Over-the-counter medicine without palm oil is difficult to find. Palm oil derivatives are common in capsules, tablets, pills and liquid medications.
We seek out palm oil free medications because our son has negative reactions to palm oil. In the past, we didn’t realize the antihistamines and other medications were making him worse due to the palm oil derivatives in them.
He would get sore throats from them.
Palm oil free medication
Recently, we found a palm oil free solution for antihistamines, allergy medications, fever reducers, etc. We have these over-the-counter (OTC) medications without palm oil.
Please note, this is not medical advice. Discuss with your healthcare provider what medications you should take.
Here we are sharing our experience. This is the way we were able to acquire palm oil free medicine.
Medicine without palm oil
First, it’s important to know some of the common palm oil derivatives in medications. They include:
Medium Chain Triglycerides
Read the labels for the vitamins, supplements, and medications in your home.
Chances are, you will see at least one of these ingredients listed on each bottle or package because there are many palm oil uses in medicines.
Ingredients such as Propylene Glycol keeps liquid medications shelf-stable.
Manufacturers use stearates such as Magnesium Stearate to help lubricate capsules and tablets. Also, stearates help ensure the tablets don’t stick to the machine
Polysorbate 80 helps bind ingredients together and to improve the consistency in gel caps.
There are many other reasons as well, including using them as stabilizers and fillers.
Using a compounding pharmacy
If you have a compounding pharmacy in your area, you may be able to get medicine without palm oil. You will need a prescription from your doctor.
First, know what OTC medications you are trying to replace. Next, call the compounding pharmacy to ask if they have the active ingredient available.
Ask the compounding pharmacy for approximate pricing before you call your doctor’s office to ask for a prescription.
Most likely, the compounding pharmacy will not accept health insurance. Therefore, you will be paying for the medication out of pocket. It’s important for you to know the charges before you order the medicine.
Find out as much as you can before you call the doctor’s office to minimize questions later.
Read below to learn our experience buying four compounded prescriptions without palm oil:
Pain medication in the form of Ibuprofen
Two antihistamines (Claritin equivalent and Benadryl equivalent)
Pain medication without palm oil
We didn’t realize the OTC children’s liquid Ibuprofen we were giving our son had palm oil derivatives.
We wanted a palm free option on hand to be able to give him for fevers or pain relief. Because every label we read in the stores contained palm oil derivatives, we called a compounding pharmacy.
We asked if we could have the Ibuprofen itself — the active ingredient in these OTC medicines — in some form.
The person at the compounding pharmacy said we could with a prescription from our physician. They explained if it was a liquid, it would only last for 30 days (without the palm oil derivative-type of ingredients such as Propylene Glycol).
In order for it to be shelf-stable longer than 30 days, we asked about them making it into a capsule form.
After speaking with the compounding representative, I called my son’s pediatrician’s office. I explained what I wanted.
The doctor was able to write and prescribe 400 mg of Ibuprofen in capsule form with additional notation on the prescription to include “hypoallergenic medicine.” The doctor added “not to include Propylene Glycol and Magnesium Stearate.”
We now have 90 capsules, each with 400 mg of Ibuprofen, to have as the need arises.
The receipt / label states: 90 CAP IBUPROFEN (NO FILLER) (VEGGIE) 400MG CAPSULE
Talk to the pharmacist
It’s essential you talk to the pharmacist once he/she has the prescription from your doctor. Our compounding pharmacist called us after she received it.
You have to clarify what the pharmacy will make the capsule with.
Originally, when I spoke with the rep, she said it would be derived from pine bark.
Upon pressing further in the conversation with the pharmacist, I learned the capsules would contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate as well.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is often made from palm oil.
After much consulting with the pharmacist, they were able to make it without the Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.
(Note, I should have asked the doctor to include “no Sodium Lauryl Sulfate” on our other prescriptions. This is something you may want to do. If you don’t, remember to tell them you don’t want Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in the medication.)
Again, this is not medical advice. At the store, the pharmacist said to be sure we give him food when we give him Ibuprofen (adults too). She suggested a banana or yogurt, even if it was at night. She said the medicine is hard on the stomach.
Cough medicine without palm oil
During the calls for the Ibuprofen, with the compounding pharmacy and doctor, I also asked for a palm oil free cough suppressant medicine.
The doctor wrote a prescription for Dextromethorphan. They didn’t have it in stock and had to order it. The minimum they would fill was 90 capsules.
Based on my son’s age and weight, the doctor prescribed 30 mg capsules.
I picked up the Ibuprofen and asked about the capsule for the cough medicine. The representative again assured me it would be made from pine bark.
