HomeAsk the allergist – October 2022

Ask the allergist – October 2022

October 7, 2022

Dr. Julia Upton
Dr. Julia Upton

Ask the allergist is a regular feature in our newsletters where Canadian allergists answer your questions!

Dr. Julia Upton is on staff at the Hospital for Sick Children in the Immunology and Allergy Department; and an Associate Professor in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto. She is the past Section Chair of the Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Section of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Dr. Upton is also a member of our Healthcare Advisory Board.

Please note: Dr. Upton is answering as an individual allergist and her answers do not constitute an official position of her affiliated organizations. Her responses are for informational purposes only and do not constitute specific medical advice, recommendations, diagnosis, or treatment. Please talk to your doctor about any concerns or questions you may have regarding your own health or the health of your child.

This month she answers a question about coconut allergy.

If someone has a coconut allergy, do they need to avoid coconut in all its forms (e.g. coconut oil, coconut water, coconut milk, coconut meat)?

Coconut milk with halves of coconuts over brown background.

Allergy to coconut is rare and there are only a few cases of people with coconut allergy reported in the literature. Therefore, seeing an allergist for diagnosis is recommended. If a rare finding of coconut allergy is confirmed, the question is whether you need to avoid all forms. It is the protein which typically causes food allergic reactions; we know that different forms of food can contain very different amounts of food protein. Oils have the least protein and some highly processed oils contain so little protein that they are safe to ingest. Coconut oil is often minimally processed, cold-pressed and not highly refined, so it could contain enough protein to cause an allergic reaction. If you are actually coconut allergic, and if this food is very important to your diet it may be an option to try coconut oil under the supervision of your allergist.

Keep in mind that for the purposes of allergen labelling, coconut is not considered a tree nut in Canada, it is the seed of a fruit.

Do you have a food allergy-related question you’d like to ask an allergist in the months to come? If so, send it along to us at info@foodallergycanada.ca. Please note: The allergists in this series answer questions on general topics, please talk to your doctor if you have questions about your own health or the health of your child.

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