Palm oil is prevalent in personal care items such as soap, shampoo, lip balm, etc. Palm oil makes our son sick. This is a list of the personal care items he uses in order to stay healthy and live palm oil free.
Palm oil is common in processed foods as well as in non-foods.
When we first made the connection that palm oil was causing him to have allergy symptoms, we started logging what he ate. We eliminated foods.
At that time, we only knew to eliminate foods with “palm oil” and “palm kernel oil” from his diet. Still, he was having reactions.
We didn’t know why until we came upon the list from the International Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark Programme (POFCAP). We learned there are hundreds of names for palm oil ingredients. Many of them don’t have “palm” in them, making them more challenging to recognize.
We printed out this list of names for palm oil and didn’t buy any food until we cross-referenced it against their list. It continues to be a tremendous help.
At that time, we didn’t know palm oil is common in non-food items as well. Our son was still getting sick. Oftentimes it was from personal care products that contained palm oil.
After we drastically cut down on processed foods, there were other times he would get sick — sometimes right before our eyes. Meaning, he would have an almost-immediate reaction to a product.
During this time, we started to learn how prevalent palm oil is in all types of products, including soap, toothpaste, and shampoo, etc.
Reactions from lip balm
He had such chapped lips that we put a free sample of a Rodan + Fields serum on them before he went to bed. While his chapped lips went away overnight, he woke up with a bad sore throat.
We looked up the ingredients, and sure enough, there were at least two palm oil ingredients in it. (The ingredients had “palm” in the name.)
Reactions from toothpaste
Awhile later, he had dry lips and cracking in the corners of his mouth. When we learned there is palm oil in toothpaste, we sought out to find a different one. When we finally found one — he used Redmond Earthpaste — his lips healed in days.
Reactions from soap
Never again do we use the free samples in hotels, no matter how eco-friendly the packaging.
After using soap from a hotel, our son got such a bad sore throat, he was sick for days. Whenever we travel, we bring a full-size palm oil free bar with us for our family to use.
How does our son live without palm oil? This is a list of the foods he eats. Here we discuss the personal items he uses regularly.
Personal care items without palm oil when you have a palm oil intolerance
It’s important to know that even companies who seem to be environmentally-friendly often use palm oil in their products.
You may see companies highlight the “coconut” in their products only to look at the rest of the ingredients and see many palm oil derivative names.
Also, if they don’t spell out the source, as in Tocopherol (Soy) or Tocopherol (Sunflower) it most likely contains palm oil.
Always try to find products with the least amount of ingredients. For non-food products, these tend to be the ones that don’t have scents.
Smaller, independent, speciality companies also will use higher quality ingredients. Remember, palm oil is inexpensive. That’s why so many companies use it.
We have many lists of personal care products without palm oil in which we list all of these smaller companies and their amazing palm oil free products. Our household uses many of them.
For this post, we are listing what our son uses regularly.
Please note, we aren’t guaranteeing any of these are palm oil free. You don’t know if something is 100% palm oil free unless it has the Palm Oil Free certification labeling. These are products our son uses safely.
Davids Natural Toothpaste
We are grateful to have found this toothpaste. It foams and is minty. He feels his teeth are clean after using it.
Unfortunately, we haven’t found a fluorinated toothpaste without palm oil.
Typically, there is more than one palm oil ingredient in toothpaste, no matter how eco-friendly it may seem. Some of them include Glycerin, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, and Propylene Glycol.
Ingredients in lip balms vary greatly. You will find some products with just a few ingredients and many others with 10+ ingredients. Remember, the more ingredients something has, the greater the chance it has palm oil.
Like all of these personal care products, there are many palm oil derivatives to watch out for. Some include Tocopherol, Vitamin E, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Propylene Glycol, etc.
Badger Unscented Broad Spectrum SPF 35 Zinc Oxide Sunscreen All Season Face Stick
Badger Sport Unscented Broad Spectrum SPF 35 Natural Mineral Sunscreen Cream Clear Zinc
Whether you are looking for a cream, lotion, or a spray, it’s difficult to find this palm oil free. The palm oil derivatives are usually in the Inactive Ingredients. There are many to watch for, including Tocopherol, Vitamin E, Glycerin, Glycerol Stearate, etc.
Personal care products you can use if you avoid palm oil
We have others items he uses on occasion but these are the ones he uses most often. While we are always looking for more products he can use, we try not to change his products because we know these are working for him.
Using less overall
By using less products overall, it is better for the environment. It also saves money. In addition, it means less ingredients and chemicals our body has to process.
