Do I have an allergy to chocolate?

Habe ich eine Allergie gegen Schokolade?

Over the past twenty years, the frequency of allergies has increased significantly. According to statistics, one in three people will develop an allergy during their lifetime, and the trend is rising. A similar development can also be observed with food intolerances. By now everyone probably knows at least one person who is lactose intolerant or cannot tolerate gluten. Unfortunately, more and more people are complaining about discomfort after eating our favorite treat, chocolate. The good news is: an actual allergy to chocolate is very, very unlikely. Much more often, it is the added additives that cause problems. In this context, it is important to differentiate between allergies and intolerances and to identify the actual troublemaker. In this article we list options that can lead to discomfort after eating chocolate and why high-quality bean-to-bar chocolate is usually the best way to go.

Why can't I tolerate chocolate anymore? Or: The essential difference between an allergy and an intolerance

If you are afraid that you will no longer be able to tolerate chocolate well, it is important to differentiate between an allergy and an intolerance.
Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to actually harmless antigens from the environment, so-called allergens. Such a reaction is shown by an increased IgE level in the blood and can be detected using a blood test. Allergies are accompanied by – sometimes very dangerous – reactions immediately after eating the food. These include skin changes, redness of the skin, rash, itching in the mouth and throat, malaise, stomach problems, intestinal problems and, in severe cases, shortness of breath or even anaphylactic symptoms.
Intolerances, on the other hand, mainly occur in the intestines when they cannot digest certain food components. So-called intolerances are therefore characterized by various complaints of the digestive tract. Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and flatulence are typical symptoms of intolerance. So they are definitely very unpleasant, but not as dangerous as an actual allergy. “Classic” intolerances are lactose, fructose, gluten or histamine intolerance.

So how do I know if I have an allergy to chocolate itself?

An allergy to chocolate, i.e. to the cocoa ingredients themselves, is incredibly rare and, as already mentioned, very unlikely. Intolerances related to cocoa actually not so much.
If you have severe symptoms or even an allergic reaction after consuming chocolate, it is definitely important to consult a doctor to identify the troublemaker. However, if you do not have extreme symptoms, i.e. tolerable ones, after consuming chocolate, You can easily find out whether you are reacting to chocolate itself, i.e. the cocoa mass, or to an ingredient. For this self-test you only need a small piece of pure cocoa mass, i.e. 100 percent chocolate. If you don't have any symptoms afterwards, there are almost certainly other ingredients in the chocolate that your body is reacting to. If you have any symptoms afterwards, it's probably the cocoa mass that's unfortunately not good for you. In the next sub-points we list possible causes of this:

Histamine intolerance and chocolate sensitivity

If you have symptoms, the darker the chocolate and the higher the cocoa content, it is almost certainly the chocolate mass that is causing problems for your body. An allergy to chocolate itself is really, really rare, with a probability of zero. It is more likely that you either have a histamine intolerance or have an increased sensitivity to chocolate.
Reactions to histamine intolerance, as already mentioned above, can cause a wide variety of symptoms, but these are not limited to the digestive tract. Skin reactions, headaches, breathing difficulties, sore throats, persistent colds, headaches, gastrointestinal pain, ... These reactions are triggered by the component histamine, which is often contained in varying degrees in many foods. Fermented foods in particular, such as red wine or chocolate, which consists of previously fermented cocoa beans, cause symptoms. If you suspect that you have histamine intolerance, it definitely makes sense to seek support from a doctor or a nutritionist. And that doesn't mean you can never eat chocolate again. Sometimes the intolerance goes away after a while. And white chocolate, ideally fine white chocolate without unnecessary added flavorings, can continue to be eaten even if you have histamine intolerance. Because it only contains cocoa butter, the oil component of the cocoa bean, it is histamine-free and therefore still edible :)

White chocolate, to which an allergy is virtually impossible

There are also reports of people who have a high sensitivity to chocolate itself, i.e. the cocoa mass, i.e. a kind of intolerance. An indication of this are typical symptoms of intolerance, but also headaches, nervousness or restlessness. Here too, the symptoms become more severe the higher the cocoa content of the chocolate consumed.

