Allergic Reaction to Coconut Milk, or not?

Due to two of my kids (son, J and daughter, M) having severe eczema, they are on a strict gluten free, dairy free, and egg free diet. M is also nut free, as she had been tested allergic to peanuts. We also try to stay off processed foods as much as possible, as they contain so much sugar and other additives.

So starting from this year, I decided to make our own ice cream at home, as a treat for the kids. It has become a weekly affair. They will surely remind me if I forget to feed them their weekly dose of ‘banana high’, as I call it.

Unfortunately, M developed what we believe to be a possible allergic reaction to coconut milk in the ice cream.

Natural ingredients

frozen banana ice cream

Frozen bananas form the base of this dairy free ice cream. In fact, this is all that you need, if you have nothing else at home, this is it, this will do to make your homemade ice cream. Blend it up and you’re good to go!

But as a novice, I tried to make it more fragrant, by adding coconut milk. I know the boys love coconut milk, as I have used it in our homemade pasta sauce before. But M had not tried it before. So I did tell myself to keep a lookout for her, as she has some known food allergies like egg and peanut.

Only 3 mouthfuls

banana ice cream

As the boys chomped down their ice cream, M warily took her first mouthful, and announced with a beam,”Nice!”

Yes, due to her restricted diet, this poor, deprived girl had never tasted ice cream before this. She just turned three.

Second mouthful, followed by a third, and soon after, in a 180 degrees turn, she announced through tears, “I don’t want it anymore…”

Then started bawling. She seemed like in discomfort, and began to salivate. Seeing this sign of imminent vomiting, I quickly rushed her to the dustbin, where she gagged awhile before the contents of the three mouthfuls of ice cream came purging out.

That night, she didn’t sleep well, as her itch was up a few notches, all over her body.

The husband and I concluded that it was some allergic reaction, for which we were thankful her body knew enough to force it out of her digestive system before it wreaked further damage. If it hadn’t been purged out of her, the allergic reaction would have been much worse – swelling all over her body especially on the neck, red teary eyes, we have seen it all before. And we would worry about her breathing, as inflamed airways can block intake of oxygen, damaging the brain or even be fatal.

The coconut milk

coconut milk allergy

Knowing this must be the culprit, I chased down the packet of coconut milk from inside the refrigerator. Despite its attempts at evading arrest, justice prevailed and it was finally brought to trial. I scrutinised the ingredients list again (I had already done it before I decided to let M try out the coconut milk). Nothing suspicious turned up.

Next I scrutinised the side labels (something I missed doing earlier on, my bad). And there it was: the product was processed in a facility which also processes nuts.

Bam. Now we’re left with no definite conclusion. Was it the coconut itself that she was allergic to? Or was her body sensitive enough to pick up the traces of nuts and reacting to them? Her peanut allergy is a confirmed case, but we just try to avoid all other nuts, including coconut, until this point in time.

Coconut Allergy? Or Not?

I had always understood coconut as a different classification from other nuts, as it is not a botanical nut. It is actually a fruit. I had also done my research earlier, and learnt that coconut allergy in itself is very rare. It is also not common for people with known peanut or tree nuts allergy to be allergic to coconut as well.

coconut

Hence I established it would be worth a try, if M passes this then we can add this nutritional drink into her diet.

Now we would never know for sure, as we are reluctant to try it again. To know the answer, I would have to find another brand of coconut milk that is declared free of any other nuts, and see if she reacts. Or buy some coconuts and make coconut milk myself. But we’re not ready for that, as we know we shouldn’t test the limits too much, allergic reactions tend to get more serious each time.

So I guess we will just have to take the safer option, and take it that she IS allergic to coconut, for now. Maybe two years down the road, I may feel confident enough to splash our homemade ice cream with a bit of coconut milk that is not made in a facility that also processes other nuts. I will report back when we do that.

So now we have a girl who cries each time I say I’m making ice cream. I guess she will remember that horrid first encounter with ice cream for a long long time. And she now stirs the ice cream until it becomes banana smoothie before she is willing to eat it.

