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How do I know if I have a caffeine allergy or caffeine sensitivity?

How do I know if I have a caffeine allergy or caffeine sensitivity?

Coffee has grown leaps and bounds in just a decade. Back in the old days, coffee was instant coffee and it was a drink you had in the morning and that was about it. Now high quality coffee is available on almost every corner from espresso to pour over filter to Nespresso. And, of course, there are stacks of energy drinks in every newsagent refrigerator. It’s very tempting to have way more caffeine than you planned.

And the thing about caffeine is that your body adapts to caffeine and your tolerance for caffeine grows. Suddenly, that one or two coffees in the morning just doesn’t cut it. Maybe an energy drink at lunch, another caffeinated soft drink at tea, etc. You get the picture.

But could that ‘hit’ be hitting a little harder than you thought?

People’s bodies vary tremendously. Genes play a large part in how you react to caffeine. Whilst being allergic to coffee is relatively uncommon, it does happen. But more likely is for your sensitivity to grow as your body reacts to the overdose of caffeine and makes it known that it doesn’t take kindly to huge doses of caffeine.

Simply put, a food allergy is when the body's immune system reacts unusually to specific foods. Studies have shown that people can have anaphylactic reactions to caffeine and this can be confirmed by a simple skin test. There is also genetic evidence regarding the inability to process caffeine as some people lack the genes responsible for this or the genes aren’t being expressed as they should be. As a result, this allows caffeine to build up in a person’s body rather than being broken down properly and then can be described as hypersensitive to caffeine.

So, how do you know if you have a caffeine allergy?

Well, these are some of the symptoms:

• Skin problems such as hives, eczema, rashes, acne, severe itching

• Headaches or migraine

• Anxiety and panic attacks

• Can’t focus or concentrate

• Tongue, glands, or throat swelling

• Racing heart or palpitations

• Angry, irritable, bad mood

• Fatigue

• Dizziness

• Extreme jitters

• Chest Pain

• Depression

• Numbness in face, hands, or feet

• Muscle pain

• Shortness of breath and tightness of chest

• Delusions or hallucinations

• Cold- and flu-like symptoms

• Vision problems

• Cold sweats

If you think you might have a caffeine allergy or sensitivity, what can you do about it?

Well, the best thing is to try eliminating it from your diet completely, but give it some time - it can take up to two weeks for all of caffeine’s effects to wear off. And don’t forget about soft drinks, chocolate and other caffeinated foods and drinks.

Finally, see below a list of how much caffeine is found in ordinary drinks…maybe more than you thought?

A standard mug of instant coffee contains around 100mg

A standard mug of filter coffee: 140mg.

A standard mug of tea: 75mg.

One can of cola: 40mg.

A can of 'energy' drink: up to 80mg.

1 bar of plain chocolate (50g): up to 50mg.

1 bar of milk chocolate 950g): up to 25mg.

A Starbucks Venti coffee: 415mg.

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