6

votes

Weird reaction to dark chocolate

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created July 29, 2010 at 2:53 AM

I know a lot of paleo eaters like to bend the rules and have a treat with dark chocolate, which is a great source of antioxidants, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese, but I'm still on the fence with it for my own consumption.

Ever since I can remember, I always sneeze a couple times when I eat the first few bites of something made with a high percentage of cacao (milk chocolate has no effect). I'm so used to it that it's funny because I can tell people to watch me sneeze before it happens. When I have it I get this intense build up in my face and eyes that you usually feel just before sneezing really hard.

It then goes away after a few bites and everything seems fine. I'm wondering if anybody else has that reaction and if there is anything that could explain it. I tend to stay away from it because I imagine that even though I seem fine after the initial burst of sneezing, some things might be happening under the hood that I'm unaware of.

Thanks for any info that my clarify that mystery for me.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19483)

on July 03, 2012
at 11:09 AM

Not true, I currently eat 100% Baking Chocolate bars, and have no desire for a sweetener. At first they were very bitter to me, but got used to it very quickly and now find the 80% stuff very sweet. @Bryan - not true, I haven't given up on coffee and managed to drop over 20lbs the 1st year of going paleo.

0382fa263de4c83328dc34a56e25437f

(4238)

on July 03, 2012
at 10:56 AM

Chocolate does not "require" any kind of sweetener at all, many of us eat the 100% dark. I do it daily.

3c997ffae3db9464325b96979346d9e9

(1290)

on May 28, 2011
at 06:46 PM

...chocolate IS one of the most allergy stimulating reaction foods there is.

3a966a805e09d88b0f223f2985392e4f

(836)

on January 03, 2011
at 09:21 AM

Yeah Seb, nobody lost weight before going 100% Paleo. Coffee will stop weight loss dead in its tracks, regardless of caloric deficit.

9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

(3690)

on October 23, 2010
at 04:45 PM

Good luck with your recovery. I've been there.

9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

(3690)

on July 31, 2010
at 02:49 AM

Good to know, thanks

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on July 29, 2010
at 04:32 AM

I don't think anyone is arguing that chocolate (or coffee) is paleo. They just turn out to be common "cheats", probably because they are so addictive, and because of the supposed health benefits.

9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

(3690)

on July 29, 2010
at 04:17 AM

Again we see the pattern where foods loaded with antioxidants and vitamins have these to offset a negative effect caused by things such as lectins and phytic acid. Same thing with fruits. I also tend to believe that coffee is not good for us, but a lot of paleo people seem to be enjoying it abundantly. I read about people fasting and breaking their fast with coffee and cream and wondering why they stopped losing weight. I think some people will just never really get the essence of living by what our genes are habituated to live by.

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16 Answers

6
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on July 30, 2010
at 11:11 AM

It does not sound like an allergy if a couple of sneezes are the only symptoms you get.

It is more likely to be something similar to the Photic sneeze reflex when sunlight on the face causes sneezing. No one really knows why this happens. This blog has some more details of the science.

It is probably just the particular stimulating flavour of the high percentage cocoa stimulating the nerves in your face. Apparently some other foods like peppermint, alcohol and sudden changes in air temperature can also trigger this in some people. Seems like a pretty harmless physiological reaction, a bit like hiccuping.

9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

(3690)

on July 31, 2010
at 02:49 AM

Good to know, thanks

3c997ffae3db9464325b96979346d9e9

(1290)

on May 28, 2011
at 06:46 PM

...chocolate IS one of the most allergy stimulating reaction foods there is.

1
46224e5de075a30864c4876d41be9d93

(10)

on July 03, 2012
at 09:08 AM

Another person here who sneezes just a couple times right when starting to eat chocolate. It confuses me as well since I can't link it to any thing within the kind of chocolate. I have been fighting massive eczema and found out I am both skin allergic and delayed allergic to milk casein whey. It's interesting and I also am 99.9% sure milk has caused me headackes and dry eyes all these years because they stop now that I stopped consuming milk. However cocoa showed up negative on my allergy tests so I think it's the milk in the chocolate that is at least my problem.

1
3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on May 28, 2011
at 01:29 AM

Ha! A question I know a real answer to, and not just my useless opinion. ::glee::

23andMe, the personal genetics company, asks this question in its "Research Snippets" (to people who've submitted spit kits to them): "Does eating dark chocolate typically cause you to sneeze?" So far, 1% of respondents has said Yes.

Now, these are questions submitted by users, and vetted by the company, but they all go into the database and eventually -- maybe, possibly -- some researcher will someday identify an SNP or region or something that all you choco-sneezers have in common.

So you're not the only one, and maybe someday you'll know if some piece of your genetic code gives you the chocohonks.

The Research Snippets also include a question about sneezing in response to red wine. Nothing yet about chewing gum. The "photic sneeze" is part of their regular research, and they tell you whether you're likely to have that trait or not in your results (I'm not).

1
71cc10f813bc7c484dbeba9e34bfd0e4

on October 23, 2010
at 12:40 PM

I have a really bad reaction to dark chocolate and coffee (even decaf), even tea makes me feel as if I have allergies. I stayed up late three nights in a row to do some googling and I ended up with some interesting info on tannins. I seem to have a bad reaction to anything high in tannins (chocolate). A lot of people say that all these have antioxidants and are good for you but its just not the case for me. I'm also rebounding from a raw vegan clusterfudge and I'm having trouble gaining weight and I've found that cutting out chocolate, coffee, wine, and tea is helping. It's only been two weeks but hopefully I keep gaining weight.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tannin http://www.widomaker.com/~jnavia/tannins/tannlist.htm http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/toxicagents/tannin.html

9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

(3690)

on October 23, 2010
at 04:45 PM

Good luck with your recovery. I've been there.

