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Caffeine Intolerance | Signs & Symptoms

Sian Baker

Medically reviewed by Sian Baker, Dip ION mBANT mCNHC
on March 28, 2023. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Check My Body Health blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Caffeine sensitivity refers to the degree to which an individual reacts to caffeine, which is a stimulant found in many beverages such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, some foods such as chocolate, and some medications. Caffeine sensitivity can vary greatly among individuals, and factors such as genetics, overall health, and individual tolerance can play a role in how sensitive a person is to caffeine.

People with a high sensitivity to caffeine may experience symptoms such as anxiety, jitteriness, fast heart rate, and trouble sleeping even after consuming small amounts of caffeine. They may also experience more severe symptoms such as panic attacks or insomnia and have a harder time falling asleep.

On the other hand, people with a low sensitivity to caffeine may be able to consume larger amounts without experiencing any negative effects.

General guidelines suggest that adults should consume no more than 400mg per day, which is equivalent to 3 cups of filter coffee. Pregnant women should consume no more than 200mg per day. It is important to note that excessive caffeine consumption can lead to negative effects on health, regardless of an individual’s sensitivity to caffeine. It’s always recommended to consult a healthcare professional or a dietitian to understand how much caffeine is suitable for you and how it could affect your health.

What Are The Symptoms Of Caffeine Intolerance?

Caffeine intolerance is a condition in which people are unable to metabolise caffeine in the same way as most people. Symptoms of caffeine intolerance can include irritability, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, digestive issues such as IBS, and nervousness or anxiousness. [1] People with caffeine sensitivity may be able to tolerate small amounts of caffeine, depending on their individual capacity to metabolise caffeine. [2] Common symptoms of caffeine intolerance include IBS, headaches, fatigue, insomnia and others. [3] These negative effects can become part of normal life; if you suspect you may have a caffeine intolerance, you should discuss your symptoms with your doctor and consider changing your diet to remove foods that cause reactions.

Can You Test For Coffee Intolerance

There are several tests available to determine if someone has a coffee intolerance. The most common and cost-effective option is a food sensitivity test, which is a saliva or blood test that looks for immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies to certain foods, including coffee. You can also consider a breath test or DNA test. These tests look for specific genes that have been linked to coffee intolerance. Additionally, an elimination diet can help identify if coffee is causing adverse reactions. Speak to your doctor to learn more about the tests and dietary modifications that may be right for you.

They may also perform tests to rule out other conditions that may be causing similar symptoms.

If you are experiencing symptoms after consuming caffeine or coffee, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional to determine the cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan. They may recommend that you keep a food diary to track your symptoms and caffeine consumption, or they may suggest that you stop consuming caffeine and see if your symptoms improve.

In some cases, if there is a suspicion of an underlying health issue, your healthcare professional may order some blood tests or imaging to rule out other potential causes of your symptoms.

Can you be allergic to caffeine?

It is possible to be allergic to caffeine, although it is rare. An allergic reaction to caffeine can cause symptoms such as hives, itching, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be life-threatening in rare cases.

With allergy it is also worth considering how you’re consuming the caffeine; coffee, tea, energy drink, chocolate, as it the reaction may be provoked by the way it’s consumed rather than the caffeine. If you suspect that you may be allergic to caffeine, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional. They may perform a skin test or blood test to confirm the allergy or may refer you to an allergist for further testing.

It’s also worth noting that some people may be more sensitive to caffeine than others and may experience symptoms such as jitteriness, anxiety, or insomnia even at lower doses. These symptoms may improve when reducing caffeine consumption or eliminating it from the diet.

It’s important to keep in mind that if you have an allergic reaction, seeking medical attention immediately is always best.

 

References:

  1. Caffeine Sensitivity: Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis (https://www.healthline.com/health/caffeine-sensitivity)
  2. Signs you might have a caffeine sensitivity – Live Science (https://www.livescience.com/signs-you-might-have-a-caffeine-sensitivity-and-what-to-drink-instead)
  3. Caffeine Intolerance | Signs & Symptoms – YorkTest (https://www.yorktest.com/intolerance/caffeine/)
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