Eco-friendly brands and greenwashing
When you start looking at the long list of ingredients in most self-care products and non-food products you buy, it’s incredible.
In each of these products, there are 10+ palm oil ingredients companies use that don’t use “palm” in the name.
Before intentionally giving up palm oil, our household never took much notice. Were there always so many ingredients in these products? I don’t think so.
Back in the 1990s, I switched to an eco-friendly brand of shampoo and conditioner. I found the Sodium Lauryl Sulfite and the Aluminum Lauryl Sulfites and similar type ingredients in other products affected my scalp.
Fast forward twenty years, I was still buying from the same company but the products affected me. They weren’t the same “clean” type ingredients they used to be.
This company built an image as being environmentally-friendly — and even though they’ve changed ingredients to lower quality / cheaper ingredients in so many of their products — most consumers don’t know or care.
Why Palm Oil Free labeling certification is important
Palm oil is in all of types of self-care, hygiene, and beauty products.
It’s in shampoo, conditioner, lotion, sunscreen, and deodorant. It’s in shaving cream, cosmetics, lipstick, nail polish, hair dye, hair gel, and face paint.
Most consumers have no idea many of the ingredients in these items are derived from palm oil.
The only way to know is if the product has earned Palm Oil Free certification.
Remember, if you are avoiding palm oil for environmental reasons, you may be fine with purchasing products that use sustainable palm oil. However, if you avoid it because you have a palm oil sensitivity, you need to know if it has palm oil in it.
When a product has a Palm Oil Free label on it, you will know for sure that each ingredient was thoroughly researched, down to the source.
How to find hygiene items without palm oil
Choose products with the least amount of ingredients.
Assume “Glycerin” and “Tocopherol” are made from palm oil unless they state the source. See our other posts for the ways palm oil derivatives are present in these types of products.
Know that most hygiene and personal care items contain more than one palm oil ingredient.
When looking for palm oil free personal care type products, it’s best to patronize small businesses and artisans. Go to your local farmer’s market. Check out the label from a bar soap when you are in a specialty shop.
These are the opportunities to support small businesses while also getting a much higher quality product.
List of favorite palm oil free care products
Davids Natural Toothpaste
Grandma’s Baking Soda Soap / Remwood Products
Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil Soap
Booda Organics Original Lip Balm
Vaseline Lip Therapy Advanced Healing Moisturizer
Badger Unscented Broad Spectrum SPF 35 Zinc Oxide Sunscreen All Season Face Stick
Badger Sport Unscented Broad Spectrum SPF 35 Natural Mineral Sunscreen Cream
Ethique Coconut & Lime Butter Block
Thank you for reading and for being an Informed Consumer!
My son gets sick from palm oil. Many times, people ask us what he can have. We created this eating without palm oil list specific to my son. These are the foods he likes and eats safely.
We created this site to help others who might have sensitivities and intolerances to palm oil. As we learned more about palm oil, we learned about the environmental concerns as well.
Eating without palm oil list ~ What my child eats because he is sensitive to palm oil
Our son reacts to even trace amounts of palm oil as well as palm oil derivatives so we believe these items are okay if you are avoiding palm oil. But note they are not guaranteed. We update this list regularly.
Something positive that’s come of this is we all eat healthier, cleaner foods. We cook and bake from scratch regularly. We have less processed foods and eat out less.
Overall, we eat more real foods and buy products with less “ingredients.”
While we have comprehensive lists of palm oil free products, this list is specific to my son will actually eat.
In general, we keep things simple.
When buying packaged foods, we stick to original flavors which tend to have less palm oil than complicated flavors. We also choose products with the least amount of ingredients as possible.
Whenever possible, we choose the less processed option. Example: We buy nuts in their shell instead of already shelled.
Palm oil hides in “Natural Flavors” making it even more stressful. See more below. Learn about his palm oil allergy/intolerance.
Our son will eat most any vegetable that you can eat raw. He has several each day, plain, without dressing.
Examples of vegetables he eats regularly: snap peas, snow peas, carrots, red pepper, orange pepper, yellow pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, lettuce, celery.
We buy organic when possible, especially the dirty dozen like celery.
He eats a lot of fruits every day. He can have all fruits except for grapes which upset his system. As far as we know, grapes and palm oil ingredients are the only things that affect him. (We need to research if they are botanically-related in some way?)
barkTHINS Snacking Chocolate: Dark Chocolate Almond with Sea Salt
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: original; regular packaging; no holiday versions
Hershey’s bars: Milk Chocolate, Almond, Special Dark
Hershey’s Kisses: Milk Chocolate, Almond
M&M’s Milk Chocolate, Almond
Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Mini Chips
Sour Patch Kids
Jolly Rancher Hard Candies
He can have any “real” chocolate as well. We choose the ones with as few ingredients as possible. As an example, the chocolate chips we buy only contain Cocoa Butter, Unsweetened Chocolate, and Cane Sugar.
