Dangit! It’s the chocolate! (My face palm moment)

October 5, 2012 in Categories: , by

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I love chocolate.  Sometimes, I feel like I need chocolate.  Very dark chocolate is one of the ways I satisfy sweet cravings without actually consuming many carbs.  Chocolate is my Go To stress food.  Yes, these aren’t great habits.  But it’s better than what I used to do.

So, even when I started the autoimmune protocol in January, I ate some chocolate (so many people report tolerating chocolate).  In April, I learned how ridiculously high in phytic acid it is, and cut it out completely.  This is also when I saw dramatic improvements in my lichen planus, but I never linked it to cutting out chocolate.

But then, the stressful summer hit (refrigerator leaks, mold growing in the floor, replacing kitchen floor, sick cats, family dynamics, finding out we need a whole new HVAC, finding out my husband’s car is on its last legs, the stress of the kindergarten transition…).  I once again turned to chocolate as my buddy, my confidant, my friend through thick and thin.  I wanted to tolerate it so badly that I ignored the warning signs that my lichen planus was no longer healing (although not getting worse).  And then I had tomatoes.  I think that was kinda like adding gasoline to an already roaring fire.

Last Saturday, I posted a post about my frustration with my current lichen planus flare.  I received dozens of wonderful comments, many with suggestions on what I might be able to change to address it.  One e-mail I received, pointed me to this paper showing that high Vitamin-A consumption can exaggerate a gluten reaction.  Seriously?!  Well, I am consuming a ton of Vitamin A, so this got me thinking.  And I consuming gluten?  Or a food that cross-reacts with gluten?  I was already aware that coffee cross-reacts with gluten, so I just needed to see if any other foods I was consuming were also gluten cross-reactors.  On this list was chocolate (which I consume frequently), yeast (and I’ve been drinking kombucha, eating homemade sauerkraut and eating a little yeast-based paleo bread), and tapioca (which I’ve been using in baking a lot lately).  A light bulb turned on in my head.  And then the cursing began.

The difference in my lesions in just 5 days is astounding.  Many of the smaller lesions higher up my shins are gone.  I actually took before pictures this time, so in a week or two I will post them with after photos to show you the difference.  I am really ticked off that I can’t eat chocolate, but I am happy to have found my missing link.


I’m glad that you find your missing link! I am a bit confused by “cross reacts with gluten” Does it mean that it exacerbates the problem if consumed with any gluten? Or does it exhibit the same potential reactions? Thanks!

I think it’s a problem for me, too. 🙁 I was at a chiro once for a terrible stiff neck and shoulder, and his receptionist asked if I ate chocolate recently. I had. I cut back, and had been doing better. Yesterday, I decided to snack on some dark chocolate and woke up with pain and a stiff neck this morning, sigh. I’ve had the cross reactivity test, and I’ve been letting those slide lately, too (tapioca and yeast, specifically.) At least we know what’s causing it.

(((Hugs))) I realized I can’t eat chocolate too because it makes my nursling very fussy and gassy. She’s so miserable when I eat it. So it’s off limits. It’s been tough so I sympathize.

Good for you!! Sometimes I have people in my life that think that I am over-thinking or obsessing about minutiae but being my own health detective has gotten me soooo far that I am going to continue to get to the bottom of whatever health problems linger. There ARE answers. Thank you for reaffirming that for me!

Sorry to hear about the chocolate, I think it gives me head aches but hopefully in time I be able to eat some from time to time.
I did read the article you mentioned, about the Vit. A and can I just say a naughty word !!! -bleep-!!! my poor kiddo has cut so much out of her diet while trying to heal and now to find out she shouldn’t eat sweet potatoes or dark leafy greens, ugh!
We also cut out fermented foods this week after she had a really bad flare up of psoriasis and from reading your post concerning the experience you had. She also had some soy aminios in a great paleo stir fry I made and I think that really got things stirred up.

Well, thanks again for sharing all the helpful, encouraging, and truthful posts. Your blog has been my goto for so much help and encouragement . Hope you continue to make healing progress!


I am still trying to figure out if there is a difference between plant and animal sources of vitamin A. I have only cut out the animal sources in my diet (basically just liver and cod liver oil).

good to know that there may be a difference. For now I’ll leave the liver and the veggies where they are. Please share if you find anything out.

thanks again

I’ve been avoiding cow milk so I was so proud of myself for “only” indulging in the dairy free enjoy life chocolate chunks. Bad move. My psoriasis flare from a few weeks ago suddenly got worse and hmmmm I wonder why? Couldn’t be the almost empty bag of chocolate chunks could it? And Tammy, thanks for posting – you made me realize the bag of chocolate chunks likely did not help my super sore neck (like so sore I wake up super early just to NOT lay on the dang thing in pain anymore sore neck.)
Thanks for sharing ladies! God bless. 🙂

Dang! I started making my gluten free child homemade chocolate bars with organic cocoa and coconut oil…and was so excited to be able to give her something fun..and sweet…and “safe”. …I made it two days in a row…and she has now been sick for a week…….didn’t put that together till reading this….thank you.

