coconut allergy

Coconut Allergy

Coconut allergy, a very rare kind of allergy most of the time, happens on contact with coconut-based skin-care creams, shampoos, etc.

Coconut is a very different plant from peanuts or tree nuts. The presence of the word “nut” does not mean that coco-nut” will trigger an allergic reaction in people allergic to peanuts or tree nuts. The relative frequency of allergy to peanut and tree nuts (relatively common) compared to those allergic to coconut (very rare) would suggest that the risk of coconut allergy in an individual known to be allergic to peanut or tree nuts is very low, so much so that allergy testing to coconut is not considered as “routine”.   

At the present time, there are no published studies examining how often people allergic to peanuts or tree nuts are also allergic to coconuts. The limited knowledge that we have would suggest that the risk is very low. So, what to do if you are worried? 

Coconut allergy, a very rare kind of allergy, happens only to a few people who consume coconuts. But most of the time, it happens on contact with coconut-based skin care creams, shampoos, toothpaste, and washing detergents, known as “Contact Dermatitis”. 

Coconut, as the name suggests, isn’t a nut, it’s a fruit hence most people with a tree-nut allergy can consume coconut but just to be double sure always better to do a food allergy test, by consulting your doctor. 

Types of Coconut Allergy & Symptoms: 

The simplest way to differentiate between a coconut allergy on consumption or contact is simple.  

People who have coconut allergies on consuming them in some form will face issues like: Nausea, stomachache, diarrhea, vomiting, wheezing, coughing, swelling, on lips, tongue or face. 

Whereas individuals who face coconut allergies in contact with your skin might face issues like: Hives, itching, redness/swelling, rapid/slow heart-rate and many a times anaphylaxis may occur which can affect multiple organ-system all at once. 

An itchy, blistering rash may develop a day or two after contact with the coconut allergen. It may take several days to go away.  

Coconut Allergy Diagnosis: 

Coconut allergy is diagnosed based on your medical history, physical exam, and a coconut allergy IGE blood test.  

If you have a coconut allergy, you will need to avoid all foods that contain coconut and its derivatives. Coconut can be used for many things. Mats and ropes can be made from the outer husks while one can consume the inner white flesh and the milk. Not only do foods items contain coconut, but it is often added to many toiletry items such as cleansers, soaps, shampoos, and cosmetics. While allergies to coconuts are rare, it does occur in some people when they come in contact with fruit or products containing coconut.   

Coconut Allergy Test: Allergen Description 

Several allergens present in coconut have been isolated, including two globulins and a profilin, isolated from the tree pollen. 

Coconut water contains the proteins glutelin and prolamin, however allergenic potential has not been assessed. 

Coconut Allergy Test: Potential Cross-Reactivity: 

Cross-reactivity means that a similar protein is present in a range of different foods. If the same protein is present in several foods, then that person may have allergic reactions to any food containing that protein. Examples of “cross-reactivity” include people allergic to similar proteins present in hen’s egg and duck eggs; cow’s milk and goat’s milk; or cashew nut and pistachio nut. 

Cross reactivity between coconut and soy, walnut and hazelnut has been demonstrated. 

There may be a weak association between latex allergy and allergy to coconut. 

Coconut-derived products to be avoided by Allergic individuals: 

  • Coconut diethanolamine 
  • Cocamide sulphate 
  • Cocamide DEA 
  • CDEA

These may be found in personal-care products like Shampoos, Moisturizers, Soaps, Cleansers, Hand washing liquids or detergents. These may be found in personal-care products like Shampoos, Moisturizers, Soaps, Cleansers, Hand washing liquids or detergents.

Food Products that most likely contain coconut-derivatives: 

  • Granola bars
  • Curry sauce 
  • Cookies 
  • Cereals 
  • Other types of desserts 
  • Rum 
  • Infant formula 
  •  Coconut 
  • Coconut milk 
  • Coconut water 
  • Coconut oil, though highly refined oils, are usually not a problem Coconut cream 
  • Coconut milk powder Coconut sugar 
  • Candy bars like Almond Joy 
  • Cookies such as macaroons 
  • Coconut cream pie 
  • Coconut flavored yogurt 
  • Ice cream 
  • Granola 
  • Smoothies 
  • Mixed alcoholic drinks such as piña coladas 

Hidden places for coconut: 

It’s also important that you avoid coconut in home décor. Right now, it is popular to have coconut bowls, coconut roping and macramé, and even coconut utensils. While they are a good eco-friendly option for the planet, they are not good for those of us with coconut allergies. When purchasing a bowl, for example, please make sure you ensure it is not from a coconut tree. 

Also, you want to make sure that if you purchase any new cast iron cookware, the oil used to coat the cast iron is not coconut oil. 

  • Perfumes are a place where coconuts can hide 
  • Make up 
  • Body paint around Halloween time 
  • Activated Charcoal in health care products 
  • Activated Charcoal in water filters 

Coconut alternatives: 

After developing or discovering your coconut allergy, how you eat and how you live are very likely going to change. Cooking from home is one of the safest options for you and your family as you can ensure allergens don’t come into contact with your food, and thus, there is no cross contamination. Make sure your diet is filled with simple whole foods, such as meats, grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and lentils.   

Living with allergies has gotten so much better in the past few years thanks to the requirements of labeling all food in grocery stores, as well as the sheer quantity of allergy free alternatives available in most stores. 

All the list of ingredients you use is an ever-evolving list.  

How to Eat Out: 

While not the biggest change to your life with a coconut allergy, there are some new considerations to make from the options available to you when dining out. No longer can you just go grab a quick bite to eat, nor will you be able to freely eat at a friend’s house. 

The best way to avoid (or at least try to avoid) getting sick at restaurants is to research ahead of time. Most restaurants post their menus online, which gives us a chance to figure out if this restaurant would be a safe option. Even if the menu says “allergy-friendly” you still should research, because it is really difficult to ensure that a chef or kitchen will wipe off any surfaces, open new bags of ingredients, or even use a different set of gloves when preparing food. 

For coconut allergies in general, you want to be wary of Vegan and Asian inspired cuisine as they both rely heavily on coconut to flavor things. Candy coatings in places like ice cream and frozen yogurt stores are also of concern. When in doubt, call the company or restaurant and talk with them about your allergies and how you can be safe when enjoying their food.  

When dining at a friend’s house, always ask if you can bring an option that is coconut allergy safe. 

I’m sure by now we were able to help you understand that just a “coconut allergy” can’t stop or bound you from living your full potential, so just relax, enjoy and take charge of your Allergy-Free journey.😊 

Written by Ananya Bhattacharya, ENHAPP Nutritionist & Wellness Coach.

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