Other marshmallows with the same ingredients as above are likley fine.
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar: any size
Honey Maid Grahams (Many other brands contain palm oil and palm oil derivatives such as DATEM.)
We have to make all of his desserts because the ones in bakeries and grocery stores contain palm oil. Together we make brownies, cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and biscotti. In addition, we make our own frosting easily with confectioners sugar, real butter, whole milk, and pure vanilla.
The only mixes we use are:
Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix
Pillsbury Milk Chocolate Brownie Mix
I make these brownies and freeze them for when he goes to a birthday party, etc.
Baking ingredients we use
Whole milk without Vitamin A Palmitate
Red-Star Yeast in the 3-pack is the only one we found without palm oil derivatives.
We use Lucerne from Albertson’s/Safeway
Kirkland Organic Eggs from Costco
Simply Organic Pure Vanilla Extract
Any “pure” extract is likely fine.
Pure cane sugar
We use C&H Pure Cane Sugar. Any sugar with just “sugar” listed is likely fine.
King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Probably most any flour would be okay.
Confectioners sugar / powdered sugar
We use C&H Confectioners Sugar to make frosting.
We use Clabber Girl Double Acting Baking Powder.
Pure baking soda
We use Arm & Hammer.
Chocolate chips: Enjoy Life Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Red Ape Cinnamon (It’s certified Palm Oil Free.)
100% pure maple syrup
We are used to making substitutions. He can’t have Rice Krispie treats because the cereal contains Vitamin A Palmitate; however, we can use the marshmallows and real butter to coat air-popped popcorn for a treat just as delicious.
The majority of our dinners consist of meat, fruit and raw vegetables. My son will eat all of these without issue.
We vary how we cook the meats. If we are out, we ask for them to cook the meat with salt.
Again, we cook meats with garlic cloves, chopped onion, salt. Sometimes we use avocado oil, lime, lemon, peppers, etc. for additional flavoring.
We cook with as simple ingredients as possible. Because onion and garlic powders can contain palm oil, we only use real, fresh onions, and garlic.
In addition, we buy lemons and limes and use them; we don’t buy the squeeze lime juices, etc. These contain additives that we aren’t sure are safe for him.
He eats a wide variety of fruits and raw vegetables.
Eating at fast food restaurants without palm oil
We are grateful when restaurants publish their ingredients online so we can check in advance.
Many restaurants list which products contain the major allergens but don’t spell out the ingredients. Palm oil isn’t recognized as an allergen so that doesn’t help us.
Other restaurant chains spell out the Nutritional Profile with the calorie count and fat content but not the actual ingredients. It’s frustrating.
Important: Many restaurant French fries contain palm oil.
If they make the French fries fresh on-site — like In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys — they most likely won’t contain palm oil.
We are loyal to these restaurants because these are places he can go and won’t get sick.
(Their fries contain palm oil.)
Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Hamburger meat plain; no bun
Four hamburger patties plain
We are so grateful to In-N-Out Burger. This is one of my son’s favorites because he can have their fries and shakes. This is the only place he has shakes / ice cream.
Sometimes he orders the burgers wrapped in lettuce.
Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers:
Cane’s Combo (He can eat the chicken and the fries and doesn’t eat the bread.)
Eating palm oil free at other restaurants
At sit down restaurants, he orders meat cooked with salt. He doesn’t eat bread.
At Mexican restaurants he orders fajitas and just eats the meat, not the tortillas or cooked vegetables. He doesn’t have the tortilla chips. We rarely go to Italian restaurants.
Typically, we don’t go out to eat unless we have to. When we do, we look for places that will have meat they can cook-to-order with just salt. We’ve had luck at Outback Steakhouse and others.
Going on vacation when you are avoiding palm oil
One of the biggest stresses is eating away from home when you are trying to avoid palm oil. Vacations are stressful.
We always pack palm oil free safe foods when we travel.
For vacations, so we don’t have to rely on restaurants, instead of staying in a hotel, we usually rent an AirBNB or VRBO with a kitchen. Then we can continue to buy the above foods.
It’s a lot healthier to eat this way too. And it saves us money.
When traveling, we always bring RX Bars, nuts, fruits, and other safe snacks whether we are driving or flying.
If we go on a road trip, we will bring a cooler so we can keep more fresh vegetables and fruits.
