The first time I had papaya was when I was visiting my friend in Hawaii. My friend’s mom had picked a papaya right off the tree in their backyard for our breakfast, and I immediately fell in love with the juicy, sweet fruit, similar to cantaloupe but with a distinct delicate flavor. Papaya is an excellent source of Vitamin C, Folate, and Vitamin A, and beneficial phytochemicals like lycopene and polyphenols. So earlier this week, when I saw a beautiful slice of papaya at my usual natural food market, I was expecting a tasty lunch–but not the violent stomachache that followed almost immediately. The cramps lasted until I went to bed, making me wonder–could I be allergic to papaya?
As it turns out, the skin and the fruit of the papaya contains a latex-like enzyme that can cause allergic reactions in certain people. The symptoms include itching and burning around the mouth, cramping, bloating, nausea, and vomiting. I haven’t ever been diagnosed with any allergies before, so I’m not sure if this was a true allergic reaction or a case of “oops-I-ate-too-much” Fruit Monster debacle. But since I’d eaten nothing up to that point besides what I always eat, (tofu chocolate knish and a banana, if you must know), it seems reasonable that papaya allergy might be to blame. There are also interesting studies that showed papaya (esp. unripe ones) could have a contraceptive effect, and suppress progesterone levels. So if you are trying, you might want to stay far away from this fruit, especially the unripe kind that gets used for Thai salads.