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Palm Oil Allergy? Intolerance? Can You Be Allergic to Palm Oil?

Palm Oil Allergy? Intolerance? Can You Be Allergic to Palm Oil?

Our son’s pediatrician wasn’t familiar with a palm oil allergy, palm oil intolerance or sensitivity. 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.

He has reactions from 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. We’ve also heard the term non-allergic food hypersensitivity.

We’re not sure what to call it because doctors haven’t been able to label it… or even acknowledge it. All we know is our son has symptoms and allergic reactions from palm oil.

Talking to allergist about symptoms from palm oil

Our son’s allergist said there aren’t proteins in palm oil, so it wouldn’t be considered a palm oil allergy. Yet, our son has experienced congestion, throat clearing, hives, itching, a sense of doom, etc. — all allergy symptoms — from palm oil.

The allergist said there isn’t an IgE test for a palm oil allergy or intolerance. He 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 upsetting the allergist didn’t acknowledge someone could have a palm oil allergy, palm oil intolerance, or a sensitivity to palm oil.

Does palm oil cause allergic reactions?

It was frustrating to try to convince his doctor that our son gets allergic reactions from palm oil.

Yet the doctor never heard of it and wasn’t particularly interested in 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 possibility of problems with digesting palm oil ingredients or that he could be sensitive to palm oil. (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 didn’t acknowledge palm oil could cause a non-IgE immunoglobulin response or a non-IgE mediated food allergy.

He dismissed the idea that palm oil could cause allergic reactions, dietary issues, or health problems. It was frustrating; however, whether or not our son’s symptoms to palm oil have a diagnosis or a name, we know he needs to avoid it. Whether he is or isn’t allergic and whether or not someone can’t be or can be allergic to palm oil isn’t as important as knowing that for us, our son needs to avoid it. 

Sick from palm oil

Palm ingredients are prevalent in packaged foods and snacks along with cleaning products, and self-care items, like soap, deodorant, shampoos, and toothpaste.

It’s been very difficult finding safe foods to eat and products to use.

Palm oil allergy 

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 not a problem digesting palm oil because even topical / non-food 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’d love to hear from you and 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 name-brand Oreos now as well which is disappointing.) The FDA’s ban of artificial trans fats in foods went into effect mid-2018. Processed food manufacturers turned to palm oil as an inexpensive, trans-fat-free replacement.

palm oil allergy

Could I be allergic to palm oil?

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.

My son started tracking his foods and his symptoms. 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. 

Ask allergist to do palm oil scratch test

We heard from a reader who shared a suggestion about getting tested for a palm oil allergy. She said before making an appointment with the allergist, ask if they can make in-office scratch tests from items you bring in. 

After ruling out the top allergens, this family’s allergist asked them to bring in items from their pantry, 10 at a time. They brought in red palm oil. The patient tested positive. She also tested positive to other items that had palm oil derivatives in them.

The allergist confirmed a palm allergy through the scratch tests. 

If you are making an appointment to see if you are allergic to palm oil, it’s worth finding out if they can make a scratch test in the office. Perhaps you can bring in foods you think are causing issues. If you have palm oil or shortening or other products that contain palm oil, bring them in to see if they can make a scratch test from them.

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 artificial trans-fats. Trans fats were cheap; that’s why companies used them.

Palm oil is versatile and inexpensive as well. It can remain semi-solid at room temperature, unlike most oils. Also, palm oil prolongs the shelf life of products and is often used to preserve freshness in foods.

palm oil allergy

Palm oil plantation

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 causing reactions

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, glycerin, and/or polyethylene glycol. These ingredients are often derived from palm oil. The allergy medicine companies didn’t respond back when we emailed to ask the source of the 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. Please talk to your doctor before changing medications.)

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:

  • Become congested
  • Start to clear his throat
  • Cough
  • Go through dozens of Kleenex
  • Hives — sometimes he would get hives
  • Fever with a sore throat; both lasting for days
  • Lip and mouth sores from using toothpaste with palm oil derivatives

Example of a delayed reaction:

  • 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
  • Became itchy
  • 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 and Vitamin E.

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, liquid soap 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, candy, 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, throat clearing, 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 lessened the next day and then was gone the day after that.

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 symptoms from palm oil 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.

Bookmark this link for later and click on Consumer/Patient. It’s easy to complete. You can also call them at 1-800-FDA-1088.

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.

Palm oil intolerance symptoms

We’ve had several readers write to us about palm oil intolerance symptoms, including stomach pains from palm kernel oil. Others wrote to share their stories about pain, bloating, cramping, diarrhea from palm oil.