School parties and class treats without palm oil
My son brings a lunch to school everyday so we don’t have to worry about any palm oil in school lunches.
Oftentimes, our son has to miss out on treats and snacks at school. There are sometimes food rewards and class parties.
In addition, students are allowed to bring in treats for their birthdays. If you have 27 kids bringing in doughnuts, that’s 27 doughnuts my son isn’t able to eat. (This isn’t necessarily a bad thing!)
We can’t anticipate birthdays so he will usually eat something from his lunch bag. Every so often, I will give him a Larabar Chocolate Brownie to keep in his backpack. If we know in advance, I will give him brownie that I made and froze.
For classroom parties, depending what they are asking for, I typically send in something safe he can have.
If it’s a party with desserts, I send brownies or cookies. If it’s a classroom celebration without dessert-type foods, I will send in fruit, Cheddar Goldfish, Rold Gold Pretzels, Pirate’s Booty, potato chips, or popcorn.
Trying new foods when you can’t have palm oil
It’s scary trying new foods. Palm oil ingredients don’t have to be specially labeled.
Natural Flavors can contain palm oil.
Before buying anything new, we consider the type of product it is, and if it’s something that usually contains palm oil. We know that some products will always contain palm oil, and we won’t ever buy them.
In addition, we think about palm oil uses and how it’s used in the product. For example, if it’s a product that uses an emusifier, is there another emusifier listed that spells out the source, such as Soy Lecithin? If so, then this might be a safe product.
After that, we further look at all of the ingredients and cross-reference it against the list of hundreds of names for palm oil, knowing that palm oil can be hiding under many different ingredient names.
We introduce new foods sparingly and always one at a time. We watch for symptoms. If he is symptom free, the next time we will give him a little bit more. Once we determine it’s safe, we will add it more regularly.
Asking companies about palm oil in their ingredients
When we find something that seems safe, we email to ask the company about it — many times they don’t respond. Many times they don’t know.
Oftentimes, they respond saying there isn’t palm oil in it but after pressing further, we learn there is.
Companies changing ingredients to include palm oil
We’ve also learned to always check labels before buying these products above. Companies change ingredients often.
Since we learned of our son’s palm oil intolerance, there have been many processed food items he was able to have until they changed ingredients.
Some of these include Peanut M&M’s, Mr. Goodbar, Honeycomb Cereal, and Oreo cookies. No loss on not having these products except that it’s discouraging to see more and more companies and products using palm oil.
For most products, I keep the packaging with the UPC codes as a reference. I also take pictures of them and mark them as Favorites so I can easily find them on my phone while I’m in the store.
Companies discontinuing products that they made without palm oil
We’ve also found this happen many times.
There were many KIND bars my son was able to safely eat until they discontinued them. This has also happened with Dark Chocolate Mint M&M’s.
It’s happened with several store brands of crackers and snack bars as well.
Palm oil free certification labeling is important
When a company has a product which earned Palm Oil Free certification, that’s of tremendous help.
That means the company has taken the time to submit their product ingredients to an independent third-party organization. The organization checks all the ingredients in the product(s).
They check them down to the source — from the supplier. An example: We see Citric Acid on a label. The Palm Oil Free certifying organization will dig deeper to find out the source of that Citric Acid — what is in it?
Two independent Palm Oil Free certification companies are:
International Palm Oil Free Trademark Certification Programme (POFCAP) – Learn more here.
Our family always buys products certified with a No Palm Oil label.
What do you eat if you can’t have palm oil?
We are using his palm oil allergy/sensitivity as a positive reminder to eat healthier food.
We have learned SO MUCH about all the chemicals in foods and all the ways they use inferior ingredients to save money.
Our son knows how to read labels. He knows the common ingredients to look for which include Mono- & Diglycerides, Glycerin, Glycerine, Polysorbate 60, Polysorbate 80, Tocopherols, and anything with Stearate, including Magnesium Stearate and Calcium Stearate.
If he is in doubt, he doesn’t eat it.
We’ve learned to assume everything has palm oil in it and be happily surprised when it doesn’t.
He knows what he can order at the fast food restaurants if he’s out with friends. He says “no thank you” a lot to food.
Sometimes it’s difficult.
He’s a kid in a processed food, snack-all-the-time, food-rewards-for-everything world.
However, we started this website as a way to empower our family — to feel like we were doing something to create awareness about the way palm oil is hidden in so many products. See About Us here.
We also learn a lot by trial and error and like that we can log everything here, on this website, so we can reference it.
We wanted other people to start reading labels and to see how companies are hiding palm oil in so many ways.