I can’t eat any chocolate either. I have lupus and struggle with brain fog (I usually do well combatting it). But when I eat chocolate, thinking it will give me a boost, it increases the brain fog. I think it interferes with my sleep pattern, but I’m not sure. It’s so bad, that even when chocolate sounds good, I don’t do it. Nothing is worth that brain in molasses feeling. Good for you for isolating a bad actor. Hooray!

You know, I realized that I react to store bought chocolate but I’m OK when I make my chocolate fudge (honey, coconut oil and chocolate) or chocolate pudding (again, honey). I think I react to the sugar and chocolate combo or maybe it’s just the sugar in the chocolate bars. It’s fantastic that you are figuring out what your body needs!

Glad you are feeling better! So sorry for your loss 🙁 some foods just require a person to say that, and Chocolate is one of them! I seem to have a threshold for coffee and chocolate… I can eat a certain amount and be OK, but if I go over, I suffer (the truth is I shouldn’t eat either ever)

I am starting to wonder about chocolate myself. trying hard to blame the soy lecithin that was in some dark chocolate I had today. will try some dairy/soy/etc free and see if that still cause me bloating issues. will mourn if that is the case.

i had a big chunk of extra dark chocolate melting in my mouth, another in hand when i sat down to see what paleomom had to say today! ahhh chocolate might be my secret nemesis too. i didn’t know it was rediculously full of phytic acid. (sigh) i really ramped up my chocolate consumption when i quit coffee and now i have quite the little habit going. maybe i should learn my lesson and not try to just substitute something for whatever i’m trying to quit! glad to hear you are feeling the benefits so quickly!

After your post on cross reactivity, I decided to give this a try again. Stomach upset, sore neck, brain fog, ear ringing, eye floaters, and headaches are all back. I am now positive chocolate, coffee, and booze are the problems. I was doing so well at avoiding them and then life got really stressful. But you cant handle stress when you freel crappy. I am happy you found your missing link!

Can you provide an updated list of everything one should avoid on the autoimmune protocol? So far I have: all grains, all legumes, all soy, all dairy, eggs, nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, white potatoes, and peppers), nuts, seeds, chocolate, tapioca/yucca/cassava, seed spices, spices from peppers, alcohol, yeast, yeast fermented foods (kombucha, kefir).

Have I left anything out? I wonder about vinegars: should I avoid those too, because of fermentation and yeast?

Thanks for the very valuable information you provide.

Thanks very much. If you are feeling generous, I would love to hear how you manage this strict diet on a typical day or in a typical week–i.e. I would love to hear a meal diary or meal plan. I am especially interested in how you cook for your family’s needs and for yours at the same time. Does everyone eat the aip foods? (I assume not, since you often post recipes with eggs and nut flours.) I’m trying to cook for a family as well as to heal an autoimmune condition–my family is paleo but does not need the aip. There are many days on which the restrictions and differences make meal planning hard.

I eat a different lunch and breakfast from the rest of the family, but our suppers look pretty similar (I might not eat the sweet potatoes or something like that, but otherwise it’s the same). And the baking type recipes I make re for my family, not for me. I will try and keep a meal diary for an upcoming post.

Congratulations, Sarah! And thank you for sharing this with us, it’s really helpfull. I followed the AIP for two months and I felt great. It was difficult for me during my holidays, but today is my first day again.

Glad you are on the mend! I was really getting frustrated for you since you are so disciplined and work so hard. Just wondering if Carob is allowed on a Paleo diet and if it would have the same ill effects as chocolate?

Is it weird that I would be more upset to lose my kombucha than my chocolate? I doc have a question though if it’s not too late. If you’re not consuming kefir or kombucha where are you getting your Probiotics from? Supplements or are fermented veggies ok?

No, not weird. The amount of yeast in kombucha or kefir is much greater than the amount in fermented veggies. Right now I am steering clear of all of the above just to be on the safe side, and then will try reintroducing sauerkraut and see what happens. As much as I am a fan of getting everything from food, supplements feel safer to me right now. I’ve ordered two supplements, an acidophilus/bifidus supplement with 8 (or was it 10) different strains and no yeast (and clean in terms of fillers etc.) and a soil based probiotic with a bunch of different strains (and again clean). I’m still waiting to receive them but I will definitely write a post about them in a month or so once I have a solid opinion. I’m also going to try making coconut milk yogurt with the acidophilus/bifidus supplement as a starter!

