Why Does Eating Salmon Make Me Sick?

Published Categorized as Food
Why Does Eating Salmon Make Me Sick?Ramille Soares /Unsplash

Everybody loves salmon. Seriously.

Name one person who’d turn down a crispy and flaky salmon fillet. It’s tasty, hearty, and filling—and makes for as good of a meal when grilled for lunch on a hot summer’s day as it does roast on a chilly winter night.

Nutritionists agree. An oily fish with high protein content and plenty of omega-3 fatty acids (a.k.a. the good kind), salmon is frequently touted as an excellent choice of food on any diet that allows eating fish.

Lately, despite my apparent appreciation of this delicious and nutritious fish, something started to change. An hour or so in after eating salmon, I’d start to feel dizziness and fatigue.

This comes from someone who prides himself on his ability to eat—and savor—any food, from any cuisine!

I am a food blogger without borders, someone who has a knack for understanding the principles behind any cuisine and mastering the art and craft of its tricky yet rewarding recipes.

What happened?

At first, I thought I was going berserk.

Perhaps I needed a change from leaning over the stove, then sitting on a desk to write about my experiences on a laptop?

But then, I started to do some research… as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one who had complained of regularly feeling sick after eating salmon!

You can generally have two types of adverse reactions to fish: fish allergy or less-intense fish intolerance, both triggered by your immune system’s response to the calcium-binding protein called parvalbumin.

Fish allergy appears early in life and generally lasts a lifetime; intolerance to fish can occur at any time and disappear just as suddenly.

Fish allergy is when your body physically rejects fish as food. It’s caused by a reaction to parvalbumin, a kind of protein that’s commonly and predominantly found in fish, and a potent allergen.

One study found that salmon had a relatively high parvalbumin content of 0.5-2 mg per gram, compared to less than 0.5 mg/g for mackerel and well over 2 mg/g for cod, carp, redfish, and herring.

As with most proteins, parvalbumins are heat stable. They’re as present in sashimi (raw fish, sushi) as they are in grilled, pan-seared, or roast salmon, and they can agitate an allergy just as much.

Fish allergies appear early in life and last a lifetime. To determine whether you have one, it’s best to consult with a medical professional who can help you conduct a skin and blood test.

So I could count that one out…

Fish intolerance, as described by yorktest, isn’t something you necessarily have for life. Scientists agree that it can appear at any point of time in your life right out of the blue—and disappear just as quickly.

The symptoms of fish intolerance are less severe than those of fish allergy. They generally include an upset stomach, bloating, nausea, headaches, and, in some cases, skin rashes.

Fish intolerance is also triggered by your body’s response to parvalbumin, the second-largest family of animal allergens. To determine whether you have it, the best thing to do is get yourself tested for allergies.

A few Redditors had another theory: salmon is very fatty and could make you feel dizzy if you don’t eat oily foods as much.

In a way, it makes sense.

Lately, I haven’t been eating fatty meat or oily seafood more than once per week. As regular readers of Home Cook World know, I’ve been diving deep into Italian cuisine—and its recipes that call for 00 flour and canned tomatoes on the stove over thick-cut steak and mushrooms on the grill.

That will, of course, change once I get to Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak) and the hearty wonders of Tuscan cuisine as a whole.

After getting myself tested and confirming that I absolutely don’t have an allergy or intolerance to the protein called parvalbumin, this is the best explanation I could possibly come to for myself as well.

Until then, I plan to limit my salmon intake and keep you posted if anything changes. After all, I could always attribute this to me getting old!

Curious to know if any of you have experienced something similar when it comes to eating salmon. And, if you have, what you found out about it/how you managed to deal with it.

Do let me know in the comments section below this post.



By Jim Stonos

When Jim isn't in the kitchen, he is usually spending time with family and friends, and working with the HCW editorial team to answer the questions he used to ask himself back when he was learning the ropes of cooking.

22 comments

  1. I have felt nauseous in the past few months and have tried pinpointing it to what I’m consuming. Lately I’ve wondered if it’s the salmon. I started eating a lot of salmon last June. I found your article this morning. I skipped salmon for a few days, then had salmon again yesterday. I had the nausea again.

    1. Hi, Lynne,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Right?! I’ve had a few readers email me about this as well since I wrote this article. There’s something fishy going on with salmon here 🙂

      Some suspect it may be the mercury content. Though Harvard Health Publishing and WebMD tend to disagree.

      Still trying to figure this out by doing research now and then, but haven’t been able to put my finger on it.

      Jim

  2. Yes! But mostly after warm freshly cooked wild salmon – triggers nausea and vomiting. So, I think it is the oil content, as I don’t eat much fat, apart from cheese.
    Thank you for this

    1. Hey, Ruth. I hear you on fattiness. I’m a carnivore, but, apart from when I chew into a burger, I eat mostly lean meats. And my stomach isn’t very accustomed to a lot of fat content in my food, that’s for sure!

