chocolate allergies Archives - Lifelab Testing

Understanding Chocolate Allergies

Considering how delicious and popular chocolate is, it is no surprise that you can find it in various foods, snacks, desserts, and drinks. However, chocolate can cause problems for those people who are allergic to it. A chocolate allergy is quite rare, and most people who experience such symptoms often do so because of the other ingredients found in this yummy snack.

Chocolate is a mixture of various ingredients. For example, you need cocoa powder (a processed version of cacao), sugar, fats, and emulsifiers (like soy lecithin). You will also find milk as an ingredient in most chocolates. When you’re allergic to chocolate, it will take a bit of testing to nail down the exact ingredient causing those reactions.

Can you be allergic to chocolate?

Cocoa contains a lot more phenolic antioxidants than most foods. The antioxidant effects of cocoa may directly influence insulin resistance and, in turn, reduce the risk for diabetes. Cocoa can also protect the nerves from injury, protect the skin from oxidative damage caused by UV radiation, and improve cognitive functions and mood {1}. Despite its many benefits, some people have to avoid this great food item.

You’re most likely to be allergic to chocolate if you’re allergic to cocoa’s primary source. But, it is also possible to be allergic to chocolate because of the ingredients in that specific chocolate bar. You will find that most chocolates include ingredients like nuts, milk, or even wheat. These ingredients can set off an allergic reaction. For example, it is common to find those people with celiac disease reacting to chocolate. The most common theory to justify this is cross-reactivity.

Sometimes, you get symptoms after consuming chocolate because you are already taking some prescribed drugs. Chocolate doesn’t interact well with certain drugs like Prozac (fluoxetine). The symptoms you observe that you may think are a chocolate allergy could be Prozac and similar medications. You should ensure that your doctor is aware of your medication before you have your allergy test. It is essential to check into this if your test comes out negative and you take these medications.

Chocolate allergy symptoms

Chocolate allergy can cause diverse reactions ranging from mild to life-threatening. If you experience adverse reactions when consuming chocolate, it is better to stay away from it. The most common symptoms of chocolate allergy include:

  • Migraines
  • Heartburn
  • Cramps
  • Swelling
  • Cough
  • Itching, hives, or chocolate allergy rash
  • Anaphylaxis

However, it is more common to experience chocolate sensitivity or intolerance. It could be because you are sensitive to cocoa or other ingredients like amino acid tyramine. When you have a chocolate intolerance, you can eat small amounts of it without experiencing symptoms. However, a large amount of chocolate consumed when you have a chocolate intolerance can always result in gastrointestinal symptoms and other symptoms like:

  • Acne
  • Bloating or gas
  • Constipation
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Skin rash or contact dermatitis
  • Upset stomach

Some people experience certain symptoms after eating chocolate because of its caffeine. If you have caffeine intolerance or sensitivity, you may experience symptoms like:

  • Shakiness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fast or uneven heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

Risk factors of chocolate allergy

Even though most people who get an allergic reaction to chocolate have it because of cocoa, others can have the same experience with various ingredients. People have an allergic reaction to chocolate because oif ingredients like:

  • Milk
  • Sugar
  • Nuts like hazelnuts, almonds, or peanuts
  • Wheat

Suppose you get allergy symptoms after eating any of the listed common ingredients. In that case, you’re more likely to have an allergic reaction when eating chocolates because they are common ingredients in this sweet snack. Chocolate can also cause problems for people who have nickel allergies. Statistically, about 15% of the population is allergic to nickel which is also present in dark and milk chocolate, cocoa powder, and many nuts that we mostly find in chocolate bars. Chocolate is often contaminated with heavy metal lead and cadmium.

Alternatives to chocolate

If you’re allergic to chocolate, you need to educate yourself and read the ingredients when shopping carefully. When eating out, you’ll need to inform the person cooking or the chef at the restaurant about your concerns and allergies so they don’t cook using ingredients that flare up your allergies. If you’re sure about your allergy to cacao, you will also need to check out candies and sweets that contain it as an ingredient to avoid it.

