Last week I challenged myself to seven days without chocolate. Clever readers no doubt already have skipped to the more compelling question of, “why would anyone want to do this?”
Before answering in full, I need to take one step back…less than 24 hours after returning from LCM Nationals, I’d acquired some dread-virus which kept me out of the water for two weeks.
The star of this particular strain was a nasty, chest-rattling hack. (You know the type — when everyone in public shoots you dirty looks for not only grossing them out, but potentially exposing them and their loved ones instead of quarantining yourself at home for the duration.)
Such a cough, on top of my ever-present asthma and allergies is NOT a good mix. By day two, it hurt to simply breathe in or out, and I couldn’t move easily (e.g. sit up, bend over, twist, etc.) without chest pain.
Now for the chocolate tie-in (finally, right?!): Multiple sources report that chocolate, even the good-for-you, 70-perecent or darker all-natural kind, can aggravate asthma. (Note: Any food can trigger intolerance or sensitivity. This is quite different from a true food allergy. In chocolate’s case, the suspect aggravator is the chemical amine.) On the other hand, I’ve also read in more than one source that similar to caffeine, chocolate is a bronchial diolator.
If the latter is true, it may explain my dark chocolate habit. Most days I eat 1-2 squares after every meal (yes, this adds up: A half-bar+/day.) And some days, even more. Normally dark chocolate doesn’t aggravate my chest. But during my recent bout with a modern version of the plague, my chest did seem to be most cranky right after my dark chocolate nosh, and remain more irritated for an hour or so afterwards.
So, what’s any good guinea pig to do? Test the dark-chocolate-aggravates-asthma theory by going cold turkey for a week.
Here’s what happened:
Sunday: The dark chocolate boycott idea occurs to me mid-day, so post-dinner was my first “conscious no chocolate to follow” moment. Immediate reaction? Anger, followed by questioning if I face addiction. Distracting myself (dinner dishes, a particularly scary-gross episode of The Medium) helps until my mood evens a bit.
Monday: A twinge of craving post-breakfast. To get through it, I focused on the pretty vista of trees and mountains while sitting on the patio. But by lunch, I was wondering why shouldn’t I eat chocolate while reaching for two squares. Am rewarded with an increase in chest pressure, which lasted for an hour or so. It’s enough to scare me off from having chocolate after dinner.
Tuesday: Surprised that I don’t want chocolate after breakfast, but by lunchtime, cravings have increased by about 20X. Cave in and have chocolate, but the good news is that my chest feels fine afterwards.
Soooo…the short answer to “can I go for a week without chocolate?” is: No! Heck, I barely got through 48 hours. Today, nearly a full week post-experiment, I’m not sure what was aggravating my chest so much. I don’t think it was chocolate because it doesn’t bother me now, (and hadn’t until my recent illness). More likely, it was general chest inflammation caused by the virus, compounded by soreness from coughing so much. In any case, it was good, as always, to ruminate and experiment. Final analysis? As with most foods, it seems moderation is the key. While I’d prefer to not be so um, “reliant” on dark chocolate, it’s one of the few things I can eat, so daily dark chocolate continues to earn a pass from me.