After I pressed further, she said they would need to add a filler because each capsule was only 30 mg. It was too small an amount to fill with only the Dextromethorphan. If they did it by hand, it would be time-consuming and cost more.
After discussing the options, we agreed upon baking soda, Sodium Bicarbonate, as the filler.
The label reads: DEXTROMETHORPHAN HBR (SOD BICARB-VEGGIE) 30 MG
We are very relieved to have these medicines on hand for the times our son is sick.
Update: I am happy to report the Ibuprofen and cough medicine both relieved his symptoms and didn’t cause additional problems and reactions as medications have in the past.
It is a huge relief to have these medications. We threw away our other OTC pain and cough medicines so we wouldn’t give them to him in error.
Antihistamines without palm oil
A week after we picked up the above medicines, I ordered allergy medications.
The OTC children’s liquid allergy medications we had in our medicine cabinet all had what-seemed-to-be palm oil derivatives in them. When my son took these medications, he would get a sore throat.
(The companies have yet to respond to my email inquiries asking them to confirm if the ingredients in question are derived from palm oil.)
First, I wanted a stripped-down Benadryl equivalent. The active ingredient in Benadryl is Diphenhydramine, a histamine-blocker.
Second, I wanted an OTC allergy medication for typical allergy symptoms. I was hoping to get the active ingredient in Allegra. We had never used Zyrtec or Claritin.
I called the same compounding pharmacy I used to get the Ibuprofen and cough medicine to ask if I could get these antihistamines. They had the active ingredient in Benadryl which they could make for me with a prescription.
However, they were unable to get Fexofenadine, the name of the active ingredient in Allegra. The pharmacy rep said they could use the active ingredient in Zyrtec which is Cetirizin. She explained, however, “it would be expensive,” and dissuaded me from it.
She needed to verify and call me back to see if they could get Loratadine, the active ingredient in Claritin.
Calling another compounding pharmacy
While I was waiting, I called another compounding pharmacy in our area. This second compounding pharmacy had the Benadryl equivalent, Diphenhydramine, in stock.
They too were unable to get the Fexofenadine. However, they did have the Claritin equivalent, Loratadine, in stock.
From this second pharmacy, I was able to acquire these antihistamines without palm oil.
I phoned my son’s pediatrician’s office and explained exactly what I wanted in the form of these two medications. The pediatrician called me back. He was able to write the prescription like he did for the other two medications.
When the pharmacist had the prescriptions, he called me to clarify and confirm what I wanted. We had a detailed conversation to ensure there wouldn’t be any palm oil derivatives in the capsules or as fillers.
The labels read:
DIPHENHYDRAMINE (DYE/LACTOSE FREE) 25 MG CAP
LORATADINE (DYE/LACTOSE FREE) 10 MG CAP
Now with four common OTC medications being palm oil free, we feel much better about giving these to our son when it’s necessary.
Cough drops without palm oil
Typically, the cheaper the cough drop, the more likely it contains palm oil.
Many store brand cough drops include these palm oil derivatives:
Medium Chain Triglycerides
Name brand cough drops often contain Glycerin.
Unless you contact the company directly to ask them the SOURCE of these ingredients, you won’t know if they are derived from palm oil.
However, generally, companies are looking for inexpensive ingredients, and palm oil is cheap.
We have not yet researched cough drops without palm oil. However, a brand to consider may be Halls Cough Drops. If you are at the store, you may want to keep this brand in mind.
We found these cough drops without Glycerin or Medium Chain Triglycerides and use them exclusively:
Young Living Essential Oils Thieves Cough Drops
The active ingredient is 8 mg of menthol.
Ingredients include 100% pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils. Also, they are free from preservatives, dyes, artificial flavors, and sugar.
Talk to your doctor
If you are seeking medicine without palm oil, it’s important to speak with your doctor. Most medications contain fillers, lubricants, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and more.
In order to get a “stripped down” version, you will most likely need to go to a compounding pharmacy.
Talk with your doctor about options for medicines.
For us in our situation, it’s been reassuring to know we can give our son these palm oil free medications when he needs them.
Many people avoid palm oil due to the environmental issues. Once you know names for palm oil derivatives, it may surprise you to learn how prevalent palm oil is in everyday products.
Read labels. Be an educated consumer. See our list of palm oil free products and support them when you shop. What’s in your medicine? Please leave a note in the Comments.
Our son’s pediatrician wasn’t familiar with a palm oil allergy or palm oil intolerance. We requested a referral to an allergist, and at our appointment, we asked if a person can be allergic to palm oil.
Unfortunately, our son gets very sick from palm oil.
