Life Without Chocolate: the Horror of Chocolate Allergies

Have you ever considered what life would be like without chocolate? That's the heinous fate endured by those who suffer from chocolate allergies.

We like to think of ourselves as rather adventuresome here at X-Choc, but even we shudder at the thought of chocolate allergies. Why, those can lead to one of the most extreme chocolate experiences anyone could ever encounter: severely reduced chocolate intake -- or worse, no chocolate intake at all!

We hate to even mention the possibility, but as chocolate lovers, you need to understand both the good and the bad about your favorite snack. Not that chocolate itself is necessarily bad; it's how your body responds to one or more of its ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction.

How Chocolate Allergies Work

Like all allergies, chocolate allergies result from an over-vigilant immune system. There's nothing in chocolate that's actually poisonous to you; otherwise it wouldn't be the world's favorite food. However, your body may mistakenly think that one of its 300+ components is poisonous, and react accordingly.

In response, your nose may get runny, your eyes itchy and swollen, or you may sneeze. In some cases, nasty skin rashes appear. You may even get mood swings and headaches, courtesy of cocoa's active ingredient, theobromine, and its relative caffeine.

Maybe it's not the chocolate, really

It's a good bet, however, that your chocolate allergy (if you're unfortunate enough to have one) is caused not by a reaction to the natural components in the cacao bean -- those sorts of allergies are very rare -- but to a reaction to one or more of the extra ingredients in the commercial chocolate you eat.

If you get sick when you eat chocolate, you may actually be allergic to the soy lecithin, milk, gluten, nuts, dyes, flavorings, or corn syrup that it's been diluted with. A general rule of thumb is that the darker the chocolate and the higher its quality, the fewer reactions it causes, because it's higher in pure cocoa.

Is experimentation in order?

If you avoid certain additives, you may be able to avoid your so-called chocolate allergies. For example, try darker semisweet chocolate if you suspect a milk allergy, or look for a brand that doesn't contain gluten or soy lecithin and see if that helps. Eventually, you might be able to enjoy chocolate again.

If this doesn't work, take a look at your medicine cabinet. Do you take a "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor," like Paxil or Prozac? Chocolate contains serotonin, a chemical that makes you feel good, and the purpose of the above drugs is to fight depression by increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain.

It may be that your allergy is, in fact, a reaction to too much serotonin in your bloodstream. And no, this does not mean you should stop taking your medicine in favor of eating chocolate! Always, always be sure to check with your doctor before treating any suspected chocolate allergies, however minor.