Chocolate is associated with love, comfort and indulgence. It is often the first thing we offer to loved ones during times of celebration and even sadness. Despite all the positive emotions associated with chocolate candies and other treats, some people have a chocolate sensitivity or allergy.
Experiencing a stomach ache after eating chocolate can turn those positive associations into negative ones. To combat stomach pain immediately after eating foods containing chocolate, opt for chocolate that is low in sugar and free of allergens like milk.
Is Chocolate Healthy?
Many of us consider chocolate bars, chocolate ice cream and chocolate milk to be the main sources of dietary chocolate. However, you do not have to consume sugary foods to get the chocolate flavor you desire.
Chocolate comes from cocoa beans, which grow on cocoa trees. This is where hot cocoa gets its name. Fortunately, there are health benefits of cocoa. According to Harvard Health Publishing, studies on cocoa suggest that it improves cognitive functions due to its flavanol content. It may also improve thinking skills.
Cocoa is also used to make cacao nibs and cacao powder, a chocolate-tasting food that is rich in antioxidants. It is also a source of numerous minerals. Cacao contains nutrients like iron, copper, magnesium and phosphorus.
Commercial chocolate, however, is not as nutrient dense. Most chocolate bars contain added ingredients like sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, milk fat, vegetable oils and more. According to the USDA, a 40-gram serving of chocolate, which is approximately three pieces, contains the following nutrients:
- 220 calories
- 5 grams of protein
- 15 grams of fat
- 19 grams of carbohydrate
- 1 gram of fiber
- 16 grams of sugar
Read more: The 11 Best "Clean" Dark Chocolate Bars
Stomach Ache After Eating Chocolate
Chocolate sensitivity is rare, so many cases of chocolate sensitivity are usually attributed to lactose intolerance or milk allergies. This is one possible explanation for stomach pain immediately after eating chocolate products.
According to Mayo Clinic, allergies to cow's milk is one of the most common food allergies in children. If someone is allergic to milk, an allergic reaction typically occurs immediately after consuming food containing the allergen. Stomach pain immediately after eating chocolate can be a symptom of dairy allergy, though abdominal cramps can be a sign that takes longer to develop.
If milk chocolate is the culprit, you can consider switching to dark chocolate to alleviate stomachaches after eating chocolate. However, the FDA warns that many dark chocolate products actually contain milk. They found that 15 percent of dark chocolates with the labels "dairy-free" or "lactose-free" actually contained milk. People with milk allergies are advised to consume dark chocolate with caution.
Chocolate Sensitivity and Allergies
If you develop a stomach ache after eating chocolate, there could be multiple culprits. Cleveland Clinic suspects dairy products as well as foods containing excess salt, fat and high fructose corn syrup. Many chocolate products contain some, if not all, of these triggers.
Cleveland Clinic also considers sugar to be a culprit of stomach pain immediately after eating chocolate. Too much sugar can cause stomachaches as well as other consequences such as obesity and other health problems.
Whether due to a chocolate sensitivity, milk allergy or ingredients that upset your digestion, experiencing a stomach ache after eating chocolate is uncomfortable and disappointing. If you are not allergic to chocolate, consider eating it in moderation to avoid negative reactions.