This includes anything with palm oil, palm kernel oil, and palm oil derivatives in it, including palm olein, stearic acid, tocopherols, glycerin, vegetable glycerin, red palm oil, mono- and diglycerides, glycerine, magnesium stearate, and more.
Because of this, we consider him to have a palm oil intolerance.
Palm oil intolerance
His allergist said there aren’t proteins in palm oil, so it wouldn’t be considered a palm oil allergy. He said there isn’t an IgE test for a palm oil allergy or intolerance.
The allergist said we couldn’t do a blood test or a skin test to test for it. He didn’t give us an EpiPen / Epinephrine Auto-Injector.
Instead, the doctor encouraged us to “build up” his system.
He suggested we supplement with pre-biotics. He reminded us to avoid processed foods, to eat a wide variety of vegetables, and to increase Vitamin D exposure from the sun.
These are all important things to do. However, it wasn’t explaining why he has allergic reactions to palm oil.
Also, it was frustrating the doctor didn’t acknowledge someone could have a palm oil allergy, palm oil intolerance or have trouble digesting palm oil.
While he is a renowned allergist in our area, he said there wasn’t an IgE allergy test for palm oil, so there was nothing he could do.
He dismissed the idea that palm oil could cause problems.
Sick from palm oil
Palm ingredients are prevalent in packaged foods and snacks along with cleaning products, and self-care items, like soap, deodorant, and toothpaste.
It’s been very difficult finding safe foods to eat and products to use.
Palm oil allergy symptoms
If palm oil is causing allergy symptoms for you or your child, it won’t matter if it’s organic palm oil or from sustainable palm oil products.
We know for certain our son has allergic reactions to palm oil so we avoid them all. We think it’s more than a problem digesting palm oil because even topical products affect him.
However, it took quite awhile to figure out palm oil was making him sick.
He had been sick for months with congestion, coughing and throat clearing. Sometimes he had a sore throat. Often, he would miss a few days in a row from school.
He would use boxes of Kleenex each week.
We thought it was environmental allergies but when he eliminated all packaged and processed foods, he was better in days.
At first, we thought he was allergic to sunflower oil or coconut or some other foods.
However, when we eliminated foods, performed our own food intolerance test, and logged every food he ate and product he used, we were able to figure out it was anything that included palm oil, palm kernel oil, and palm oil derivatives, like glycerin and stearic acid.
If you are wondering about a palm oil intolerance or palm oil allergy, it is important you speak with your doctor.
And if you do, please note in the Comments below anything you learn. We are hoping more medical professionals acknowledge someone could have a palm oil intolerance, become sick from palm oil, or have adverse reactions from palm oil ingredients.
Palm oil intolerance
How did we find out he has an intolerance to palm oil? It took a long time to figure it out.
I remembered how a year prior he had gotten sick after eating a Great Value brand of sandwich cookie (a generic Oreo) while at a relative’s home. Palm oil was in it, and I thought it was unusual.
I wasn’t familiar with palm oil and hadn’t recalled seeing it in foods we ate.
Now, palm oil even more prevalent.
Palm oil food intolerance
We started thinking about all the foods he had been eating when he was sick those months.
It was in the fall, and he was eating taffy apples and Halloween candy in addition to the usual processed and packaged foods like cereal, microwave popcorn, peanut butter, and granola bars.
When we looked at the ingredients, we couldn’t believe palm oil was in every single one of those products.
Palm oil is in Skittles and Starburst candies. It’s in Ritz Crackers. It’s in most all bakery and desserts from the grocery store.
After that, we started reading all food and drink labels.
We let him have packaged foods again, trying to be sure they didn’t contain palm oil, palm kernel oil, Vitamin A Palmitate, palm olein, red palm oil, and any ingredients containing “palm-.”
At the time, we didn’t know there are hundreds of additional names for palm oil, including glycerin, glycerol, propylene glycol, tocopherols, and mono- and diglycerides.
While it is a huge undertaking to find safe, palm oil-free foods, we were able to find some cereal, peanut butter, snacks, candy, and more products. We’ve featured each of these as posts on this website.
Demand for palm oil continues to increase because the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. This is the main dietary source of artificial trans-fats.
Food manufacturers are using palm oil as a replacement for the trans-fats.
Palm oil is versatile and inexpensive.
Also, palm oil prolongs the shelf life of products and is often used to preserve freshness in foods.
Palm olein can remain a liquid at room temperature. It’s also highly heat resistant.
Companies use palm oil and derivatives to fortify their foods and drinks with vitamins.
When you see cereal or milk with a Vitamin A content of 10% or higher, it most likely has Vitamin A Palmitate in it.
You will see palm oil in the form of Vitamin E in foods as well.
