Chocolate allergy is characterized by the appearance of unpleasant symptoms after eating chocolate. Individuals who suffer the allergy notice hive-like rashes on the skin and other symptoms like heartburn and headache. People who are allergic to chocolate also note that the symptoms surface a few minutes after eating the sweat treat.
Suspecting individuals should not forego visiting the doctor to confirm the offending agent. It may rarely occur but severe forms of chocolate allergy may lead to life-threatening conditions. The doctor will conduct several tests to determine the causative agent. Treatment is based on the offending agent and the severity of the allergic reaction.
Cause of Chocolate Allergy
Allergic reaction to chocolate occurs when the person’s immune system mistakenly respond to food proteins as foreign substance. The immune system normally produces immunoglobulin E in response to foreign invaders. In people with chocolate allergy, their immune systems erroneously attack food proteins. Their body could be allergic to one of the components of chocolate, such as:
Milk is often added to chocolates and those who suffer from lactose intolerance will likely develop an allergic reaction after eating chocolate.
Allergic reaction after consuming chocolate might be due the nuts added to the treat, such as peanuts, tree nuts, whole nuts and even peanut butter. Some chocolates may not contain nuts and butter but are manufactured in the same machine used in producing peanut-filled chocolate, and so these could also cause an allergic reaction.
Caffeine is another culprit for the allergic reaction following chocolate consumption. However, chocolate has far less caffeine compared to dark chocolate, soft drinks and coffee. Allergy to caffeine rarely occurs and only those who are extremely sensitive to caffeine exhibit allergic reaction.
Chocolate often contains soy lecithin to keep it solid under room temperature. However, it can trigger allergy for people who are allergic to soy.
Wheat and gluten are often added to chocolate to act as binders. Wheat is a notorious food allergen, whereas gluten has been the common cause of food intolerance.
Corn, in the form of corn syrup or as corn itself, is a common additive in chocolate concoctions. Those who are allergic to corn will definitely exhibit allergic symptoms after eating chocolate.
People who have food allergies should be on guard when it comes to ingesting chocolate. They will most likely suffer from the unpleasant symptoms of allergic reaction after eating chocolate. Aside from individuals with food allergies, those who have a family history of allergic diseases, such as hay fever and hives, should be careful as well because they will likely have food allergies too.
Incidence of Chocolate Allergy
Chocolate allergy rarely occurs. Most of the time, people who suffer from some kind of food allergy will also develop an allergic reaction to chocolate. Allergic reactions are often caused by the ingredients added to the chocolate, not the cocoa itself. Research has shown that around 1 out of 500 people develop an allergic reaction to chocolate.
Suspecting individuals should be on watch against the symptoms and visit the doctor immediately. Some may only develop mild allergy and exhibit mild symptoms. However, others may develop severe allergy and result in life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Symptoms of Chocolate Allergy
People who are allergic to chocolate will develop symptoms similar to other food allergies. Among the marking signs are:
The affected individual will feel a sharp-shooting pain on the head. This could be due to the caffeine or other substance in the chocolate.
- Skin rashes
Rashes on the skin often develop after eating chocolate. These can be found on the areas surrounding the face, neck, arms, stomach and legs.
- Itchy skin
Affected individuals will also suffer from itchiness on the skin. The excessive amount of histamine is released onto the upper skin layer which causes swelling and itchiness. It is also responsible for hives and eczema outbreak.
Heartburn is another common symptom caused by the additives in chocolates. The heartburn subsides and eventually disappears after avoiding chocolate completely.
- Breathing difficulties
People who are allergic to multiple ingredients in chocolate will likely experience breathing difficulties. Tightening of the chest, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, stomach cramps and heart palpitation may likewise be experienced. Sufferers should completely avoid eating chocolate if several systems had been affected due to the danger of anaphylactic shock.
Those who develop allergic reactions after eating chocolate find that it also makes them prickly and agitated. This is attributed to the substance theobromine contained in cocoa which stimulates rapid heartbeat.
Chocolate allergy requires careful diagnosis to identify the causative ingredients accurately. This often involves blood tests and skin allergy tests which will confirm the presence of IgE antibodies. Once the causative agents had been pinpointed, the doctor will start treatment based on the cause. He/she may use cortiscosteroids, antihistamines, bronchodilators, and in emergency cases, Epinephrine to alleviate the symptoms. Treatment will be more effective if the patient refrains from eating chocolate completely.