Most people just toss a box of Poptarts and everything else in their carts without considering the ingredients.
We didn’t think our son could be the only one who has a palm oil allergy or palm oil intolerance. Even for consumers who don’t have symptoms from palm oil and palm kernel oil, we know many avoid it for environmental reasons.
There are a lot of people who even if they don’t give up palm oil completely, might be interested in buying it less often.
Focusing on real foods
The best thing we’ve done is to focus on healthy choices.
We talk about all of the ingredients and chemicals in foods.
We try to empower our son to make his own choices. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean we have to eat it.
He and I get a great deal of satisfaction from hearing from readers via the comments below as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Please follow us.
We like to thank the companies for making products without palm oil ingredients so they will know consumers care and want these types of products.
Sometimes companies change their ingredients to include palm oil derivatives. It’s important to read ingredients every time.
Please note, we do not guarantee these products are palm oil free. The only way to know for certain is if it has earned Palm Oil Free certification.
There are many consumers who avoid palm oil for health reasons. This may include dietary or allergen concerns. Yet the question remains, is palm oil good or bad for you?
While environmental concerns may still be a leading reason people avoid palm oil, there is a growing segment who seek alternatives because they experience reactions from it.
Others may be concerned about palm oil’s saturated fat content.
What are palm oil health dangers? Are there palm oil health benefits? What’s the difference between red palm oil and palm oil?
Is palm oil saturated or unsaturated?
As reported in health.com, palm oil’s nutritional profile is similar to other edible and cooking oils. According to the USDA, one tablespoon is the equivalent to 120 calories and 14 grams of total fat.
Of those 14 grams, 7 grams are in the form of saturated fat, and 5 grams are monounsaturated fat. There are 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat. .
Palm kernel oil contains 11 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.
To compare, olive oil contains 2 grams of saturated fat.
Palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil are high in saturated fat.
Many health and wellness experts believe food high in saturated fat negatively affect the heart.
What is saturated fat?
In general, the higher the saturated fat content, the more solid it is at room temperature.
This makes it ideal for baking. It also contributes greatly to mouthfeel — think creamy products like ice cream, frozen desserts, chocolate candies, dough, canned frosting, margarine, and more.
Palm oil is versatile. Just as it can remain semi-solid at room temperature, companies can also process it into liquid form for cooking.
Is palm oil bad for your health?
There hasn’t been enough research to determine the potential health affects of palm oil.
The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health states the main argument against using palm oil as an edible oil is because it contains palmitic acid which is a saturated fatty acid.
They report that would contribute to rising total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
They note its effects on serum lipid levels and cardiovascular disease in humans is still a point of discussion.
Is palm oil dangerous to health?
This is a popular question, perhaps because there is a lot of controversy around palm oil. The biggest reason is its impact on the environment.
Palm oil has a high saturated fat content which many argue affects cardiovascular health. Most health experts recommend other oils — olive oil in particular — for cooking.
Please discuss with your health professional if you suspect you are allergic or sensitive to palm oil. Many people report having digestive issues when they have palm oil.
Palm oil has become one of the world’s most widely produced edible fats. The palm oil that’s now so common in foods and non-food products comes from the African oil palm: Elaeis guineensis.
Most of the world’s palm oil grows in Malaysia and Indonesia.
It used to be that people who were avoiding palm oil did so because of the environment.
Now that it’s become more commonplace in foods, people are starting to take notice of it. They see it on labels more and more.
Much of this is because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned food manufacturers from adding artificial trans fats into their products.
In 2015, the FDA gave companies until 2018 to phase palm oil out of their food products; some have extensions until January 2020.
Many companies turned to palm oil as a replacement for artificial trans fats.
As companies worked through their ingredient reformulations, palm oil appeared on labels more frequently.
Palm oil became and is now a common ingredient in margarine and other butter substititutes. It’s a staple in shortening, canned frosting, frozen desserts, desserts, candy, cookies, snack bars, and cereal. It’s in everything from Twizzlers to Dunkin’ Donuts.
Many companies are using palm oil and palm oil derivatives in new products and flavors they introduce to market.
Consumers are eating more of it than ever before.
While palm oil is an edible vegetable oil, non-food companies use it in many non-food products as well.
Avoiding palm oil for health reasons
We have a popular post, Can You Be Allergic to Palm Oil. I wrote it because my son gets sick from anything with palm oil in it. There are consumers who are negatively affected by it. Palm oil affects their health. They have reactions from it, and they are seeking answers.
Whether it’s an allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity, palm oil is proving to negatively affect some people.