It’s prevalent in personal care and cleaning products, again because it’s so versatile and works in hundreds of capacities.
Palm oil in medicine
Once you start trying to avoid it, you will see it’s very difficult to find vitamins and supplements without palm oil.
We didn’t realize we had been giving my son a vitamin with palm oil. We have yet to find a child’s vitamin without it.
Even worse, his allergist suggested we give him Allegra on a daily basis as maintenance. He recommended it because we told him we’d occasionally given him children’s liquid Allegra.
After several weeks, we read the label and saw it contains propylene glycol. This ingredient is usually derived from palm oil!
Can you imagine how we felt when we learned we were giving him medicine with palm oil derivatives to alleviate his palm oil allergy symptoms?
To this day, we cannot find an OTC antihistamine or allergy medication without propylene glycol, magnesium stearate, and/or polyethylene glycol.
They all contain palm oil ingredients.
(Update: See our post for what we are doing for medicine without palm oil. We went to a compounding pharmacy to get allergy medications without fillers, preservatives, etc.)
Palm oil allergy symptoms
So, what happens to my son when he uses something with or consumes something with palm oil?
What palm oil allergy symptoms and allergic reactions does he have? Some symptoms are delayed and some are immediate.
Allergic reactions from palm oil
When he ate foods with palm oil, palm kernel oil, and hydrogenated palm kernel oil, almost immediately, he would:
Start to clear his throat
Go through dozens of Kleenex
The next morning, he would wake up with a sore throat and again need a box of Kleenex from blowing his nose so much. Sometimes this would last for days, other times, weeks.
Hives — sometimes he would get hives
Fever with a sore throat; both lasting for days
Reactions from palm oil derivatives
Symptoms from tocopherols
There were other times when he was getting sick from foods, and we didn’t know why.
I’m grateful we kept the cereal and cracker boxes from these foods that made him sick because we learned they all contained tocopherols.
Tocopherols are sometimes made from palm oil.
When he would eat foods with tocopherols — used to preserve freshness or as a Vitamin E supplement — some or all of these symptoms would happen:
He became so lethargic and exhausted, completely wiped out
He would have a change in mood/temperament
Would get a few hives
After my son went through these experiences of being so tired, itchy, and very upset, there was no way we would ever take a chance on him having palm oil derivatives again.
Tocopherols aren’t usually labeled as to where they are derived from.
We avoid all products with tocopherols.
Glycerin and glycerine cause symptoms
These are ingredients also typically made from palm oil. They are very prevalent in nutrition bars and other types of granola bars.
Glycerin is in hard candy, cough drops, and bar soap.
My son gets congested from products with glycerin and glycerine.
Symptoms from mono- and diglycerides
We avoid these ingredients At All Costs. These are man-made ingredients which are often made from palm oil.
Food manufacturers use mono- and diglycerides as a replacement for trans-fats. You will see these ingredients now in ice cream, sherbet, Pringles, sliced bread, store-bought baked goods, and many chocolate bars.
These make my son so incredibly sick even to the point of sometimes changing his personality. He often becomes completely exhausted and wiped out.
They also give him allergy symptoms.
It’s difficult to know if palm oil may be affecting you. In our case, some of the symptoms were delayed and others were immediate.
Symptoms from propylene glycol
His children’s allergy medicine contains propylene glycol and gave him sore throats as mentioned above.
Another time, we gave him a liquid children’s pain medication because he had a bump on his tongue (he bit it) which was painful.
Afterwards, he had a sore throat.
Regrettably, we continued to give him the medicine every 12 hours for two days.
I finally thought to look at the ingredients and saw there was propylene glycol in it. I couldn’t believe I gave it to him without reading the label.
We stopped giving it to him, and his sore throat was gone the next day.
Symptoms from lecithin
After my son had a piece of gum that I thought was palm oil free, he started scratching his head — he felt so itchy. It contained lecithin. (Also, chewing gum often contains glycerin or glycol which also can be made from palm oil.)
If you see lecithin in an ingredient list, know that it’s a substance found in the oil component of certain plants. Manufacturers use it as an emulsifier so ingredients don’t separate.
Unless the lecithin is clearly labeled, as in “soy lecithin,” you won’t know if it’s made from palm.
Reactions for palm oil derivatives not on label
Some new symptoms from palm oil are bumps around his nose and/or a recurring sore between his mouth and chin: facial dermatitis. The latest concern has been the ingredients at the source.
The really unfortunate thing about this is that these symptoms occur despite us reading labels. We know the names for palm oil ingredients and avoid them. These reactions occur to foods we think are safe.
So in addition to avoiding the hundreds of ingredient names for palm oil derivatives, we are even concerned about spices, seasonings, and other additives in foods.
