Coffee is a very popular drink in many countries. A lot of people enjoy it on a daily basis, either at home or going to the coffee shop. But did you know that you could be allergic to coffee?
If this is the case, then your condition is called an allergy or intolerance.
In this post, we’ll take a look at some signs and causes of coffee allergies, as well as treatment options so you can get back to your daily cup of joe!
Can you be allergic to coffee?
Yes, caffeine allergy and sensitivity are both possible, albeit uncommon.
The main distinction is that allergies can cause more severe symptoms, such as anaphylaxis, which necessitates immediate medical attention.
It’s also possible that you’re experiencing symptoms as a result of other ingredients. When it comes to coffee, the most common culprits are milk and soy.
Sensitivity (also known as intolerance) is a digestive problem, and the following are the most common (but not all) symptoms:
- stomach cramps
- increased heartbeat or blood pressure
The immune system causes allergic reactions, and the symptoms can be severe:
- chest pain
- heart palpitations
Read our article on coffee intolerance to know the difference between allergy and intolerance.
If you suspect you have a food allergy or intolerance, it is critical that you get it checked out as soon as possible. You could see an allergist or go to a lab to be tested.
People who are allergic to coffee will have a reaction if they are exposed to the bean. Symptoms may also be experienced by someone who is sensitive to or has an intolerance to caffeine or something else in coffee. It is critical to understand the distinction between these conditions.
Doctors can assist people who suspect they have coffee allergies or sensitivities in finding a solution to their specific problems.
How can you be allergic to coffee?
The dust from coffee beans before they are roasted can cause an allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions to coffee are extremely rare.
According to a study published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, dust from green coffee beans causes allergic reactions in some people who work with them. Although rare cases have occurred in the past, no recent medical literature mentions allergic reactions to coffee consumption.
An allergic reaction to food, such as coffee beans, is actually a response of the immune system. The immune system recognizes compounds in coffee cells as invaders.
The immune system then reacts to coffee in the same way that it would to pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. To isolate and destroy the intruding coffee, it releases protective compounds such as histamine. This process results in the symptoms of a coffee allergy.
Coffee allergy symptoms
A true coffee allergy can cause severe symptoms in the body, usually within the first few hours after drinking it. Symptoms can affect many different parts of the body and usually worsen over time.
Among the symptoms of a coffee allergy are:
- Skin rashes, such as hives or red blotches
- Shortness of breath or difficulty catching a breath
- wheezing cough
- stomach or abdominal cramps
- The color of the skin was reduced
- a rapid drop in blood pressure or a weak pulse
- dizziness or unconsciousness
Severe allergic reactions can result in anaphylaxis, which can be fatal if not treated. Anaphylaxis can cause swelling of the throat and mouth, obstructing the airways, as well as a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure.
Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately. People with a coffee allergy who have taken antihistamines or epinephrine should still seek medical attention to avoid complications.
Coffee sensitivity vs. coffee allergy
Many people with coffee sensitivities believe they are allergic to it. Coffee sensitivity can cause its own set of problems, but they are usually not life-threatening.
Anxiety, uneasiness, or irritability after drinking coffee could indicate a coffee sensitivity.
Coffee sensitivity symptoms can include:
- jitteriness, uneasiness
- nervousness or anxiety
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- stomach ache, abdominal cramps
- increased heart rate or blood pressure
- Muscle spasms that are uncontrollable
Symptoms caused by coffee sensitivity usually go away when the person stops drinking coffee.
People who are sensitive to coffee may experience gastrointestinal upset or symptoms related to other issues that are worsening. Coffee, for example, can aggravate heartburn and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Caffeine can relax the sphincter at the bottom of the food pipe, allowing stomach acid to leak up and irritate it.
Caffeine overdose symptoms vs. allergy symptoms
Allergies can be confused with symptoms caused by too much caffeine or caffeine sensitivity. Many people who become ill after drinking coffee are simply experiencing the side effects of caffeine sensitivity.
Caffeine consumption for adults is typically limited to 400 milligrams (mg) per day. This equates to about 4 small cups of freshly brewed coffee. Following that, many people will begin to exhibit symptoms.
People who do not consume caffeine on a regular basis, or who are caffeine sensitive, may experience symptoms after consuming as little as one cup of coffee or tea.
Symptoms may occur if a person is not used to caffeinated drinks because their body is not used to the effects of caffeine and struggles to process and eliminate the caffeine from the system.