Lesson learnt

Read not just the ingredients list, but also everything on all six faces of the packaging, especially when it comes to allergies. You can never be too careful.

beach coconut trees

 

 

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Allergic Reaction to Coconut Milk, or not?

  1. Whoa that’s crazy! Have you tried coconut water to see if M is allergic to that?

    I feel her pain. I am an eczema sufferer too for over 30 years. I have my good days and bad days. I understand what she is going through. Hopefully she grows out of most of it as she gets older. My eczema has improved significantly since I hit puberty many years ago. I hope hers will improve too. Good luck!

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I’ve never thought of letting M try coconut water, that’s an idea… I may give it a try one day!
      Happy for you that your eczema improved at puberty. For some people, puberty makes it worse. Yes I hope M can grow out of her eczema soon.

  2. Wow. You certainly have to pay close attention to details regarding your children’s diet. I admire your diligence in that matter. I had a severe eczema problem about 20 years ago. It was a miserable experience that I don’t wish on anyone. Thankfully I have only had one recurrence, and it was less severe. The only thing that eventually worked for me was a plant based diet. I eliminated all processed, refined, fried, and otherwise adulterated foods, and also eliminated meat. It was a wake up call to really watch my diet.

    1. Thank you for understanding how miserable eczema can be. And yes, plant based whole foods. We’re going in that direction, but not quite there yet, as the kids still love their poultry and fish. We will reach there some day, hopefully.
      It’s great that you listened to your body and switched to a plant based diet, treat your body well and it will treat you well.

  3. Lynn

    Joo,
    I’m sorry that happened to your daughter. I am leaning to the facility that also processes nuts. Like you said maybe down the road a few years you can try again. We do make our own ice cream and actually use coconut milk/cream as the base. It is really pretty good. I’d like to know how you make it with bananas…
    Thanks for sharing…

    1. Hi Lynn,
      Making ice cream with bananas is really easy. You just need one ingredient: frozen bananas. Deskin, and break into smaller pieces before you freeze them, preferably overnight. Then take them out of the freezer, and blend them up, with just a trickle of your coconut milk, just to get things moving. Sometimes I do without adding any liquid, as it can get too runny if I add too much milk. And you’re good to go!
      For variety, I sometimes add in cocoa powder. Or mashed avocado for extra nutrition. If I have blueberries or strawberries, I also freeze them with the bananas to make berries ice cream. I have done mangoes as well.
      The key thing is, banana should form the base of the ice cream, as it will give you this sticky gooey texture. Adding other fruits tend to make it more runny, so make sure the other fruits are frozen as well.
      Do try it out, and let me know how it has worked out!

  4. Poor little M. That is so much stress for a child to bear at a such a young age. I agree with Francis and hope that she will be able to grow out of it and not have to worry anymore. My boyfriend is allergic to tree nuts and I never thought about all of the extra precautions he must take to avoid an allergic reaction. Even though it is such a popular and deadly allergy, there are still many places that do not tell you there are peanuts within their food or around their area. I can only imagine what that must be like with other factors to worry about.

    You are a great mother! Your children seem to have wonderful support through their difficult journey. Wishing the best!

    1. Hi Sidney,
      Thank you for your kind words. Yes you’re so right that many places do not explicitly state the use of peanuts in their food. I guess because allergies only affect minority of the people, so the general public is still rather ignorant when it comes to realising how deadly allergic reactions can possibly be. So people who are affected by this should continue to spread awareness, so that entire communities can work together in ensuring food safety in the aspect of allergens.

      Wish your boyfriend all the best in his health and in dealing with his allergy.

  5. Barbara

    Hi, Joo.
    I am so sorry to hear that. I have two daughters and I am so grateful they are not allergic to anything. Being a nurse I know what it means. Nowadays, more and more children are allergic to all kind of stuff.
    Wish you all the best!
    Barbara

    1. Hi Barbara,
      Yes, it is truly blessed that your daughters do not react to anything, my other kids too, and they get to enjoy all kinds of foods that they like. You’re right, nowadays so many children are allergic to many things, I guess it’s all the additives in foods and stuff, chemicals in cleaning products, etc. that are making their little bodies protest.

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