When this happens, l email the company about the SOURCE of whatever the questionable ingredient seems to be: Natural Flavors, Cinnamon, Garlic, Citric Acid, or whatever else is in it.
They often check with their Research & Development department who often needs to verify with the supplier.
Each time, the ingredient was treated with or processed with or made from palm oil. The ingredient came from the supplier and didn’t need to be labeled on the final product. This makes it really daunting to try new foods.
Again, many foods with palm oil and palm oil derivatives are not healthy anyway, so no loss. But he’s a kid and that’s what makes it more difficult. Also, when the palm oil is in the spice, seasoning, or sauce and not clearly labeled, it make it very difficult.
Nervous to eat new foods
He and I do a good job of reading labels and avoiding problematic foods.
Yet it’s frightening giving him new foods at home, someone else’s house, or when we have to go out to eat. On vacations, we usually rent a place with a small kitchen. We carry snacks around so we don’t have to eat out as much.
In addition, we try to encourage play dates at friends’ houses around non-mealtimes. We can send him with fruit as well as other safe snacks. While everyone is always great, we don’t want it to be an inconvenience to anyone. We also don’t want to risk him eating something he can’t have, however, well-meaning the host is trying to be.
Report your symptoms to FDA
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has a MedWatch Voluntary Reporting online form you can complete and submit to easily report your symptoms. You just need to have the product information.
This will create awareness and alert the FDA that palm oil is causing health issues. At the very least, it may make them require companies to list palm oil derivatives on ingredient labels like companies must do in Europe.
Allergic to palm oil
Even though my son has allergic reactions to palm oil, his allergist insists he can’t be allergic to palm oil. The allergist was certain there isn’t a way to test for a palm oil allergy or a palm allergy intolerance.
It’s frustrating because we wanted a solution or a least an allergy test to confirm what we already know. We felt it would validate our findings.
Instead, the allergist ordered blood work for food allergy testing. They ran tests for common food allergies, a cereal panel, a nut panel, and a general foods list for him.
Also, he did a skin prick test for 40+ environmental allergens.
We wanted these tests done but we still knew we needed to eliminate palm oil from our son’s diet.
Palm oil intolerance
Left without a medical name or reason, we continue to avoid all products and foods that contain palm oil and the 500+ names it goes by.
This is very difficult to do, but it can be done.
Scientific name for palm oil
Elaeis guineensis is the scientific name for the palm oil companies use in foods, cleaning products, self-care items and more. It’s commonly known as the African Oil Palm.
The United States Department of Agriculture has a website where you can learn about the classification of plants.
Here is the information for Elaeis guineensis from the Kingdom — Plantae — to the Species — Elaeis guineensis Jacq.
Coconut oil allergy
There’s concern about coconut allergies being related to palm allergies.
Many people who have a coconut allergy think they should avoid palm oil. Please speak with your doctor.
Also note, if you experience allergic reactions and think you have a coconut allergy or coconut oil allergy, be sure to discuss with your doctor.
It may be interesting to compare the USDA classification for African Oil Palm with Coconut. According to the USDA, both share the same:
Kingdom (Plantae) Plants
Subkingdom (Tracheobionta) Vascular plants
Superdivision (Spermatophyta) Seed plants
Division (Magnoliophyta) Flowering plants
Class (Liliopsida) Monocotyledons
Family (Arecaceae) Palm family
Genus — this is where palm oil and coconut differ
This is not medical advice; it’s from the USDA’s website. We included it so you can see the similarities between palm oil and coconut. Please talk with your doctor if you have allergy symptoms or allergic reactions or feel sick after eating certain foods or using certain products.
Palm oil sickness
Whether or not someone can be “officially” allergic to palm oil or have a palm oil sensitivity, we are diligent about avoiding it completely.
After doing a lot of online research to learn everything possible about a palm oil allergy or intolerance — there isn’t a lot of information out there because it’s not typically recognized by the medical community — I found an amazing list of alternate names for palm oil.
It’s from the International Palm Oil Free Certification Accreditation Programme.
There are over 500 alternate names for palm oil on it. You will be stunned by all the names palm oil goes by. I highly recommend you print out their list, and then continue reading below for more tips.
Checking ingredients for palm oil
When I’m diligent about following it — checking every single ingredient against the list — he hasn’t had any issues.
I printed out a copy and refer to it — literally — in stores before I buy my son anything packaged or processed. I walk around with the list in my purse.
Then at home, before he eats a new packaged food, I double check the ingredients against the list. You can print it here.
All of his hygiene items are palm oil free.