When you’re sensitive or allergic to it, Carob’s best alternative to chocolate isOne alternative to chocolate is Carob – a legume-like pod which is chocolate in colour and taste. So, you can use the chocolate alternative Carob in any recipes that call for chocolate. Carob is a healthier version of chocolate since it’s high in fibre, low in sugar and fat, and caffeine-free.

If you’re sensitive to chocolate milk, you can use dark chocolate in your recipes as it doesn’t list milk as an ingredient. However, some people report having reactions to dark chocolate because even though they don’t list milk as an ingredient, some companies still put milk in these chocolates, so it’s better to make sure it’s milk-free{2}. The simplest way around having a nut allergy or milk allergy is by buying a dairy-free and nut-free chocolate. Otherwise, if your problem is with the chocolate itself, you can use Carob, a healthy alternative to chocolate.

Chocolate allergy test

basic-allergy-test-front
Our Basic Allergy Test Kit

If you have the above symptoms every time you consume chocolate, you might think it’s a chocolate allergy which is a great assumption. Still, we advise you to see your doctor and let them rule out any other underlying diseases. If there aren’t any, then you can take an Allergy Test. The allergy test will look into chocolate and other common allergens found in chocolate like nuts and milk. It is simple since you’ll order a test online and receive it at your home in 1-3 days.

Suppose the test comes out negative and you are still experiencing symptoms similar to those mentioned above. In that case, you can talk to your doctor or even check the prescriptions you have and inquire to your doctor whether they could be causing the symptoms. But if you tend to have gastrointestinal issues after consuming chocolate, you can take an Intolerance Test. It will help you determine whether your body is intolerant to cocoa or other ingredients in chocolate. Once you get your results, you should know that it’s safer to keep off any chocolates or ingredients that might cause you to have allergy symptoms. It is better to use the healthy chocolate alternative, Carob.

Precautions to take when suffering from chocolate allergy

If you’re sensitive or allergic to chocolate or other ingredients found in this sweet treat, you need to keep away from nuts, milk, and other chocolate products. At restaurants, always ask for meals free of chocolate, especially in your desserts. When grocery shopping at the supermarket, you will also need to be extra careful when reading ingredients so you won’t consume any foods with chocolate or cocoa.

It is also common to find chocolate in candy bars and other unexpected places. You might discover cocoa as an ingredient in flavoured coffee, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages. Some jams and marmalades also contain cocoa. A savoury Mexican sauce called mole also contains cocoa. You might also find it as an ingredient in some laxatives.

Final thoughts on chocolate allergies

Chocolate allergies are very rare to find. Most of the time, people reacting to chocolate always become sensitive to certain ingredients used in making the snack. Sensitivities or chocolate intolerances are more common compared to a true chocolate allergy. The easiest way to diagnose a chocolate allergy or intolerance is by taking an Allergy and Intolerance Test. This test will check for both allergy and intolerances to chocolate, but it will also check for other common allergen foods, including milk and nuts. Grab your test kit today and know your diagnosis. If you experience severe reactions to chocolate like anaphylaxis, it is wise to carry an EpiPen with you at all times.

About the Author

Kate Young coordinates a team of 6, her expertise in processing protocols and validations has allowed us to gain ISO 9001 accreditation status and work towards Good Lab Practice and further ISO. She joined Healthy Stuff in 2021 as our Laboratory Manager, following 7 years in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) for the Oak Clinic Group in Japan. After completing her BSc Combined Science: Human and Environmental Biological Studies in 1995, she describes herself as having ’detailed research skills and a very innovative mindset’. See Kates Healthy Stuff profile here.

References

  1. Katz, D. L., Doughty, K., & Ali, A. (2011). Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxidants & redox signaling, 15(10), 2779–2811. https://doi.org/10.1089/ars.2010.3697
  2. Dark chocolate and milk allergies. (2017). Source: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/allergic-milk-some-dark-chocolate-labeled-dairy-free-may-still-contain-milk