In addition, in BakeryandSnacks.com, the International Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark Programme (POFCAP) explained they want to “help consumers find foods without palm oil for ethical, allergen, or dietary reasons.”
As the demand increases and its prevalence is more common in foods, consumers are eating more of it in processed and packaged foods than ever before.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that palm oil production almost doubled from 2003 to 2013. This was even before the FDA banned the use of artificial trans fats in foods.
Palm oil is now in half of packaged foods and consumer goods.
In addition to processed foods, consumers are also exposed to palm oil in cleaning products, toothpaste, cosmetics, lotion, deodorant, soap, over-the-counter medicines, sunscreen, and many more products.
Some consumers are noticing reactions to it. Others may be concerned with the saturated fat content in the foods.
Is palm oil healthy? Is palm oil good for you?
The question of whether palm oil is healthy for you is a common one. Many wonder: Is palm oil good for you?
According to Harvard Medical School nutrition experts, palm oil is better for us than artificial trans fats. However, they encourage consumers to use olive oil and canola oil because — unlike palm oil — they are naturally liquid at room temperature.
Is palm oil carcinogenic?
Healthline.com also reports that palm oil is high in saturated fat and that it’s been linked to a cancer risk. They cite a study from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which reports palm oil can cause cancer when processed at high temperatures, approximately 200 degrees Celcius (393 degrees F).
Their expert Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain found glycidol to be a carcinogenic and genotoxic.
As reported on WebMD, the EFSA stated palm oil may cause cancer based on studies on mice. Note, the study didn’t test on humans.
Glycidyl fatty acid esters, or GEs
Glycidyl fatty acid esters (GEs) are a new class of food-processing contaminant.
When palm oil is heated to temperatures above 200 degrees C or higher, harmful substances form. These are called Glycidyl fatty acid esters — GEs. The highest form of them are in palm oil. Learn more here.
Avoiding palm oil for health concerns
While consumers avoid palm oil for health reasons and environmental reasons, if you have reactions to palm oil or other conditions, talk to your doctor. Please do not use this for medical advice.
It’s very common in everyday products. It’s a very versatile oil. Companies use palm oil in many ways.
Because palm oil has so many different applications in so many types of products, it goes by hundreds of names. Many of them do not have the word “palm” in them. This makes reading labels challenging — though it can be done!
Here are some tips for avoiding palm oil. Limit buying processed and packaged foods. Choose whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. Cook at home. Choose food and non-food products with the least amount of ingredients.
Limiting processed foods is one of the best things you can do.
Since the artificial trans fat ban went into effect in the United States, companies needed to find other cheap alternatives. They used trans fats because they were cheap. Now they’ve turned to palm oil.
Red palm oil health benefits
Red palm oil originally attracted attention for its health benefits.
Virgin red palm oil — in it’s most natural state and still red — is high in lycopene, beta-carotene, and tocotrienols.
They recommend up to 1 – 2 tablespoons per day as well as using ones that are sustainable.
Is palm oil good or bad?
RealSimple.com tries to answer the question if palm oil is bad for you. In one section, they compare the palm oil industry to that of the tobacco and alcohol industries. Palm oil is big business. It’s also very political as well.
Companies are burning and deforesting rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia for palm oil plantations. However, in both of these countries, companies are not allowed to sell products advertising “Palm Oil Free” and “No Palm Oil.”
When you read about palm oil, it’s critical you determine the source. Also consider who may be profiting from the study or may be damaged from the study.
This is particularly important as you research sustainable palm oil and the Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil. There are many sides to this issue. Just because a company says it uses sustainable palm oil doesn’t mean it is.
POFCAP — the organization who certifies products as Palm Oil Free — estimates up to 80% of what’s considered sustainable is not.
So no matter what you read, be aware of who is circulating those lists and how they may benefit from positioning palm oil in a positive or negative light.
Palm oil health
Now that palm oil has become more common in foods, especially in the United States, there are questions about palm oil health. Consumers see it on labels and wonder what it is and if it’s good for them.
As consumers are more exposed to palm oil, it’s likely medical experts will take a better look at how it may affect them.
Some experts believe palm oil health dangers may surface now that consumers using more products with it (in the United States) than ever before.
Whereas consumers come in contact with palm oil and may consume it daily, this was not the case 5 – 10 years ago. Many people unknowingly use it morning, noon and night. It’s in their soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant. It’s in their creamer and muffin as well as their granola bar, bread, and spices.
Many consumers experience trouble digesting palm oil. Others report allergy-like symptoms. If you experience reactions from palm oil, be sure to report them to the FDA.