Can you offer a heads up on what you thought of the probiotics? What brands? I am looking for a good one because the “Pearls” just don’t meet the standards I’m looking for. :S

What about raw chocolate? I’m surprised no one seems to have thought of or mentioned it (unless I just missed it). I make my own raw chocolate from raw cocoa and coconut oil (I have friends who also add cocoa butter, which is great, but hard to get in Canada). Raw cocoa reacts completely differently in your body than regular chocolate and is very healthy. Has anyone with sensitivities/reactions to chocolate tried it raw? Note: pretty much none of the chocolate you can buy (that I know of) is raw. You have to make it yourself. It’s actually pretty easy.

Hi Sarah,
My friends and I are experimenting with making our own body products. Last week I started using body butter made with cocoa butter. I’ve been experiencing constant headaches, brain fog and break outs. Do you think it’s possibly due to the cocoa butter? One friend thinks the lavender is causing issues for her. (I also started homemade toothpaste around the same time.) I’m taking the body butter and toothpaste out of my routine to see if things improve.

It’s certainly possible, although I think something in your diet or stress level is more likely. Celiacs will often find they can’t use any skin or hair care products that contain gluten, so definitely you can have these types of reactions to topical products. You’ll know if stopping using them makes the symptoms go away.

Well, I also just tapered completely off anti-anxiety meds last week too as eating AIP Paleo has really stabilized my mood. It’s tricky when you have so many changes at one time. It used to be that I wouldn’t give any of it a second thought now I’m much more aware of changes in my physical and emotional well being.

Thank you for this post. I am having reactions to chocolate that are very similar to reactions to gluten. I avoid gluten like the plague, but even despite having reactions to dark chocolate repeatedly, I can’t avoid it (it was my only treat!). Now, if I can just think of it as gluten (or that my body thinks of it as gluten), perhaps I can avoid it.

Thank goodness for this post. Dark chocolate has been the last of food vices. It’s what’s been getting me through a life of bland low-FODMAP AIP blended foods. And it’s been a fairly safe food for me as long as I don’t over do it. But now I’m working with Angie through Paleo Mom Consulting, and it’s got to go I guess. So did you cut chocolate for 30 days before adding it back in? Is eating some chocolate really going to keep me from healing? Because I don’t know how long I can manage “perfect” here folks! I also read in another post that you drink coffee. Is that also something eliminated at first and then added back in? I find that when I don’t have some coffee (about weekly) I start having sluggish liver issues again. Any ideas?

I’m starting to see that chocolate might be the trigger for me too….and dark chocolate is the worst (noooooooooo!) 🙁

Been there, done that . I only had a couple bites of dark chocolate cookie I made for loved ones at Valentines (Yum!). My vitamin A just went up as I’m slowly increasing my moringa dose. I had also gotten a very little caffeine earlier in the week in jasmine green tea – something I already know makes symptoms seem to creep up. The next few days I had tight shoulders and sore muscles, brain fog, more indigestion, headaches, exhaustion, and numbness in my left foot, arm, and both hands. I’d had the numbness before or it would have been scary!

Perhaps it was all the more noticeable because I haven’t been eating chocolate. I’m still puzzling over why chocolate is such a big deal – perhaps caffeine, perhaps a developed food allergy, perhaps the gluten cross-reaction. I have read that the whole list of possible cross-reactors is actually of the foods tested for it, not the ones that tested Positive for cross-reaction. This is confusing, as so many of us with celiac or gluten intolerance are sensitive to them anyway…perhaps for other reasons? One way or the other, I’m not going to risk the internal damage!

Thanks for pointing this possible sensitivity out, Sarah! I used to be almost addicted, so I’m really happy to discover this now when I don’t find it ( quite ) as appealing!

It’s tough enough being on a highly restricted diet without giving up food we don’t need to. I eat a few squares of 90% dark chocolate and I believe the antioxidants outweigh the phytic acid concerns. One study suggested that phytic acid fights cancer cells so phytic acid isn’t all bad. The higher the cocoa level the lower the sugar level and therefore the fructose level, which is my biggest concern. I seem to tolerate a few squares quite well and everyone should experiment. I genuinely doubt dark chocolate would have the same effect on the gut as high FODMAPs, regardless of its phytic acid.

That Cyrex Lab report that claimed cross-reactivity for foods like cocoa might have been inaccurate according to this site:


The other trap we don’t want to fall into is wrongly ascribing certain foods as problem foods. If you eat 2 problem foods in a day, one might be a reasonably tolerable food (like dark chocolate) and the other something like legumes (a food none of us should eat?). Legumes are a much worse food than chocolate. You have to take some risks with your diet otherwise you’re just eating seafood, meat and vegetables and this is very hard diet to sustain long term.

Don’t be scared off by high cocoa dark chocolate as it has huge health benefits and there don’t seem to be any serious studies that prove otherwise.

I’m on week 12 of the AIP and just tried a bar of Hu Kitchen simple chocolate (cacao, cocoa butter and coconut sugar) from NYC and my tummy is already irritated and bloated. The cravings for sugar have come back and I was doing so so well!! Don’t do it!

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