finally he was referred to a gastroenterologist. The doctor had him stay off dairy for 2 weeks, and he was much better. We thought we were home free and had found the solution. He did continue to react to foods occasionally, lactose-free yellow cheese, Noah’s bagels coffee cake, orange chicken. The only additional ingredient that was in the lactose-free cheese was annatto. We decided to confirm lactose intolerance with the breath hydrogen test. He was negative.

    I searched annatto + IBS on the computer and I came across your web site. I kept him off of annatto for several weeks, and he was better. To try to confirm that annatto was his trigger, I crushed some achiote that I bought at the health food store and put it in tea. Within an hour he had similar IBS symptoms as before. Now he is very careful to keep away from anything containing annatto.

  • santosh kotharee

    having ibs problem want to releif.

  • caroline hanson

    I am about to have gall bladder removed. I have lots of stones. Now they say i have IBS, so removal will not make a difference. I love chinese food but have tried to cut down dairy intake. I dont like milk and only eat cheese rarely. What is annatto and which foods is it in?

  • amarnath murthy

    What is the right diet for IBS? I am fed up with this painful daily life. It spoils my total routine and drastically reduces my effeciency in anything I want to do. I feel very helpless.

  • Marlene Stein

    Eliminate Annatto from your diet. Check labels carefully, and don’t eat something if you can’t check the ingredients. Try it for three or four days and see if your symptoms improve.

    There is a list of foods known to have annatto in them under “Foods To Avoid” at the top of this page.

  • Marlene Stein

    I discovered that annatto, which is a food additive used for coloring mostly, was causing my IBS symptoms. It is easy to test for yourself if this is your problem too.

    Just eliminate annatto from your diet.

    It takes some research and investigation. Here on my website, there is a list of Foods to Avoid that I have found have annatto as an ingredient. Try it!

  • buntyp

    I like many other IBS sufferers, I am sure, am just surfing the web for any info on the this ‘Kinky’ condition.
    This ‘Annnato’ bizness maybe something to look into.
    I like many others, are finding that something which does’nt trouble you one day, is suddenly a ‘Trigger’ a couple of days later.
    I am trying to follow, & am taking ‘Heathers’ recommendations & stuff. I am also about to add ‘Chelated Magnesium’ & some of the ‘Digestive Advantage’ Products.
    Although I have had some ‘Chronic’ Diverticulitis episodes durong the the past 16 years, I never before had the experience of ‘Morphing’ into an IBS-A situation.
    The ‘Diverticulitis’ episodes would clear-up, so to speak, after about a month. However this last ‘Episode’, Started Jan. 2010, & seem to have just moprphed into an IBS situation for my first experience at 72 years og age.
    I am very aware of ‘Micro-Flora’ imbalance & have tried to always try & include in my diet, Fiber & Probiotic supplements.
    I mention that to show that I am aware of all the things I should do to prevent ‘Diverticulitis’ attacks.
    Your Annatto list may be an additional help in avoiding these ‘Trigger’ foods.
    I suspect that it is most likely found in Ingredients for making ‘Gravy’.
    I hope you may be able to find the time in helping me with this ‘Annatto’ list.

  • Marlene

    Your fibre and micro flora supplements might have annatto in them if they are capsules. How about quitting things and doing an “elimination diet” of one thing at a time. Like, for 72 hours stop all annatto. I haven’t found annatto in gravy and I have looked. It is sometimes in the dressing mixes you buy on which you put the gravy. You are trying a lot of things. Why not go natural first then add things back? All that stuff might have annotto including the Probiotic supplements. Good luck. http://www.about.com and http://www.fedupwithadditives.com talk about annatto.

  • Jenny

    My husband definitely reacts to Annatto (additive 160b, 160c, 160d) with severe stomach cramps and diarrhea. It’s almost always within 1 hour of eating something with Annatto in it.

    We’ve also found the same reaction to Saffron and natural Caramel colours 150b, 150c, 150d. If he avoids these foods he’s fine and we’ve tested it with blind tests (so that he doesn’t know whether the food has the colour or not) and without fail he’ll only react if there’s one of these so called ‘natural’ colours.

    As a point of interest, his reaction to saffron is more severe than to the 150 (Caramel) or 160 (Annatto) food colours with two days of lethargy and depression on top of the stomach cramps/diarrhea.

    The Caramel 150 colours tend to be in brown things such as gravy, barbecue sauce, balsamic vinegar, stock. The Annatto 160 colours tend to be in pre-made pastry, par-bake rolls, ice cream, stock.