Report symptoms to FDA
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has a MedWatch Voluntary Reporting online form. It’s easy to complete and submit to report your symptoms. Just be sure to have the product information.
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. Some of them would lead to longer illnesses.
Palm oil derivatives are most always in vitamins, minerals, and supplements. They are in pills, tablets, capsules, gummies, and liquid forms.
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.
Propylene Glycol in medicine
Ingredients such as Propylene Glycol keeps liquid medications shelf-stable.
Magnesium Stearate and Calcium Stearate in medicines
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 in medicines
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 allergy medications as well as the OTC pain and cough medicines.
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.
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.
Our son gets 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 or a palm oil sensitivity.
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. In addition, he told us to minimize gluten in his diet.
These are all important things to do. However, it wasn’t explaining why he has allergic reactions to palm oil.
It was frustrating the allergistdidn’t acknowledge someone could have a palm oil allergy, palm oil intolerance, or a sensitivity to palm oil.
He never heard of it and wasn’t particularly interested in hearing about it or hearing what we had to say about it. He dismissed the idea that our son could be allergic to palm oil.
In addition, the doctor didn’t discuss the possibilty of problems with digesting palm oil ingredients. (Nor did our son’s pediatrician.)
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 health 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 his grandpa’s home. Palm oil was in it, and I thought it was unusual.
This happened several times over many months. Finally, I told my son to just decline them politely.
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 is in Oreos now as well which is disappointing.)
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.
Palm oil can also hide in “Natural Flavors.”
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.
More products contain palm oil
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, a fever reducer, and other medicines 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 but most 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:
The next morning, he would wake up with a sore throat and need a box of Kleenex from blowing his nose so much. Sometimes this would last for days, other times, weeks. He often would miss school.
Reactions from palm oil derivatives
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 Tocopherols and Tocopherols / Vitamin E
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.
Some candy manufacturers are making their new flavors with “Mixed Tocopherols (to Preserve Freshness).” These are typically derived from palm oil.
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, baked goods, Pringles, sliced bread, store-bought baked goods, and many chocolate bars.
Companies use Mono- and Diglycerides to create “mouth feel” in creamy-type products. This ingredient is less expensive than using “real” ingredients such as cream, milk, cocoa butter, etc.
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 — congestion, sniffles, sometimes hoarse voice, coughing, etc.
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 — including Natural Flavors
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, cereal, granola bars, and other additives in foods in their Natural Flavors.
When this happens, l email the company about the SOURCE of whatever the questionable ingredient seems to be. Most of the time, companies do not answer.
Sometimes they are responsive enough to check with their Research & Development department who often needs to verify with the supplier.
Each time my son had experienced a reaction, and I checked with the company and they got back to me, 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.
In our home we can control the food; but when we are out, it’s a huge concern.
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. Also, it would make companies aware that this is something consumers avoid.
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. (We’ve spelled it out in the next paragraph.)
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:
Genus Cocos L. – Coconut palm
Species — Cocos nucifera L. — coconut palm
Genus Elaeis Jacq. – Oil palm
Species — Elaeis guineensis Jacq. – African Oil Palm
Species — Elaeis oleifera (Kunth) Cortes – American Oil Palm
This is not medical advice; it’s from the USDA’s website. We included it here so you can see the botanical similarities between palm oil and coconut.
Please talk with your doctor if you have allergy symptoms or allergic reactions or get sick after eating certain foods or using certain products.
Coconuts and dates
Also, we are happy he is able to eat dates.
Like palm oil and coconut, dates are also from the Arecaceae palm family, from the genus Phoenix L.
So there really is something about palm oil specifically that causes him to have reactions. What exactly? We still do not know.
Can you have tree nuts and peanuts with a palm oil sensitivity?
In addition to wondering about coconut and palm oil, many worry about allergies to tree nuts and peanuts, and if you should avoid palm oil. Again, please speak with your health team.
We are not advising you to include peanuts or tree nuts in your diet if you are sensitive to palm oil. We are sharing that our situation, our son can have tree nuts and peanuts.
He has been able to have peanuts. Regarding tree nuts, he has safely had cashews, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, and filberts.
We try to only give him peanuts and nuts in the shell with just salt (no other flavorings or ingredients) because they have less processing.
Note, peanut butter often contains palm oil. Read labels before buying. Choose those with just peanuts and salt. Avoid “No Stir” labeling which is code for There Is Palm Oil Inside.
Again, in our situation, even though he is sensitive to palm oil, he is able to have peanuts and tree nuts. If you are sensitive to palm oil, please talk to your doctor about the connection with nuts and peanuts.