My son and I have learned some of the hidden words for palm oil to look for so that we can scan ingredient lists quickly. This makes it a lot easier. It’s also been helping my son for when he is out places without me.
Also, this helps us to support palm oil free products and to do our part to not support the palm oil industry.
Palm oil in ingredients
In addition to using the list, you can:
1.) Look for the obvious words:
Palm kernel oil
Hydrogenated palm kernel oil
Red palm oil
Organic palm oil
Organic red palm oil
2.) Watch for these ingredients:
Vitamin A Palmitate
Mono- and di-glycerides
Sulfates (in non-food items)
3.) Look for these prefixes:
4.) Know what products usually contain palm oil and palm oil derivatives:
Packaged desserts: cookies, donuts, pastries, muffins, cakes/cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, etc.
Shortening, margarine, frosting, spreads
Toothpaste, shampoo, cosmetics, lotion
Vitamins and supplements
5.) Know what to watch for:
Chewy, gummy or stretchy foods
Foods with chocolate, caramel, peanut butter
Vitamin A of 10% or greater
It’s so important to read labels every time.
We were shocked to learn how some companies change ingredients and are now including palm oil. (In the last three months, Honeycomb Cereal and Peanut M&M’s changed ingredients and are now using palm oil.)
Palm oil intolerance means finding palm free solutions
Like our family, you will come to learn your favorites, and it will be a lot easier.
Be sure to only introduce one new packaged food (or self-care product) at a time.
Even when we checked ingredients closely, sometimes we missed an ingredient or didn’t know an ingredient was made with palm derivatives.
My son used Lip Serum by Rodan + Fields, and while it healed his lips overnight, he woke up sick with a sore throat, runny nose/congestion, coughing and other allergic reactions.
When I looked at the label, I saw there were at least two palm oil derivatives in the product.
He missed two days of school from being so sick.
Another time, he used soap in a hotel and had the same allergic symptoms. Again too late, I looked up the ingredients online and saw it contained palm oil.
Palm oil allergy symptoms
If you have allergic reactions to foods and/or self-care items that contain palm oil and palm oil derivatives, it’s a real thing.
It may not be an official diagnosis of being allergic to palm oil, but if it affects you, you should try to avoid it.
We can only hope the FDA takes notice. You can do your part by reporting your symptoms to them.
The increased demand for palm oil is a real issue — most likely for our health and definitely for our environment.
Hopefully some innovative companies will start advertising their brands as “palm oil free” just like companies promote “fat free,” “gluten free,” “no high fructose corn syrup,” etc.
While still new, there is a palm oil free certification label you can look for. This company ensures all of the ingredients — down to the source — are free from palm oil.
It can be great marketing for companies, especially when so many packaged products contain palm oil.
We hope more companies will eliminate it from their foods, cleaners, and personal care products.
Palm oil allergy test
Our allergist said there isn’t a palm oil allergy test as there isn’t an available serum-specific IgE to the oil. So officially, you can’t be allergic to palm oil.
He tested our son for all the common food allergies but he didn’t have any except for two false positives, according to the allergist.
Therefore, we continue to perform our own food intolerance test to see what his food sensitivities are. So far, it seems palm oil and palm oil derivatives are the only problem.
We work hard to eliminate personal care products and food with palm oil so he can be healthy. Even though the allergist said he can’t be allergic to palm oil because there aren’t proteins in it, we know our son gets sick from palm oil.
Problem digesting palm oil
We learned palm oil is a medium chain triglyceride (MCT). Through our doctor and online research, we learned MCTs bypass “traditional” digesting.
Meaning, palm oil is absorbed into the bloodstream from the gastrointestinal tract more easily and faster.
This is interesting because depending on the palm oil ingredient, our son has some symptoms almost immediately.
However, we don’t believe it’s solely a digestive issue or something to do with palm oil being a medium chain triglyceride.
Coconut is also a medium chain triglyceride. Our son can tolerate coconut perfectly fine. (Please discuss with your doctor if you suspect a coconut allergy; there are allergy tests for it.)
Or maybe he does have trouble digesting palm oil and palm oil derivatives, but there is something additional that it does to his body. Palm oil seems to be affecting at least one other system.
Some palm oil ingredients give him immediate, traditional allergy symptoms. Some give him a delayed sore throat which leads to a longer-term illness.
There are others that affect his entire body immediately or within 1-3 hours, changing his mood and making him lethargic, sad, etc.
On separate occasions, when he used deodorant, lip balm, toothpaste, and soap with palm oil derivatives, he had symptoms. Often he became very ill.
Sometimes his reactions happened quickly, within 1 – 5 minutes of using them. Other times, they were delayed. For example, he showered at night with hotel soap and woke up sick.