1
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on July 29, 2010
at 03:02 AM

To me, it's a questionable food to be considered paleo. Most populations probably did not eat chocolate or any form of cacao. Plus chocolate requires some kind of sweetner. And cacao is a seed and it contains tannins and phytic acid. Probably lectins too. Many people are allergic to chocolate. -Eva

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on July 29, 2010
at 04:32 AM

I don't think anyone is arguing that chocolate (or coffee) is paleo. They just turn out to be common "cheats", probably because they are so addictive, and because of the supposed health benefits.

9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

(3690)

on July 29, 2010
at 04:17 AM

Again we see the pattern where foods loaded with antioxidants and vitamins have these to offset a negative effect caused by things such as lectins and phytic acid. Same thing with fruits. I also tend to believe that coffee is not good for us, but a lot of paleo people seem to be enjoying it abundantly. I read about people fasting and breaking their fast with coffee and cream and wondering why they stopped losing weight. I think some people will just never really get the essence of living by what our genes are habituated to live by.

3a966a805e09d88b0f223f2985392e4f

(836)

on January 03, 2011
at 09:21 AM

Yeah Seb, nobody lost weight before going 100% Paleo. Coffee will stop weight loss dead in its tracks, regardless of caloric deficit.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19483)

on July 03, 2012
at 11:09 AM

Not true, I currently eat 100% Baking Chocolate bars, and have no desire for a sweetener. At first they were very bitter to me, but got used to it very quickly and now find the 80% stuff very sweet. @Bryan - not true, I haven't given up on coffee and managed to drop over 20lbs the 1st year of going paleo.

0382fa263de4c83328dc34a56e25437f

(4238)

on July 03, 2012
at 10:56 AM

Chocolate does not "require" any kind of sweetener at all, many of us eat the 100% dark. I do it daily.

0
700aeb0fc4a0c8c6906eab73c7b0ef6f

on October 21, 2013
at 01:07 PM

This could be due to histamine intolerance. Chocolate is known to be high in histamine or histamine inducing so is red wine and cheese. I do not know if this an accepted condition (in the medical community) but it is a lead that can be further investigated.

0
D9dfafe1834e1a751533942ae4b9246d

on August 27, 2012
at 01:36 PM

Glad I found this post although no definitive answer is a shame, happens to me too, darker the coco, quicker the reaction... Happens with mint too. Occasionally red wine. I suffered seasonal allergies badly until going paleo, this year I was perfect until a glass of red, bamm: itchy eyes runny nose and all the rest of the misery. After a few days abstenance from the red I was back to super fit primal anti allergy. Thinking tannins maybe....

0
91119f53c3827f5c7fc90b98cab85b04

(799)

on August 10, 2012
at 02:15 PM

Sounds like an allergy, possibly triggered by the higher levels of Theobromine in the dark chocolate or cross-contamination in the manufacturing process. Do you notice this with any specific product / brand or all dark chocolate? If the sneezing is more frequent or intense as the percentage of cacao increases that's a likely indicator of an allergic response - itchiness is another one. Just stay away from it or if you really need to have some eat the milk chocolate if it doesn't make you sneeze.

0
A960bed79ea8a524a5bf9af33287c2aa

on August 10, 2012
at 01:44 PM

Same thing happens to me (and I thought I was the only one!). I sneeze whenever there's even a small concentration of pure cocoa in what I eat - the higher the concentration, the faster and harder I sneeze. Now I'm the family taste-tester. =)

Glad to know that I'm not the only one with this trait. =D It feels so natural that I'm surprised the majority of people don't do it.

On another note, I wonder how much people would pay for a professional chocolate taste-tester...

0
96b220b722bdf418a8744ad9baafd22f

on March 23, 2012
at 04:53 PM

I've looked around online and found that this is a common situation. I also predictably sneeze after initially eating dark chocolate. It's funny because it's only initially. I'll sneeze a couple of times but if I keep eating the dark chocolate I won't continue to sneeze. I have no other discernible reactions. I also have a similiar reaction when initially eating grapefruit. It is peculiar.

0
7841848bd0c27c64353c583fb7971242

(7275)

on December 08, 2011
at 01:12 AM

I have that reaction, too! We joke that when I sneeze it's a sign of good chocolate, because only the potent stuff makes me sneeze. I have no idea what causes it, but I also sometimes have emotional reactions to chocolate, about 6 hours after eating it. And I may have celiac cross-reactivity to chocolate.

0
3c997ffae3db9464325b96979346d9e9

on May 28, 2011
at 06:49 PM

...though I still eat it I have been known to need a pneumatic drill to induce defecation if I don't take a break from it now and then. Allergy city.

0
Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on May 28, 2011
at 12:46 AM

I sometimes sneeze with chocolate, but I also get other, more obviously allergic symptoms, such as eczema and even migraine on occasion. Since this is my experience, I would definitely tend to avoid any other food that made me sneeze. Side note:I have similar reactions to wine as well, a blessing and a curse...

0
4b0b70a730b043f43fab18715f28671c

(0)

on March 23, 2011
at 01:39 AM

The SAME thing happens to me when I chew Gum.

0
5f0158c23fcb5636e57b4ce097784da0

(1386)

on December 10, 2010
at 11:13 AM

yup, it's the same for me. but not just sneezing, but also quite often a weird gut feeling and a bit of lethargy (probably an allergic reaction). i'm currently thinking about stopping dark chocolate for these reasons for a while.

0
5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on July 30, 2010
at 12:42 AM

Yes. I often sneeze when I eat (very) dark chocolate, drink high-alcohol beer and when bright sunlight hits my face. Don't know why. I just do.

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