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Can Chocolate Cause Nasal Congestion?

By Diane Marks ; Updated August 14, 2017

You may not expect to develop nasal congestion after eating chocolate, but if you are allergic to one or more of the ingredients in chocolate, you may experience this symptom. Sinus congestion occurs when the tissues in your sinuses become irritated, inflamed and swollen. A stuffy nose is a common symptom associated with food allergies that needs to receive an evaluation and clinical diagnosis from an allergist.

What’s In Chocolate?

Chocolate is primarily made from ground cacao or cocoa beans, cocoa butter, sugar and flavoring. Chocolate products also commonly contain various highly allergic ingredients, such as milk, soy, tree nuts, peanuts and wheat. If you have a known food allergy to one or more of these common food allergens, you should avoid eating chocolate. The federal government requires all packaged food manufactures to place an allergy warning on the chocolate wrapper. An allergy to cacao beans is rare but possible. Until you can be seen by your doctor, avoid consuming chocolate products to prevent nasal congestion and other food allergy symptoms.

Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion will not occur in healthy adults after eating chocolate. Only if you have an underlying condition, such as an allergy, will your develop nasal congestion from chocolate. A food allergy causes the tissues in the sinus cavity to become irritated and inflamed within a few minutes of ingesting chocolate. When the body experiences an allergic reaction, white blood cells release histamine in soft tissues, which results in swelling and increased blood flow, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Histamine in the sinuses will cause your nasal passages to become blocked, leading to congestion.

Other Symptoms

Nasal congestion will cause other symptoms to develop. Because of the blockage congestion creates, you may also develop facial tenderness, a runny nose, dripping of excess mucus down the back of your throat, a headache and pain in your upper teeth, cheek bones, eyes and forehead. Other common food allergy symptoms may include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, lightheadedness, coughing, hives, skin rashes and skin itchiness, according to MayoClinic.com.

Treatment

If you receive a diagnosis that you have a food allergy, the most effective treatment is to avoid foods that contain the allergen. For example, if you’re diagnosed with a tree nut allergy, you can still eat chocolate that does not contain tree nuts. If you develop nasal congestion, talk with your doctor about using over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines and pain relievers to treat your symptoms.

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