  3. I have gotten sick after eating freshly cooked salmon as well as eating raw with sushi. Only I got sick each time but not others. So, I assumed it couldn’t be food poisoning since others were fine after eating the same food. I just read the article and now it makes sense.

  4. My dad and I both ate salmon I cooked on the grill last night. Neither one of us knew the other was sick all day today till I saw him again tonight. We both had very bad lower stomach cramps and bloating and the feeling of having to go….. but not actually being able to. VERY weird. The only common thing we both ate was the salmon cooked. We each had separate salads along side the fish. That’s what led me to googling and finding this article

  5. I’ve been a salmon lover for years, eating it regularly because I’m not a big carnivore. I only eat wild fresh salmon as we have a friend that is an Alaskan fisherman. This year something changed. Every time I ate it, I felt “yucky”. Not quite sick but like I just didn’t want to eat anymore salmon. I was almost afraid if I did eat any more I would get sick so leftovers would just go to waste. So I stopped eating it for a few months and tried again tonite at a restaurant. Same thing, an hour after, I just wasn’t liking the feeling going on in my body. So I will not be eating salmon again for while and it’s so frustrating not to be able to eat this healthy food! I’m grateful to know it is happening to other people and not in my head! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Pretty random I came across this post. Hubby and I both had Salmon. Ate half of it last night with a salad, and the other half with breakfast this morning. Both times the same stomach upset and bloating and strange fatigue! I tried to rule it out last night as the culprit, but can’t deny the evidence this morning! Hubby had no reactions. Think I’ll pass on this fish from now on…..

  7. Ok. This is me. It started about six months ago and I’ve blamed the symptoms on everything else….but getting up from dinner last night….I immediately didn’t feel well and went to take a nap and my friend said “ok it’s got to be the salmon”…..then I found this! I will try other fishes….and hope it goes away! Thank you. I thought I was going crazy!

  8. Feeling nauseous here about 4. 1/2 hours or so of having delicious grilled salmon. This is the 2nd or 3rd time it has happened in the last few months. Major bummer since I love the way this one place prepares it.

  9. Oh Damn! I have been abusing salmon since being hospitalized last year. I thought i was being kind to my body.
    I was awakened in the wee hours today sick and bloated. After suffering fo a couple hours it ended by coming up completely undigested after 6 hours. Once it was out of me i began to feel better.

    Like i said I used to eat a lot of salmon, not after finding your blog.
    Just a few hours ago i was begging for the mercy of my maker. 🥴
    – Thanks for the tip.

  10. Wow…so glad to find this. Ive noticed im almost always unwell after eating salmon. Last night was the worst. Lower stomach cramps in waves. Nausea. Trying to go to bathroom but not really able to. Just a general overall feeling of unease. I dont think im willing to try again. I feel as if my body just cant digest it. So many foods seem absolutely toxic these day. Everyone I know is struggling with stomach issues. Is it stress, lower quality foods, covid after effects? Who knows! The research continues but salmon is on my banned list. Be well everyone!

  11. Hi there, I only have this from farmed salmon!! I noticed it has much more fat than wild cough salmon. Maybe a lot of antibiotics too?

  12. Hiya.
    I never consumed salmon growing up,as an adults I wanted to try new things. Every time I have salmon within a couple hours I am throwing up. After I vomit I am completely fine. My body just rejects it.

  13. Every time I’ve been out for a meal & had salmon I feel nauseous & dizzy an hour later, so always on my way home. Diarrhoea later. Thought I had a fish allergy but ok with cod fish chips, prawns, tuna & mussels. However I do feel the same with any fish if I have a glass wine or alcohol with my fish meal it makes me feel worse & I’m throwing up. Tend not to eat anything fish now, put me off!

  14. I thought I was crazy. Everytime I eat salmon I’m up running to the bathroom and then I can’t sleep for hours. The next day I’m beyond exhausted. I’m so glad to find there are others with odd reaction. I didn’t notice it to sardines so I’ll stick with other fish.

  15. Me too. I joined Costco a year ago and bought a couple packages of their Norwegian smoked salmon. I would have a few small slices every morning with breakfast. For the past year I’ve been plagued with diarrhea, had no clue why. Nothing in my life had changed. Then Hubby the Doc, who hates fish, said it was the salmon. I couldn’t figure out why because I’ve never had an issue with any fish. So for about 10 days I quit eating the salmon and the diarrhea disappeared. Yesterday morning I had just a few bites and today I’m plagues with loose stool again. I googled this and indeed salmon is a good way to cure constipation, so I guess I’m going to have to stop eating it. Too bad.

  16. I haven’t touched salmon in 2 years. Prior to that I ate it 3 times per week. Loved every form, raw, grilled, etc. It took me several bad nights of nausea and vomiting to pinpoint salmon as the culprit. It’s a shame, totally loved the stuff.

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