I know, depressing. How could you do this to me chocolate?! Death by chocolate is not as pleasant as it sounds I guess. I didn’t die thankfully, but I did suffer some pretty serious theobromine poisoning last night as a result of consuming too much, very potent raw cacao in a large smoothie. And it was miserable. I’m writing this is hopes that this (or worse) doesn’t happen to anyone else!
I have been adding raw cacao and cacao nibs to my smoothies for the past year as it is touted as a great source of iron, fiber, magnesium and antioxidants. And because you can’t beat a chocolate banana smoothie! Many people in the nutrition community rave about raw cacao and I had done lots of reading so I figured it was a pretty safe bet. What I failed to recognize is that all natural supplements and foods have different potency levels and that someone with a sensitivity to caffeine(like myself) would likely be sensitive to the high levels of a related chemical called theobromine (present in raw cacao). Theobromine is the reason chocolate is poisonous to dogs. It’s poisonous to humans as well but we are able to process and eliminate it much faster than dogs so we can handle a much higher dose.
It’s hard to say how much I had because I just poured it into my blender, but I believe it was somewhere around 1/2 cup in my 1.5 liter smoothie. May have been less. I added a few bananas and some ice/water. About 20 minutes after drinking it I began to feel sick to my stomach. Nausea and belly cramps with cold sweat and shakiness. I dismissed these symptoms as I just thought I had gotten a stomach virus from our recent plane ride. It wasn’t until I started to get worse 4 hours later that I put it all together. I developed numbness in some of my fingers, dizziness, weakness, a terrible headache and mild chest pain with a rapid heartbeat.
My husband called the poison control hotline (1(800)222-1222 -amazing free resource if you ever need it) and he worked out with the poison expert that I had possibly consumed an amount that is considered to be on the low end of the lethal toxicity scale. Since it had already been 4-6 hours since consumption I decided the worst was probably behind me and I wouldn’t go to the ER. It’s now been 24 hours and I’m still feeling achy all over, wobbly, a bit confused and have a massive headache. I’m thankful that it wasn’t much worse. If you want to read more about theobromine poisoning click here.
So moral of the story is: be careful with concentrated supplements. Cacao contains a strong neurotoxin and I had no idea! I’d been eating chocolate for years what could go wrong! Well, chocolate has a much lower amount of cacao than raw cacao powder.
From now on I think I’ll be sticking to eating mostly whole plant foods, eating them the way nature intended me to!