So while it’s not our experience that palm oil causes diarrhea, it has happened to others. Palm oil causes contact dermatitis in some people as well. Others wrote to say palm oil causes inflammation. I had someone write to say they get headaches from palm oil. It seems palm oil affects people in many ways. This isn’t medical advice. 

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.

Below 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

Subclass (Arecidae)

Order (Arecales)

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. Many labels will list mono- & diglycerides which are typically from palm oil in peanut butter.

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.

If you are someone who experiences allergy symptoms from palm oil, you should learn how to find products without palm oil.

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. 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 this list of names for palm oil ingredients — he hasn’t had any issues.

I made and printed out a copy and referred to it — literally — in stores for two years before I bought my son anything packaged or processed. I walked around with the list in my purse. After doing this for three years, I know what types of products typically have palm oil and know the ingredients to watch out for.

We know what’s safe for him to have and repeatedly buy those products.

Still at home, before he eats a new packaged food, I double check the ingredients. For the first year, I checked it against the list of palm oil ingredient names. 

All of his hygiene items are palm oil free.

My son and I have learned many 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. Spoon Guru is a free app which scans for palm oil. Many other apps scan for sustainable palm oil. Spoon Guru scans for any palm oil.

How to avoid palm oil if it makes you sick

In addition to using the list, you can:

1. Look for the “palm” words:

  • Palm oil
  • 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
  • Tocopherols
  • Glycerin
  • Stearic acid
  • Magnesium stearate
  • Mono- and diglycerides
  • Sulfates (in non-food items)

3. Look for these prefixes:

  • Glyc-
  • Laur-
  • Palm-
  • Stear-

4. Know what products usually contain palm oil and palm oil derivatives:

  • Baked goods: anything baked and packaged
  • Candy and gum
  • Cereals
  • Milk
  • Nutrition bars and granola bars
  • Packaged desserts: cookies, donuts, pastries, muffins, cakes/cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, etc.
  • Shortening, margarine, frosting, spreads
  • Toothpaste, shampoo, mouthwash, sunscreen, cosmetics, lotion
  • Vitamins, supplements, medicine

5. Know what to watch for:

  • Chewy, gummy or stretchy foods
  • Foods with chocolate, caramel, peanut butter
  • Fortified foods
  • 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 2018 – 2019, 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 many snack bars, cereals, granolas, candy flavors, and more.

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. They are also common in Mono- & Diglycerides.

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:

Fresh, whole, unprocessed foods are best.

Be willing to make changes. Instead of buying pre-made desserts and baked goods, make your own. (Be sure to make frosting from scratch; avoid fondant; avoid shortening. See our post about desserts without palm oil.)

We continue to research additional categories of foods and self-care products. Please look around our website. We update this site and post to social media daily. 

This is what our son eats because of reactions to palm kernel oil, palm oil, etc. 

Because my son gets so sick from anything with palm oil, for now, I use vinegar, baking soda, and Norwex cloths to clean. They are among our favorite items to use to make it easier to live palm oil free.

Palm free personal care items to stay healthy

If you experience palm oil allergy symptoms, you may want find palm free soap, deodorant, and more.

My son had lip sores that wouldn’t heal. At the time, we didn’t know palm oil ingredients are common in toothpaste.

A friend gave us Lip Serum by Rodan + Fields to try to help him. While it healed his lips overnight, he woke up sick with a sore throat, runny nose/congestion, coughing, throat clearing, 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.

Now we bring his hygiene items with us when we travel. These are the personal care products he uses. 

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 help by reporting your symptoms to them. If you find you have a reaction to palm oil or palm kernel oil in a product, save the packaging, and report it.

The increased demand for palm oil is a real issue — in our family it’s a dietary concern my son avoids for health. To be in solidarity with him, and because of the environmental concerns with palm oil, we shop palm oil free and make things from scratch when possible. 

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 are two palm oil free certification labels you can look for. Two non-profit organizations, Orangutan Alliance and the International Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark Programme, certify products Palm Oil Free. They 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 the common food allergies plus dozens of others 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 (and grapes!) 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.

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?

See above for the idea to ask the allergist if the can make a palm oil scratch test.

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 (sniffling, coughing, throat clearing) or within 1-3 hours (changing his mood and making him lethargic, sad, feeling a sense of doom, hives, 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 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. 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

Log

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.

Notice

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.

Think

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.

Save

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 they are often made with palm oil.

Introduce

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!

Read

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. What for Glycerol.

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

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 (less frequently in whole milk), RTE cereals, candy, bread, baked goods, toothpaste, and so many more things. Start learning what they are.

Here we explain common letters combinations to make it easier to look for palm oil derivatives.

Learn

Learn all you can about palm oil uses.

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 Diglycerides.