  • anna monaghan

    Hi Marlene…

    Just wanted to send you this link to another product with annatto – dunkin donuts. in particular this is the chocolate glazed cake donut. i didn’t check every single thing they offer yet, but annatto is listed in the “donut dough” so i am assuming that most of the cake donuts have that as a base.

    Liam had a reaction last night/this morning and I have been trying to figure out what it might be from – lo and behold, there is annatto in the donuts dad brought home after church yesterday. Aside from this episode, he has been doing pretty well, I have gotten him on a diet that (usually) doesnt include annatto and he has had significantly fewer digestive problems. just thought you might be interested and want to add the dunkin donuts – (cake donuts) to the list.
    > https://www.dunkindonuts.com/aboutus/nutrition/Product.aspx?Category=Donuts&id=DD-515

  • mandy smith-harding

    I’m 19 and in october 2009 my sister made a cheese pasta. It was yummy, and I ate two bowls. That night I suffered with cramps and a runny yumy. I went to the doctor and he said it had to do with my protein intake. Yet it only happens with cheese milk and yogurt (dairy). Is this IBS… how should I deal with it?

  • Cielo

    Hi Marlene and everybody

    Just wanted to let you know that Coca Cola products contain annatto, and caramel color… here is the website that says every colorant and ingredient they use, which unfortunately doesn’t say in which products they use each colorant:


  • annatjie joubert

    What is annato? I suffer from constant
    lower stomach pain and would like to
    know what type of foods I should eat
    and what to avoid.
    Thanking you

  • Shawn from Solving the IBS Puzzle

    Hi Marlene

    that’s amazing! I write a site about ibs called solvingtheibspuzzle.com. I’ve just written a page about annatto after finding your site. I’ve pointed people to your food list since it’s so comprehensive.

    Thanks for sharing all this.

  • Eileen

    Hi Marlene,

    Just wanted to say that it is great that you are spreading the news on these things. The more of us that do this, the greater the awareness and then eventual change.

    Annatto makes my daughter very cranky. We are an additive, preservative free household and on the raw food path.

    Keep up the great work.


  • Jacque

    I am 56 years old, female and active. I have had to resort to wearing a diaper these days because I have mush that for the most part stays inbetween my cheeks, but does sometimes go in to my panties. I have NEVER had this problem and am very embarrassed. I never know when it will happen or even when it is there. I will be watching what I eat to be sure it does not have this ingredient. I was eating a lot of Ritz crackers but have stopped. I hope this works.

  • Beverly

    Annatto, as well as caramel coloring and Red Lake 40 food colorings, make me weak, go to sleep, and if enough was consumed…probably pass out standing up. It’s nothing to mess with and took me a decade to figure out. (No help from doctors.) That heavy, lethargic, severe fatigue often came over me…but I failed to attribute it to any one thing. No wonder! It was coming from many things consumed. These three colors are extremely common additives to anything from soup to the margarine. I wish they’d get the stuff out of our food!!!

  • Donna

    I have suffered from severe loose bowel movements, abdominal pains, bloating, sickness and general embarressment daily for 3 years and i am only 24 yrs old. This has been ever since I was hospitalised with the superbug C.Diff. The NHS has been investigating this for 3 years and i have had every test possible (including various invasive procedures) to no avail. My doctors have now turned around and said i must be taking laxitives! This is obviously ridiculous as why would i go to them in the first place to complain about my problem if i was doing it to myself!!

    I feel absolutely distraught as i have been told they dont do food tests and therefore cannot tell me if it is actually my diet. They have ruled out IBS, IBD and most other diseases however everytime they have taken a stool sample they seem to find various aspects of it that are inflammed and irregular. I am at my wits end so this site has encouraged me to just try elimating some foods etc to see how i get on as the thought of carrying on like this for the rest of my life is awful.

    I think everyone here understands how incredibly embarressing it is and i have even had to tell my boss as i have comments from male colleagues when i run off to the loo, i miss so many evenings out and dinners because food and/or an available toilet seems to rule my life.

    I pray that i get something sorted soon.

  • Kris

    I wish I would have found your website a long time ago… I might have figured it out earlier.

    I did the elimination diet. I added dairy and thought I was lactose intolerant for a while; but I was eating yellow cheese. I re-visited dairy after a discussion with my sister who told me that she gets hives when eating foods with dyes. To my surprise I only had reactions with “yellow” cheese. I still didn’t know the culprit until I started investigating further and found Annatto was the dye used in yellow cheeses.

    I have been “mostly” Annatto free (few mistakes here and there) and feel SO MUCH BETTER.

    I’m embarrassed to say but there was a time where I kept an extra set of underwear w/ me at all times because accidents were frequent; this is no longer the case…

    The FDA needs to mandate that companies list Annatto as an ingredient !!!

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