MCT oil from palm oil
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides. These have become very popular in the last decade. People use MCT products in all sorts of ways — as supplements, cooking, etc.
While we have bought coconut oil to cook with, and buy products with coconut, we haven’t tried MCTs from coconut,. We won’t ever buy or try MCTs made from palm oil.
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.
A sensitivity to palm oil can manifest itself in many ways. Unless you are reading all labels and tracking the all the products you use, you might not be able to pinpoint what is causing symptoms.
Names for palm oil
After doing a lot of online research to learn everything possible about a palm oil allergy or intolerance or sensitivity — 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 Trademark 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. This is their list. We have a condensed version in the next section for you to print out.
Checking ingredients for palm oil
When we are diligent about following it — checking every single ingredient against the list — he hasn’t had any issues.
I made and 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.
Please note, palm oil can be hidden in “Natural Flavors” on ingredient labels.
Using a palm oil free app
We also use Spoon Guru to double check ingredient lists. This is a free app which scans for palm oil. Many other apps scan for sustainable palm oil. Spoon Guru scans for any palm oil.
Avoiding palm oil if it makes you sick
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 diglycerides
Sulfates (in non-food items)
3) Look for these prefixes:
4) Know what products usually contain palm oil and palm oil derivatives:
We were shocked to learn how some companies change ingredients and are now including palm oil.
In the last year, HoneyComb Cereal, Peanut M&M’s, and Mr. Goodbar changed ingredients and are now using palm oil.
In addition, several products that didn’t contain palm oil are now discontinued. This is the case with several M&M’s flavors, including Dark Chocolate Mint. We are concerned they are changing ingredients in their Almond M&M’s as well because they have been difficult to find in stores.
Companies that make new flavors and introduce new products often use palm oil derivatives.
They may try to hide them in Tocopherols, Mixed Tocopherols, Tocopherols (to maintain freshness), and Tocopherols / Vitamin E.
6) Support products with Palm Oil Free labeling
Learn which products have earned Palm Oil Free certification and be loyal to them. Tell companies to apply to get their products certified.
Palm oil intolerance means finding palm free solutions
Like our family, you will find some products without palm oil, and you will be loyal to them. This will make it 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.
See some of our additional lists of palm oil free products:
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 apply for Palm Oil Free certification labeling. They will advertise their brands as “palm oil free” just like companies promote “fat free,” “gluten free,” “no high fructose corn syrup,” etc.
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. They are registered in 20+ countries.
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, feeling a sense of doom, 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 and a half of logging foods and symptoms, we are absolutely certain our son has an intolerance to palm oil.
It’s not a recognized allergen or common intolerance. The allergist focused on other things. For example, increasing Vitamin D exposure from the sun and boosting our son’s overall health with prebiotics.
We are working to improve his gut microbiome. We are giving our more son real, whole, unprocessed foods. For desserts, we bake from scratch. He has learned to do without. In addition, we are learning about ways fermented foods may help.
This is all well and good, yet, we know palm oil affects him negatively.
We want to know why he is sensitive to palm oil.
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.
Please leave a note in the Comments why you searched for this topic. Do you suspect you have a palm oil sensitivity? Why? Please share below.
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, allergists, pharmacists, and other medical professionals say 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.
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 site daily. Please search for other posts on this site, especially if there is a food, self-care product, or other product you think you react to. We may have written about it.
We are not medical professionals. Please seek medical advice from your physician.
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.
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 some that come to mind as listed above:
Oreo didn’t used to contain palm oil, and now they do.
Ritz Crackers didn’t use to contain palm oil ingredients but they do now.
Peanut M&M’s didn’t used to contain palm oil but now it’s on their labels.
Post’s HoneyComb Cereal now contains palm oil in the form of Vitamin A Palmitate.
Mr. Goodbar in 2019 uses it but it didn’t used to be on their labels.
Most ice creams and frozen desserts contain Mono- & Diglycerides.
So many other products….
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 because of a palm oil sensitivity
Again, it seems the medical community isn’t familiar with palm oil allergy symptoms and palm oil intolerance.
However, when you look online and in forums, including Facebook and other sites, you will find communities of people who avoid palm oil and palm oil derivatives because they get reactions from it.
There are many people who avoid palm oil because of the devastating environmental impacts the palm oil industry has on rainforests, animals and people.
Here we researched palm oil health to learn what the experts had to say.
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. 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. He needs to be able to eat safely at a restaurant. 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? Do you have reactions from palm oil? Please let us know in the Comments so we can all help each other.
Also, please report your symptoms to the FDA.
Thank you for reading and for being an Informed Consumer!