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: 

  1. Oreo didn’t used to contain palm oil, and now they do.
  2. Ritz Crackers didn’t use to contain palm oil ingredients but they do now.
  3. Peanut M&M’s didn’t used to contain palm oil but now it’s on their labels.
  4. Post’s HoneyComb Cereal now contains palm oil in the form of Vitamin A Palmitate.
  5. Mr. Goodbar in 2019 uses it but it didn’t used to be on their labels.
  6. Most ice creams and frozen desserts contain palm oil and/or Mono- & Diglycerides.
  7. So many other products….

Why Is Palm Oil in So Many Foods Now?

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.

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.

Allergic to palm oil — palm allergy — palm oil intolerance

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.

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. Learn how to use less palm oil each week which will help reduce demand.

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. Please share your experience below.

Sharing is caring!

Rebecca

Sunday 4th of December 2022

I am completely allergic to palm oil. It's a newer allergy to me that I discovered. I didn't realize it was in SO much! I get bad acne, horrible period-like cramps, sore throat, fatigue. And that's only what I've noticed.

editor

Sunday 4th of December 2022

Sorry to hear! I always wonder if people with bad acne changed their skincare to include palm oil free soap if it would improve their skin.

Jeanne Kelly

Wednesday 21st of September 2022

Hello! I am 51 years old and I have been allergic to palm, coconut and all of its derivatives my entire life. Since 2018 I have really been struggling. This article has been extremely helpful. Thank you for taking the time to out all of this together. I wish you and your family the best. I know how terrible it is. On the daily I suffer.

editor

Thursday 22nd of September 2022

Thank you for taking the time to write in with your experience. It's very helpful to others. I appreciate your feedback and wish you well.

Sarah

Wednesday 10th of August 2022

I have gone through the same thing although as they have got worse I also struggle with breathing. E fags especially the really smoky ones are terrible I carry liquid piriton with me which again has palm in it but at least I can breath with the piriton I get max of 2 weeks used before I react to the piriton badly enough and use as little as I can get away with. I'm down for allergy testing but was told by my doctor I can't be allergic to palm and not to be so stupid. Over the years I've learnt to deal with it but my reaction is now dangerous.

Maureen

Sunday 31st of July 2022

My husband was having really bad sore throats and awful stools, he was tired and his personality would change. We discovered it happened after he was eating a shop bought cake that had palm oil and palm oil derivatives. He also suffered after eating biscuits (cookies) with palm oil. His moods were a worry too me. I decided to try giving him foods without palm oil and the improvement in his sore throat was immense. We have now changed how we shop, it takes longer but it is worth the effort. I am pleased to say that I want palm oil to be banned for peoples longterm health, but also to save the sweet orangutans. Humans are a selfish bunch and take what is not ours and then we learn it is not good for us either. Thank you for sharing your research it has made me feel validated.

editor

Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

Those are scary symptoms; I've experienced them with my son as well. I'm glad you were able to figure out the foods and ingredients that were making him sick.

Ashleigh

Wednesday 27th of July 2022

I had a huge amount of trouble figuring out that I'm allergic to palm, because I'm also allergic to coconut. I was informed that I couldn't be allergic to either, because they're "hypo-allergenic", it was awful to be informed that my throat closing up, my heart arrhythmia, and the anaphylaxis were just in my head, and not an actual problem. I know this will shock everyone, but after I cut out the items (and the doctor) that were poisoning me from my diet, my "made up" symptoms went away! I feel so validated seeing other people with the same problems as me, as sad as it is that we're all struggling with the same thing.

Chin up everybody, It gets better!

editor

Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

I'm glad you were able to find out what was causing you to have reactions. It is frustrating when doctors and allergists say you can't be allergic or have reactions to something. Ours said my son shouldn't be having issues with palm oil because it "doesn't contain proteins." After also saying that, another allergist then went on and on about gluten being the issue. While I am open-minded and was seeking answers (and I'm also gluten free), I had been tracking his food for months and knew for sure it was palm oil and not gluten.

We've been avoiding palm oil for almost 5 years now. While it is at times scary eating outside our home, it has forced us to eat so much healthier. We eat so many more fresh fruits and vegetables now, cook at home 95% of the time, make all our own desserts, and read labels on everything. It's been interesting to learn how companies use ingredients and how they've changed their ingredients over the years. It is all worth it for him to not have symptoms, and we all feel better eating more "real foods" and less processed foods. We also buy soaps, shampoo, etc. with less ingredients.

And yes, it is sad that so many people are struggling with health issues from palm oil. I continue to write about it on this site hoping that medical professionals will take notice. It would be amazing if the FDA would require labeling for palm oil ingredients and palm oil derivatives like they do for the major allergens. I'm also hoping that the companies who do make palm oil free products will realize what a selling point this is, and certify their products Palm Oil Free.