There's a reason so many of us love chocolate: It's tasty, sweet and certain varieties even contain health-supporting antioxidants. But the treat can cause unexpected side effects for some. For instance, can chocolate cause diarrhea?
Indeed, chocolate does cause diarrhea for certain people. So if you regularly get diarrhea after eating chocolate, here are the potential reasons why.
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1. Food Intolerance
Unprompted chocolate diarrhea isn't common. Instead, a food intolerance to one of the ingredients in a chocolate bar may be to blame for your bathroom troubles.
Take, for instance, dairy. Chocolate can contain milk, and if you have lactose intolerance — a condition where your body's lactase enzymes aren't able to break down the lactose in dairy products — you may have digestive troubles like diarrhea, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Besides diarrhea, other symptoms of lactose intolerance include:
- Loose stools
- Abdominal pain and cramping
Why Does Chocolate Milk Give You Diarrhea?
If you find other dairy products like chocolate milk also cause digestive distress, lactose intolerance could be to blame, per the Cleveland Clinic.
2. Food Allergy
While an allergy to chocolate itself isn't common, chocolate can cause diarrhea if you're allergic to an ingredient in the treat.
For instance, many chocolate bars contain nuts. Nuts are one of the major food allergens, according to the Mayo Clinic. Milk, wheat and soy are other common allergens that may also be included in a chocolate treat.
Besides diarrhea, other symptoms of an allergic reaction to look out for include:
- Tingly or itchy mouth
- Skin rashes like hives or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat
- Wheezing or trouble breathing
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
- Nausea and vomiting
Some people can have an extreme allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, where your throat closes up and makes it difficult to breathe, per the Mayo Clinic. Seek medical care immediately if this happens to you.
3. Caffeine Sensitivity
Another ingredient that may cause problems for some people is caffeine.
This may be the reason why eating too much dark chocolate can give you diarrhea: The cocoa in chocolate — particularly dark chocolate — contains caffeine, a substance that stimulates your central nervous system to make you feel alert, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
But if you're sensitive to caffeine or take it in excess, it can lead to diarrhea, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD).
To avoid diarrhea from the caffeine in chocolate or other products like coffee or tea, keep your intake under 400 milligrams per day, according to the NLM.
4. Artificial Sweeteners
Here's another reason chocolate can cause diarrhea: It can contain artificial sweeteners like sorbitol or mannitol, which can lead to watery stools for some people, according to the IFFDG.
Another type of sugar called fructose — which occurs naturally in fruits — may also be added to chocolate. It can likewise cause diarrhea, per the IFFGD.
Will Chocolate Give You Diarrhea?
Diarrhea after eating chocolate isn't inevitable. But if you know you have an existing intolerance, allergy or sensitivity to an ingredient in chocolate products, then it's possible that the treat will trigger symptoms.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.