These ingredients were absorbed into his body and into the bloodstream through his skin, not digested per se.
Palm oil allergy or intolerance
After a year of logging foods and symptoms, we are absolutely certain our son has an intolerance to palm oil.
It’s not a recognized allergen or even a common intolerance. The allergist was focused on boosting our son’s overall health with prebiotics. He recommended this.
We are working to improve his gut microbiome. We are giving our son real, whole, unprocessed foods.
This is all well and good, yet, we know palm oil affects him negatively. We want to know why.
Palm oil allergy symptoms
My husband and I can watch him be completely fine, and then eat something with palm oil in it, and have symptoms within minutes.
Because of this, we are always researching products without palm oil.
As you may be finding, palm oil is prevalent in the majority of packaged foods as well as personal care items and cleaning products. It’s difficult to live a palm oil free life.
We started this website as a place for others to find products free from palm oil. Also, we wanted to educate others who think they are getting sick from palm oil, think they are allergic to palm oil, or may have a palm oil intolerance.
It doesn’t seem the medical community recognizes people can be sick from palm oil. We are trying to create awareness. As companies use palm oil more and more, consumers are more exposed to it.
Here, we want to give you some simple ways to help discover if you may have an intolerance to palm oil or a palm oil sensitivity.
We also want to encourage you to talk with your healthcare professional and encourage you to report symptoms to the FDA via their online form.
Palm oil is in many products
Demand for palm oil continues to increase. It’s in more products than ever before and goes by hundreds of names.
Palm oil is hidden under many names, in many products, and it’s used in many different ways.
Yet, despite our increased and repeated exposure daily, according to allergists and other medical professionals, you can’t be allergic to palm oil.
However, we know for certain it adversely affects our child. Sometimes he “just” has mild symptoms and sometimes he gets really sick from palm oil and derivatives.
How to find out if you have a palm oil intolerance
From our experience, we believe you may be reading food labels and being perplexed as to what is causing you or your child to have symptoms.
Perhaps you’re wondering if it might be palm oil or palm oil derivatives.
We are not medical professionals. Please seek medical advice from your physician.
In this post, we’ve used our own experience to teach you how to narrow down ingredients to see if it might be palm oil and palm oil derivatives that you are intolerant to. We continue to update this post and site.
Ways to determine if you have a palm oil intolerance
Keep a food journal.
This is essential and can be a simple notebook. Write down everything you eat each day. Draw a horizontal line to separate out each meal and snack time.
What symptoms do experience?
Do you have any new or unusual symptoms throughout the day? Write down the symptoms in the same notebook you are writing down your foods.
Write your symptoms to the left. If you experience them in the morning, write them closer to the top of the page, near the foods you ate early in the day, etc.
Are there any products you believe are causing you to have symptoms?
Start with what you’ve noticed or what you believe may be the issue. Pay special attention to these products, and be sure to include them along with symptoms in your food log.
Follow your intuition.
Be sure to save all the ingredient labels and packages when you can.
If you can’t save the package or box, take a picture of it. You will want to reference these in the future.
I break down all boxes so they are flat, and I stack them in the cabinet. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred to them to reread labels.
So many times, I have gone back to empty boxes and packages to read and compare labels and ingredients.
Sometimes, it was because my son had symptoms; other times I wanted to compare the ingredients from products that didn’t cause him to become sick.
Saving ingredient labels
Once, he got so sick after a party at relative’s home. I was glad I took a picture of the ingredients from the ice cream he ate.
Weeks later, when I found a list of palm oil derivatives online, I went back to look at the picture with the ice cream’s ingredients. Sure enough, it contained mono- and digylcerides. At the time he ate it, I didn’t know these are often made with palm oil.
Only use one new product at a time.
Your body comes into contact with so many different ingredients each day. If you can start figuring out patterns of what makes you ill, you can go back to look for common ingredients in products you’ve used before.
But if you go grocery shopping, and come home with lots of new foods and other products, and use them all in the next few days, it will be very difficult to find out what is causing your symptoms.
Think of it like a science experiment. Keep everything the same and change only one thing (the new product). Watch your variables!
Review all ingredients.
Read the ingredients from everything, including from your soaps, lotions, toothpaste, lip balm, deodorant and cosmetics in addition to all food.
Do you drink milk? If so, look for Vitamin A Palmitate. If you drink vitamin or sports drinks, check those labels too.
Be thorough: If it has a label, you must read the ingredients.
When you see something has palm oil or palm kernel oil in it, note that. If you experience symptoms after you eat it or later that day, circle that food.
The more you read labels, the more you will learn what to look for in certain foods, soap, etc.
Reference lists about palm oil derivatives.
