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Coffee & Health

What Are the Symptoms of Caffeine Intolerance?

At least 50 percent of American adults consume coffee daily. They rely on caffeine to help them wake up and boost their energy levels every day. Unfortunately, many people struggle with caffeine intolerance. The experience associated with caffeine sensitivity is often terrible. But what are the symptoms of caffeine intolerance? Caffeine intolerance manifests in numerous ways. Read on to find out.

caffeine intolerance symptoms

What is Caffeine Intolerance?

If you drink coffee and feel bad shortly afterward, you may assume you are having a caffeine allergy. Caffeine allergy is uncommon. Probably you have felt bad after drinking coffee as a result of caffeine intolerance and not an allergy. Essentially, caffeine intolerance refers to a situation whereby the body reacts negatively to the adrenaline response caused by caffeine. On the other hand, caffeine allergy is where histamine responds to caffeine after viewing it as a foreign substance.

As a regular coffee drinker, you are much aware of the buzz that you get shortly after drinking coffee. Some people feel more awake soon after taking coffee. Others get a burst of energy. Unfortunately, some feel a bit shaky. These effects are linked to the caffeine in coffee. They occur about 20 minutes after drinking coffee or any other drink containing caffeine.

If you are among individuals who feel a little shaky or you feel the need to rush to the washroom soon after drinking coffee, you are likely sensitive or intolerant to caffeine. Some people only experience caffeine intolerance after overloading their bodies with excessive caffeine.

For others, a very little amount of caffeine can make them feel a bit shaky or develop anxiety, palpitations, upset stomach, insomnia, or headache. In case you find yourself in this situation, you are likely intolerant to coffee.

In most cases, caffeine intolerance depends on an individual’s metabolism. If your metabolism is faster, you are less likely to experience caffeine intolerance, unless you consume it excessively. If your metabolism is slower, you are more likely to get affected by caffeine, even in small doses. With slow liver metabolism, it means caffeine remains in the body system longer. Thus, you may experience side effects that last longer.

Besides metabolism, there are other factors that contribute to caffeine intolerance including genetics, weight, age, and gender.

Individuals with caffeine sensitivity may tolerate caffeine in small doses only if they can metabolize caffeine quickly. However, those who are allergic to caffeine react even to the smallest doses.


What are the Symptoms of Caffeine Intolerance?

Research shows that caffeine intolerance often shows symptoms of panic disorders and anxiety. In one study, 51.1 percent of participants got a panic attack after taking coffee. However, they never indicated panic attacks after taking a placebo. If you have ever experienced anxiety disorders, it is advised to avoid consuming caffeine.

General symptoms of caffeine intolerance include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Bathroom urgency
  • Shakes or jitters
  • Nausea

The extent of these symptoms varies depending on the tolerance level of an individual to caffeine. Also, the amount of caffeine you have consumed will determine the intensity of the symptoms. If you are allergic to coffee, you may develop more severe symptoms including itchy skin, increased irritability, shakiness, and rash.


Best Alternatives to Caffeine

If you are intolerant to caffeine, the best thing to do is to reduce your caffeine intake or avoid it altogether. You can drink caffeine-free beverages to stay hydrated and energized. For instance, drink water to help you kick start your day. You can add lemon to water to make it more drinkable. Other alternative drinks include:

  • Vegetable smoothies
  • Fresh fruit
  • Plain soda water
  • Red tea
  • Matcha tea
  • Coconut water

If you love drinking tea, you should be wary since some teas contain caffeine. Try low-caffeine teas such as white tea. Green tea and black tea contain more caffeine and should be avoided. You can also try herbal teas such as peppermint or chamomile tea as they are caffeine-free.

It is important to control the amount of caffeine you are consuming. Even if you tolerate caffeine, you should not exceed 400mg per day. A cup of coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine depending on the brewing method. Thus, do not exceed 4 cups of coffee per day, which is equivalent to about 400 mg of caffeine.

If you must drink coffee but want to keep your caffeine intake low, switch to decaf coffee. Decaffeinated (decaf) coffee contains a minimal amount of caffeine that may not cause any caffeine intolerance symptoms. Decaf coffee has about 97 percent of caffeine removed from the coffee beans. It will allow you to enjoy the aromatic flavor of coffee without worrying about the side effects associated with caffeine.