Yes, you can be allergic to chocolate, but those cases are extremely rare. Many people who think they’re allergic to chocolate actually have a chocolate intolerance or sensitivity, not a chocolate allergy. The signs of being allergic to chocolate are different than those for an intolerance or sensitivity.
Chocolate Allergy vs. Chocolate Intolerance/Sensitivity
Chocolate allergies and chocolate sensitivities aren’t the same thing. If you eat chocolate and you have a chocolate allergy, it affects your immune system, which releases chemicals like histamine into the bloodstream. If you have a chocolate sensitivity or intolerance, most reactions will occur in the GI tract or elsewhere in your body.
Chocolate Allergy Symptoms
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach cramps
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
All of the above symptoms can lead to a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening if you don’t treat it immediately. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor.
Chocolate Intolerance/Sensitivity Symptoms
- Bloating, gas, or cramps
- Rashes, hives, or acne
- Upset stomach
Fortunately, the symptoms of a chocolate intolerance or sensitivity are usually not life-threatening and can be managed by limiting your chocolate intake or eating chocolate substitutes, like carob.
Reactions to Other Ingredients in Chocolate
Because chocolate can be made from a variety of ingredients, it’s possible that any reactions after eating chocolate could be related to one or more of its ingredients. Some of these ingredients include:
- Milk. Dairy allergies are common, especially in children, and most chocolate contains at least some milk.
- Peanuts and Tree Nuts. A lot of chocolates are filled with peanut butter or whole nuts, which can cause serious reactions for those with nut allergies. But, even if chocolate doesn’t contain nuts, there’s a chance it might come in contact with nut remnants if it’s being manufactured on the same production line. If you have a nut allergy, make sure the chocolate was manufactured in a nut-free facility.
- Soy. Chocolate is a mixture of two liquids that would otherwise separate without the addition of an emulsifier to keep it solid at room temperature. The most common emulsifier is soy lecithin, which can be a problem for those with soy allergies. Check the food label, which will usually indicate if soy is used.
- Corn. Corn is very difficult to avoid in industrial food production, and chocolate is no exception. High-fructose corn syrup can be used in some chocolates. Corn is also found in many white chocolates.
- Wheat and Gluten. Filled chocolates often use flour or wheat starch as a binder, which affects those with Celiac disease or wheat allergies.
Can Someone Allergic to Chocolate Eat White Chocolate?
If you’re allergic to chocolate, you likely can still enjoy white chocolate. Your reaction to white chocolate, however, will likely depend on the actual reasons you’re allergic or sensitive to chocolate.
Caffeine Hypersensitivity: Reaction to the Caffeine in Chocolate
It’s also possible that a person experiencing a reaction after eating chocolate can be reacting to the caffeine. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that a 100-gram bar of chocolate has around 43 milligrams of caffeine, which is roughly the same as half a cup of coffee. If you’re highly sensitive to caffeine, you may want to avoid chocolate. Dark chocolate contains significantly more caffeine than milk chocolate.
It’s also possible that a person experiencing a reaction after eating chocolate can be reacting to the caffeine.
Symptoms of Caffeine Sensitivity
- Jittery or nervous behavior
- Diarrhea, nausea, or stomach pain
- Increased heart rate
- Trouble sleeping
Is There a Chocolate Allergy Test?
If you suspect you may have an allergy or sensitivity to chocolate, see an allergist for a chocolate allergy test. Skin prick tests, blood tests, or elimination diets are utilized to decipher whether chocolate is causing an adverse reaction. Depending on the severity of the response to chocolate, your doctor might tell you to avoid it. Or you may only need to limit chocolate in your diet.
Learn More About Chocolate Allergy and Sensitivity Treatment From Baptist Health
To find out if you have a chocolate allergy or sensitivity, get diagnosed by a Baptist Health professional and receive treatment. Find a Baptist Health provider near you, or schedule an appointment online today.