There are hundreds of names for palm oil derivatives. The Palm Oil Free Certification Accreditation Programme has made a public list for you to reference to help you avoid palm oil.
Palm oil derivatives are in milk (unless it’s whole milk), RTE cereals, candy, bread, baked goods, toothpaste, and so many more things. Start learning what they are.
Learn all you can about how manufacturers use palm oil.
Sometimes they use it to fortify foods with vitamins, as in the case with milk and cereal.
Other times, they use it to help the consistency, as in peanut butter. In soaps, toothpaste and shampoo, it’s used to create lather and foam.
Again, keep all labels
I cannot overstate the importance of keeping labels. It will help you in different ways.
The first way…
Even after I learned alternate names for palm oil ingredients, sometimes I missed some ingredients.
This happened to me with Glycerin, Glycerine, Tocopherols, Magnesium Stearate, and Mono- and Di-glycerides.
My son got sick from eating products with each of these, and I didn’t know why. I thought they were palm oil free. Palm oil and palm kernel oil weren’t on the labels.
It was only after keeping the food journal for months and looking back at the symptoms that I singled out these foods.
I was able to go back and look through the ingredients again, and that’s when I saw these palm oil derivatives. I knew to not let my son eat them again.
The second way…
So many times, manufacturers change ingredients.
When you save the labels, you will be able to compare the ingredients if you need to.
Also, depending on where you live and where companies are sourcing their ingredients, ingredients and labels often differ.
You may wonder why a processed food that you ate awhile ago with no issues is now causing you to have symptoms. The reason could be a change in ingredients.
More products contain palm oil
There are so many examples of this happening to us. Here are three that come to mind:
Oreo didn’t used to contain palm oil, and now they do.
Peanut M&M’s didn’t used to contain palm oil, and now most do.
The last time I bought Post’s Honeycomb Cereal, it didn’t contain palm oil, and now it does in the form of Vitamin A Palmitate.
It took us a long time to figure out some palm ingredients. We knew certain foods were causing him to have allergy symptoms but we didn’t know why.
Keeping your labels organized or at least all in the same place will make it easy for you to reference them as you try to figure out what’s causing you to have symptoms.
Avoiding palm oil
Again, it seems the medical community isn’t familiar with palm oil allergy symptoms and palm oil intolerance.
In addition to health concerns, there are many people who avoid palm oil because of the devastating environmental impacts the palm oil industry has on rainforests, animals and people.
Palm oil intolerance
For our family, we do all we can to avoid palm oil because of the environmental issues as well.
Also, it’s one thing when palm oil would cause our son to cough and have sniffles. It’s another when he is miserable and sick for days or weeks with a sore throat and fever. It’s a very serious thing to us. We don’t want to have our son be sick.
While he is a healthy eater and does great eating protein, fruits and vegetables, he still eats processed food. We want to be sure he can find safe choices.
We want him to have a piece of candy or gum and not get sick. Our goal is to find a safe vitamin without palm oil.
He can only use few self-care products. We bring them with us on vacation.
Do you get allergic reactions from palm oil? If so, you are not alone. (Thank you to everyone who has taken a moment to Comment below!)
Depending on the palm oil processing, you may not have allergy symptoms to all food with palm.
To the best of our knowledge, all palm oil products and palm oil causes allergic reactions and affects our son adversely.
Testing for palm oil allergy
Ask your doctor if there are palm oil allergy tests. Can they do allergy testing for palm oil derivatives, such as propylene glycol, ethylene glycol, vitamin E / tocopherol, or others?
Avoiding palm oil
Once you know what products contain palm oil — there are so many more than you think — you will be able to more safely avoid those products.
It’s so important to let companies know we want more products without palm oil and to support palm free products.
Please share your Comments below. Do you get sick from palm oil? Do you think you have an intolerance to palm oil? Why do you think you have a palm oil allergy?
Will you talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about palm oil?
The more attention we bring to this issue, the more manufacturers might start eliminating palm oil from their products.
Already it’s a huge environmental concern.
Discuss palm oil allergic reactions with your doctor
Please note, we are not medical professionals. This is not medical advice. Please consult with your physician about your self-care and food allergy symptoms and the possibility of a palm oil intolerance or palm oil allergy.
Your allergist or other doctor may suggest allergy testing or other tests.
The information is based on my own personal experience. While palm oil causes allergic reactions in our situation, yours may be different. If you have allergic reactions or other symptoms, please consult with your healthcare professional.
We’d love to know your experience with palm oil. Do you think you have a palm oil intolerance or allergy? Please let us know in the Comments so we can all help each other. Also, please report your symptoms to the FDA.