Writing about harmful fruits is as hard to write as it is to read: I mean, I am all pro fruits – and who doesn’t love watermelon?! But then, I wish I had known about this danger before it happened to me! And I might not even have believed it, if I didn’t go through it myself, twice!
Luckily, I am on my way to recovery, and the effects of nitrate toxicity are reversed over time on their own – if it doesn’t reach a critical point. The effects I felt from a nitrate overload were far from funny – I was scared by the sudden onset of heavy fatigue, dizziness, heart racing, and muscle burning and cramping. I even consulted my healthcare provider – a very unusual behavior of mine – but I felt there was something serious going on! The problem is that doctors are not specialized in detecting toxic exposures, so I had to figure it out myself – like “doctor house”…
What happened? Concentrated nitrates in watermelon juice!
What happened to me was, that I suffered from nitrate (nitrite) overload and toxicity due to consuming a lot of watermelon juice from contaminated fruits! As this dosage of nitrates was too much for my iron-depleted body (due to my coffee addiction)! I suffered from frightening symptoms: severe fatigue, hard even to move arms, racing heart, heavy breathing, muscle pains, and cramping. The second time I also got constant dizziness. But why?
Watermelon toxicity arises from unnaturally accumulated nitrates in the fruits – not from the fruit itself. Nitrates are partially converted to nitrites after ingestion, which then oxidizes hemoglobin. This so-called methemoglobinemia results in low oxygen levels and an anemia-like condition. The condition is reversed by antioxidants in the body over time, but depending on the percentage of altered hemoglobin, the condition can be serious (Iolascon et al., 2021). Vitamin C naturally helps this process as a potent antioxidant. In cases where treatment is needed, the antioxidant methylene blue is used IV.
Usually, an adult would not feel serious symptoms by consuming a few pieces of contaminated watermelon. However, if you do juicing or, even worse daily juicing, the concentration can become increased. In my case, I already have low ferritin and thus suboptimal hemoglobin levels, which now were compromised to a degree where I started to feel the scary effects of “nitrate-induced anemia”!
Crashing, recovering, crashing, recovering…
The first time this happened was when I ate a large watermelon piece from a store that had pre-cut pieces outside on a hot day (I know, not a clever move). After eating, I immediately felt so weak I couldn’t move, my heart was racing, muscles cramping. The next day I wasn’t better and called my doctor – but only got an appointment on day 4, when I already felt markedly better. They sent me home with “low iron” symptoms and lab results, plus iron supplements (which I immediately switched to natural supplementation using curry leave extract). I improved quickly as I took the herbs and completely desisted from eating any watermelon anymore. After all, I crashed right after eating the melon.
However, after 3 weeks, I started watermelon juicing with seemingly “safe” watermelons from the most “trusted” supermarket. And things started to worsen again… at first, I didn’t attribute my relapse to the melons, as I thought it was due to my first melon being contaminated, and secondly, I additionally felt severe vertigo, which I hadn’t experienced prior. I was in agony for over a week, and things did not improve (yeah, I thought the watermelon juice would help me absorb my iron supplements). I blamed my issues on low iron, but was in doubt, as it had improved quickly the first time, even without the iron supplements.
But then came the moment of solving the mystery: I read about watermelon poisoning! The universe provided the answer! It just all clicked and was totally in line with my gut feeling, too. Still, I needed to test it! And sure, after stopping the melon juices, my symptoms improved quickly! The methemoglobinemia also explained why I felt anemic, despite my normal blood cell count!
I am now taking extra amounts of vitamin C and OPC as potent antioxidants to help reverse the nitrite-induced oxidation of hemoglobin quicker and help my body produce more hemoglobin by addressing the iron deficiency.
Warnings from officials! They know. And we need to be aware too!
No one warned me, or anyone else that I know, about the nitrates in watermelon from our supermarkets. Juicing watermelon has always been seen as healthy, whatsoever. Not even my doctor knew about the possible nitrate effects – or even considered looking into it. However, watermelon toxicity is well-known to the officials in countries where they are grown!
The excess of chemicals (nitrate) in this fruit turns into a toxic substance when it enters the body and causes poisoning. The most common symptoms of watermelon poisoning are dizziness, mood swings and stomach spasms. Former Minister of Agriculture, Edmond Panariti, in a public reaction has expressed concern over this disturbing phenomenon.Source
The matter is serious, as children or the elderly can be in serious danger.
Watermelons “suck up” chemicals from contaminated soils
Watermelons grow on the ground – and soak in fertilizers and pesticides from non-organic agriculture.
Identifying bad watermelons
Go organic. Always. But if ever you do not, here are some tests to help identify bad watermelons. The big, out-of-season melons may look appealing, but are most likely the ones grown under the conditions that can cause high nitrate levels!
I didn’t follow my own advice in purchasing organic fruits, as the organic melons here are not really sweet and often underripe. The huge dark pink watermelon was too tempting, and the juice was delicious! But no, not worth it! Don’t do it!
Juicing made a high nitrate intake “easy”
When You juice, you can easily ingest the nitrates of half of a huge watermelon within a few minutes.
I mean who would guess that something bad could come from a natural, home-made watermelon juice!?
What have I learned from my bad watermelon experience?
I have never been that close to a collapse of my body like I have experienced in these few, but long weeks. I was scared and didn’t understand what was happening. I felt a bit closer to physical death, definitely. But, I would never let a good crisis go to waste: I asked for guidance and health, from the spirit world, and got my answers soon after.
So what have I learned?
Listen to your intuition and your body… even if everyone says it’s foolish! Be thankful for life and every day that you feel fine. Have compassion for every creature, not only animals… (if you know what I mean). Don’t be scared, but be smart! Don’t give up and ask out for guidance of the spirit world, from your heart.
Stick to produce from non-toxic farming!
There are positive things in the darkest moment: I have overcome some food addictions like coffee and chocolate, as I was in enough pain to leave out possible contributors to my condition. Also, my long-standing low ferritin levels were discovered, which helps me address the problem (which has to do with my coffee addiction and iron absorption). On a positive note, all my other lab results were fine – after years of eating a high-fruit and mostly raw diet!