Does Coconut Allergy Exist?

Is coconut allergy common?

Coconut Allergy Illustration

The Immune System's Response to an Allergen

There is no question that allergies to the coconut exist, but how common is it?

We know it affects a certain percentage of the population and for those individuals the suffering is very real.

Once upon a time food allergies were relatively rare.

Unfortunately, today, more and more people are experiencing sensitivities, or full blown allergies to certain foods.

The two most common food groups that cause allergies are dairy and nuts.

Traditionally, coconuts have not been thought of as an allergenic food because as
Bruce Fife, N.D. says, coconuts are considered a food that's hypoallergenic. Therefore, he says, for someone to have a food allergy to them is more unusual. (1)

Many people believe the coconut to be a nut. This is probably because it has nut in its name. It's not a nut but people still assume that it can cause the same kind of allergy as other nuts. This is a false assumption.

Here's why:

Generally, people that suffer from tree nut allergies usually do fine with coconuts. This is because the coconut is classified as a fruit and seed rather than a nut. Botanists classify them as dry drupes. Dry drupes are fruits that have an outer fleshy layer with an encased seed in the middle.

Examples of other dry drupes are:

  • Apricots
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Olives
  • Peaches
  • Plums
Coconut Allergy Really From Walnuts

Whole Walnuts

Coconut Allergy Really From Sesame Seeds

Sesame Seeds

A study from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology cites a case of two patients who did suffer from tree nut allergies.

They both reported systemic reactions from what they thought came from eating coconuts and this led them to believe they had a coconut allergy.

After some IgE testing, it turned out the culprit was walnuts. (2)

The study concluded that for a person with tree nut allergies it is very rare for that individual to also have an issue with coconuts.

As a result, there is no documented evidence suggesting that people with tree nut allergies need to avoid coconut.

So, for those of you that do suffer from tree nut allergies (adults and children alike), have no fear with the coconut.

Tree nuts and coconuts come from different species families and they produce completely different proteins.

Another study in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology compares childhood allergies to nuts, sesame and coconut.

The premise of this study was to ascertain whether children with peanut and tree nut allergies were at an increased risk for an allergy to sesame or coconut.

Each child in the study underwent skin prick testing to sesame and coconut.

The results showed that the children with histories of peanut and tree nut reactions were more likely to also have histories of sesame reaction.

Concerning coconuts, it was found that the children who had histories of peanut and tree nut reactions were not at an increased risk for coconut allergy.(3)

Allergy Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptom of an allergy is when the skin breaks out in a rash.

The challenging part is determining what it really means. Sometimes a rash means the body is cleansing and detoxifying. This is a positive thing. However, sometimes it can be a negative reaction.

Symptoms of negative reactions to coconut can show up different ways for different people. In some folks, allergy to coconut can produce a severe reaction like hives or worse yet, anaphylactic shock. However, the more common symptoms include:

  • internal or external itching
  • tingling sensation and/or swollen tissue
  • sensation of feeling hot
  • swollen glands

Regardless if you have a food allergy or a contact allergy your body is reacting to certain proteins. What happens is that your immune system responds by releasing an antibody called IgE (immune globulin E). The proteins from the food or substance triggers the reaction.

Allergic reactions to peanuts or other nuts occur in 1 out of 100 infants and 1 out of every 200 adults. That's considered relatively common.

By comparison, allergic reactions to coconut have been considered relatively rare.

*Also, we have found that many people that react to coconut foods are mildly to severely deficient in B vitamins. Usually, if the B vitamin deficiency gets resolved, often the coconut allergy does too. 

A Coconut Allergy Self Test

Outside of professional medical testing, there is a home test which some people have successfully performed on themselves to determine whether or not they have an allergy to coconuts.

This test can be helpful if:

  • You have never had coconut (or any of it's derivatives) before.
  • You currently react to raw or baked coconut but are not sure about whether or not you can consume coconut oil.


Take a little coconut oil or coconut milk and rub it on your upper or lower arm. Massage in well.  Wait a day or so and see if a rash or itching develops. If that happens, then you know whatever coconut food you rubbed on your arm will cause an issue internally. Do this for every coconut food you wish to consume.

*However, this test is only accurate if you have an allergy and exhibit a rash. If no rash appears, that doesn't always mean there is no allergy present.* 

So, if you suspect that you still may have an issue despite the absence of a rash, we highly recommend that you follow up with your personal physician to undergo conventional allergy testing.

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  1. Fife, Bruce C.N., N.D., "Coconut Cures-Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems with Coconut, 2005. pg. 150
  2. "The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology", Volume 103, Issue 6, Pages 1180-1185, June 1999
  3. Stutius LM, Sheehan WJ, Rangsithienchai P, Bharmanee A, Scott JE, Young MC, Dioun AF, Schneider LC, Phipatanakul W, "Characterizing the relationship between sesame, coconut and nut allergy in children." Pediatric Allergy & Immunology 2010:21:1114-1118

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