Does Chocolate Cause You Heartburn?

Does chocolate cause you heartburn? The problem may not be chocolate. I’m familiar with many varieties of stomach and abdominal pain. Sometimes, it’s quite a process to figure out what triggers a specific response.
I can’t say I’ve ever been advised by a physician to try to figure out the cause of any pain, but it seems logical to me to get to the source of a problem whenever possible. That’s the only way to potentially resolve the issue for good rather than continually treating symptoms. After years of practice, here’s the process I follow:

Keep track

I start by being aware of what I’m taking in. Of course this means reading labels and asking good questions in restaurants. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

If you know you have an adverse response to monosodium glutamate (MSG) and you’ve been eating Nacho Cheese Doritos®, a scan of the label will tell you eliminating them may make you feel better. Kentucky Fried Chicken and Campbell’s® Chicken Noodle soup could also be culprits. Even if you can tolerate a small amount, eating three MSG containing foods in one week may overload your system.

Keeping a food journal is more effective than making a mental note. If you just can’t make yourself keep a journal, try texting yourself or creating a suspect food list in your note app.


In addition to keeping track, I observe my body sensations closely to see if I can identify an adverse response early in the process when the signs are subtle. Sometimes I don’t feel the full effects of an offender for a day or two.
Early signs often point me in a different investigative direction than I would go if I wait for full fledged cramping and pain. It can also mean some pain may be avoided.

When I consume dairy, it causes spasms throughout my stomach then my colon. When those are concentrated just to the left of my solar plexus, they can trigger something akin to panic. It’s not exactly the same, but it shares some of the physical responses and can lead to feeling panic if I don’t address it.

Knowing this is simply a response to dairy allows my brain to perceive the spasm as a temporary moment that will pass if I just wait. This keeps me calm. It also means that I don’t tense up my gastrointestinal system which causes the spasms to last longer.

Eliminate the culprit

Although it sounds simple in retrospect, it took a very long time for me to associate milk exposure with the resulting symptoms. Since I didn’t feel the full effects of ingestion until a day later, it wasn’t a natural line for me to draw. As I practiced recognition of subtle symptoms as soon as they appeared, my timeline became more accurate allowing me to identify a pattern in my response to milk. From that point, it was easy to eliminate milk and milk products in order to see if I would experience improvement. I did!

Once I have identified a food that consistently brings me discomfort or pain, I am happy to let it go. I would rather feel good than continue to ingest foods because they are convenient or I like the way they taste. And I don’t want to rely on pharmaceutical support to remain pain free. That means all foods containing milk are now suspect.

Back to chocolate

This brings me back to chocolate. If you google, “Does dark chocolate contain milk?”, you’ll get many answers saying it does not. Before you pop some dark chocolate brownies in your mouth, you need to know you’re still putting yourself at risk.

The label of Nestlé® Toll House 53% Cacao Dark Chocolate Morsels reads: chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, milkfat, nonfat milk, natural flavor and it warns of milk ingredients as an allergen. If the brownies you choose are made with these morsels, you may experience symptoms. There is enough milk in some dark chocolate to trigger my intolerance.

If you ate a few chocolate morsels by themselves, you might notice nothing more than mild heartburn. In my case, heartburn is an early clue that I may need to limit or eliminate a food. Learning to pay attention to this has allowed me to avoid more significant symptoms down the road.

Does chocolate cause you heartburn? Are you milk or lactose intolerant? If so, the problem may not be the chocolate.

For me, that’s great news because it gives me an easy way to eliminate occasional milk exposure and in the process, heartburn, stomach cramps, and panic. And it doesn’t mean I have to eliminate all chocolate. It just means I have to read labels and substitute some ingredients when I bake.

I love a simple solution followed by a So Delicious® Dipped Double Chocolate Delight cashewmilk frozen dessert. I think I’ll have one now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Author: Cheri Thriver

Hello, Cheri Thriver here blogging about cooking, thriving, and the intersection of the two. I’ve been living a gluten-free lifestyle for over 15 years. I understand that it’s rarely a lack of knowledge or the availability of appropriate food that keeps us from making healthy choices. More often than not, it’s an emotional connection, previous trauma, or fear of social reprisal that keeps us stuck. My wish is that you’ll find something here that informs, entertains, or inspires you to change anything that needs to be changed for you to live fully and thrive.

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