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Am I Allergic to Chocolate?

Is a chocolate allergy possible?

Is it certainly possible, but being allergic to chocolate is very rare, according to Dr. Jonathan Buttram, board-certified allergist and immunologist with UT Health East Texas. It is more common to have an allergy to one of the ingredients. Chocolate preparations usually contain milk, soy, peanuts or tree nuts, all of which are far more frequently recognized as food allergens, Buttram says.

It has also been shown that proteins from insects can be found in chocolate preparations, and these have been implicated in suspected chocolate allergy reactions. 

Food allergies are most often characterized by a combination of two or more of the following: skin symptoms like itching, hives and/or swelling, asthma-like symptoms such as cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, severe abdominal symptoms including pain, cramping, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, or a drop in blood pressure resulting in lightheadedness or passing out. Symptoms of food allergies usually occur within a few minutes of ingestion and fully resolve within 24 hours. Symptoms are reproducible, occurring again with re-exposures.

Chocolate allergy symptoms

In addition to true allergic reactions, chocolate can cause other symptoms unrelated to allergy. For instance, chocolate will mix with mucus in the back of the throat to cause thickening of the secretions and increased throat clearing. The vasoactive amine content of chocolate relaxes the smooth muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, causing worsening reflux or heartburn. The same vasoactive amines may also precipitate migraine headaches. Though these syndromes would not be "allergic," they are well known responses to chocolate that individuals may experience.

If you have symptoms of an allergic reaction to chocolate, avoid it strictly and see a board-certified allergist and immunologist for a thorough evaluation. If your symptoms are more consistent with the non-allergic syndromes, discuss with your primary care physician.


Information provided by Jonathan W. Buttram, MD, FACP, board-certified allergist and immunologist who practices at UT Health North Campus Tyler. To schedule an appointment, call 903-877-8481.


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