Cross-reactions to chocolate

As already mentioned, an allergy to chocolate is very unlikely. But what can actually happen is that there is cross-reactivity to a substance that you are actually allergic to. If this substance's molecular structure is similar to that of chocolate, it can confuse the immune system and cause an allergic reaction in particularly sensitive people. According to studies, ragweed, tobacco and coffee are among the substances that can cause a cross-reaction with cocoa. Such cross-reactivity is usually accompanied by milder symptoms, but is of course nevertheless unpleasant.

Do I have an allergy or intolerance to any of the ingredients in chocolate?

After we have dealt with the very unlikely case, based on the assumption that the cocoa mass itself is the problem, let's take a quick look at "non-cocoa" allergens. An indication that there is an allergy or intolerance to added substances is a higher reaction the lower the cocoa content. For example, the cocoa ingredient cocoa butter, which is in white chocolate, has no known allergens. So if you have an allergic reaction to white chocolate or have symptoms afterwards, it must be due to the substances added.

Allergens in chocolate

Basically, we always recommend reading the list of ingredients for chocolate, if only to assess the quality of the product. The following applies: the fewer additives and flavors added, the higher the quality of the chocolate. Industrially produced chocolate, on the other hand, often has a whole bunch of added additives. So there are significantly more ingredients to which the body can react allergically. Classic troublemakers, i.e. allergens that can be contained in chocolate, are gluten, milk, nuts, eggs and soy . If you are allergic to one of these ingredients, an ingredient check is essential. Of course, for those with severe allergies, this is already baked into their purchasing behavior.
And of course an intolerance to one of the substances is also possible. Lactose-intolerant people in particular can find it difficult to find dairy-free chocolate in the supermarket.

Very disgusting but has to be mentioned: insect residues in chocolate

Yes, you read that right. Insect remains can be used in chocolate as well as in many other natural foods. Accidentally, of course, but still. Cocoa beans, for example, have to dry in the open air for a few days after fermentation. It should come as no surprise that a beetle or a cockroach sometimes crawls over it, gets lost there and is simply packed up and processed. This also applies to other foods that are of relatively natural origin, such as flour or nut products. Of course, the insect parts in chocolate only make up a tiny, imperceptible proportion in relation to the other ingredients.
But what does this have to do with allergies? In fact, the insect components can trigger allergies, for example to house dust. And it's just not particularly hygienic either. So if you want to be safe, or let's say, safer, the only thing that helps here is to buy high-quality bean-to-bar chocolate . Instead of producing huge quantities of chocolate in the most technical way possible, the focus here is on care for each individual step. The likelihood of a cockroach ending up in the cocoa mill is significantly lower.

Cocoa beans that are later processed into chocolate

Conclusion: Always check the list of ingredients and use fine chocolate if possible

So what do you do if you feel like you can no longer tolerate chocolate well?
In summary: Always read carefully the ingredients contained in the chocolate and check whether you have or could have an intolerance to any of them. If you actually don't tolerate the cocoa mass itself well, histamine intolerance could be a possible reason.
And to be sure of well-processed chocolate without useless additives that can trigger intolerances, it makes the most sense to rely on fair trade, fine, bean-to-bar chocolate. But the fact that we advocate for this is certainly no surprise to loyal readers :)

FAQ about allergy to chocolate

Why can't I tolerate chocolate?

As we already made clear at the top of the article: If you have the feeling that you can no longer tolerate chocolate well, it is often due to added ingredients. If it is actually the chocolate itself that you cannot tolerate, you should consider histamine intolerance.

Does chocolate contain histamine?

Because the cocoa in chocolate was also fermented, chocolate contains histamine - in varying proportions. But: This does not apply to white chocolate, as it only contains cocoa butter and not the dark component of the beans.

Can chocolate give you a rash?

The same applies here: If you have allergy or intolerance symptoms such as a skin rash after eating chocolate, check whether you are allergic or intolerant to an added product. Skin rash can also be a symptom of histamine intolerance.

What are the symptoms of chocolate intolerance?

There is no such thing as a “chocolate intolerance” by definition. However, you can be allergic or intolerant to added substances or the histamine in dark chocolate. Possible symptoms of intolerance include gastrointestinal complaints, skin reactions or headaches.

Is there an intolerance to dark chocolate?

In short: no. However, if you don't tolerate dark chocolate particularly well, the problem could be the histamine it contains.

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