Caffeine overdose is associated with symptoms similar to coffee sensitivity. In addition to these symptoms, someone who is caffeine-sensitive may experience the following if they consume too much caffeine:
- pain in the chest
- palpitations in the heart
- erratic moods, rage, or depression
- tingling in the extremities
- muscle aches and pains
- headaches or migraines caused by shortness of breath
- hallucinations or delusions
- sweating cold sweats
- Symptoms of the flu
- Anxiety attacks
Caffeine allergies are possible, though they are extremely rare. Some people may be allergic to the compound, which can result in anaphylaxis.
Any new symptoms should be reported to a doctor or allergist right away so that a treatment plan can be devised.
Other coffee ingredients may also cause an allergic reaction.
Coffee beans contain a variety of substances that may cause allergic reactions in some people. For example, pesticides or chemicals may have come into contact with the beans during their growing and transportation.
Any of these factors may cause an allergic reaction or intolerance in some people.
People who consume coffee with milk or cream may be allergic to dairy. Sugar reactions can occur when drinking heavily sweetened beverages. Flavored syrups may also contain a variety of other ingredients that may be the source of allergy or intolerance symptoms.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, various green coffee bean samples were contaminated with mycotoxins, which are produced by fungi on the beans. These toxins may survive roasting and end up in coffee, causing an allergic reaction.
Mycotoxin exposure is a health concern, according to the researchers. More research will be needed to determine how to limit exposure to these toxins.
Keeping a food journal, logging what they eat and drink as well as how they feel throughout the day, may help anyone who is unsure about their allergies or sensitivities. This journal can help people figure out which foods to avoid over time.
What is the best way to treat a caffeine allergy?
If you experience physical symptoms of a caffeine allergy, stop consuming any caffeine-containing food or drink and contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor may advise you to take an antihistamine over-the-counter to alleviate symptoms such as itchiness, swelling, and hives. However, the only way to avoid a caffeine allergy is to avoid caffeine-containing foods and beverages.
Increase your physical activity level.
Begin a workout routine and exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. Jog, walk, ride a bike, or enroll in a fitness class.
Get plenty of rest.
Morning fatigue can be caused by sleeping for less than seven to nine hours per night. Establish a regular bedtime routine and create a comfortable sleeping environment. Turn off the TV and other electronic devices, and make sure your room is warm and dark.
Consume vitamin supplements.
Some vitamins have been shown to naturally increase energy levels over time. B vitamins, tyrosine, and rhodiola rosea are among them. Before beginning a vitamin regiment, consult with your doctor, especially if you are taking prescription medication.
Avoid these foods
People who have a coffee allergy should avoid the bean in all forms. This includes drinking it, eating it, or coming into contact with the beans prior to roasting.
If a person is caffeine sensitive, they should avoid foods like chocolate and some energy bars.
Caffeine sensitivity requires that the compound not be consumed. Caffeine can be found in:
- energy drinks made from various teas such as black, green, Oolong, Pu’er, and white tea
- some sodas and soft drinks
- some energy bars or meal replacement bars
Caffeine may still be present in decaf coffee or tea. This may be enough to cause a reaction in someone who is extremely sensitive to it.
Anyone who has a severe caffeine sensitivity should read labels carefully. Caffeine is found in a variety of products, including candy, gum, and even vitamins.
Caffeine is also present in some pain relievers. These should be avoided, and any caffeine sensitivity should be disclosed to a doctor before any medication is prescribed.
Alternatives to coffee
Some teas may be a good alternative for those who are allergic or intolerant to coffee. Tea leaves contain less caffeine than coffee beans, but they can still provide energy in the morning.
If a person enjoys coffee but is sensitive to caffeine, there are alternatives made from chicory or roasted grains that can satisfy their morning habit while also providing the same roasted flavor as a cup of coffee. Many people can replace coffee with non-caffeinated herbal teas of any kind.
Is it possible for a caffeine allergy to cause complications?
If you have a caffeine allergy and keep consuming caffeine, your symptoms may worsen. And, depending on the severity of the reaction, you may develop life-threatening anaphylaxis symptoms.
Should you consult a doctor if you have a caffeine allergy?
Caffeine allergies are difficult to diagnose due to their rarity.
Caffeine allergies can be diagnosed through a skin test. During your appointment, your doctor will apply trace amounts of the allergen to your arm and then watch for a reaction. The appearance of redness, itchiness, or pain at the test site may indicate a caffeine allergy.
When should you see a doctor?
Anyone who notices new symptoms or symptoms that worsen after drinking coffee should consult a doctor or allergist. They can assist by administering tests and looking for other factors that may be influencing the situation.
Doctors may recommend an elimination diet or that a person keep a food journal in which they record everything they eat and drink as well as how they feel. This can assist in identifying any reactions that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Many people who have negative reactions to coffee can work with a doctor or allergist to alleviate symptoms and avoid allergic or intolerance reactions to coffee.