If you’re alive and on this earth, it’s highly likely you’re one of those who can’t function unless they’ve had a coffee or two. Or more, we’re not judging. Of course, there are those unicorn humans who absolutely detest coffee, and there are those who prefer tea; again, no judgment. For a major fraction of the adult population, though, the hiss and steam of a coffee maker or machine is the best sound after waking up.
However, you may have noticed certain symptoms of late, and your morning cuppa may seem to be causing them. The awful question may arise, are you actually allergic to coffee? Can anyone have allergy reactions to the substance that wakes them up? Unfortunately, allergies of all kinds are on the way up, regardless of how common the trigger is. Think peanut butter and how much of a staple it is in the United States of America. A peanut allergy is quite devastating for anyone, but a coffee allergy may be worse for some.
Before you start worrying your socks off, we’ve got some information on coffee allergies. Reading up on this danger may be the first step toward diagnosing and dealing with it.
How Common is It and What Causes It?
It seems like coffee allergies may not be too common. We sure don’t hear about it too much, but an increasing number of people are now reporting unusual symptoms after consuming coffee. The main cause of a coffee allergy is a general caffeine allergy, which means that one should also avoid tea, green tea, and caffeinated soft drinks.
The cause may also be that one is just not metabolizing coffee well. Since it also contains adrenalin, coffee may cause some serious symptoms when consumed by certain folks.
Not much is known or understood about coffee allergies, though. In fact, the first proper study on such allergies was published only in 2012.
There are several symptoms that could signal a possible coffee or caffeine allergy. These include the following:
- Headaches and/or migraines
- A tendency to worry, even escalating to panic and anxiety attacks
- The usual skin reactions like hives, acne, itching, rashes, and even eczema
- Inability to focus on important tasks
- Swelling and closing up of a throat
- Irritability, mood swings, or losing temper
- Excessive tiredness or fatigue
- Vertigo or balancing problems
- Swollen eyes
- Hallucinations and confusion
- Feeling numb in the limb and/or face
- A weakening of the immune system, resulting in flu or cold
- Dementia or general energy loss
As you may realize, the above symptoms are quite disturbing. If not taken care of within a proper frame of time, they may pose a risk to your life. At the very least, you may find yourself seriously inconvenienced by such occurrences. If you notice one or several such symptoms after taking coffee, you should rush to get a proper diagnosis and look into treatment options.
Allergy vs Sensitivity
There is a difference between a coffee allergy and coffee sensitivity. While the two may have similar symptoms, coffee sensitivity is not too worrisome and is relatively less serious than a coffee allergy. If you have coffee sensitivity, consumption of this liquid may give you a sudden boost of adrenalin. This is not necessarily bad in itself, but it could leave you quite jittery and unlike yourself.
A proper allergy, though, has more definite symptoms. This occurs when your body sees coffee or its ingredients as an enemy to itself. Hence, your ever-ready immune system would make more of a little antibody known as immunoglobulin E. This affects your healthy cells and causes those numerous symptoms we’ve described above.
Along with the causes already mentioned, the inability to process coffee may be in your genes as well. Your body is developing with time, so some genes may not be the same as they were even a generation ago. Hence, even if your parents are not allergic to coffee, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be.
If you do have this genetic problem, the caffeine from coffee may get stored in your body instead of getting digested. This leads to a high and prolonged exaggeration of the effect coffee is supposed to have.
Unless you grow, roast, and grind your own coffee, you may also be at risk of having these symptoms due to the mycotoxins present in this substance. Thus, if you find yourself reacting negatively only to coffee but not to other caffeinated beverages, the problem may be these pesky things. Decaffeinated coffee has a higher risk and level of mycotoxins, so there’s not much of a choice here.
Foods to Avoid
If you’re reading that symptom list and nodding in recognition, you may want to avoid coffee until a proper diagnosis. The same goes for any drink or food which may contain caffeine. This includes most forms of green tea, regular tea, carbonated drinks, etc. Especially avoid energy drinks and skip out on the chocolate while you’re at it.
Natural Coffee Substitutes
Switch to tea and see if that gives the same or similar reactions. If so, you may want to switch to non-caffeinated beverages, like herbal tea, milk, or juice.
When to See a Doctor
Letting go of your coffee habit may not solve the problem if your allergy is to caffeine in general. A staggering amount of foods have some form of caffeine in them. Monitor your reactions to certain foods and drinks, and definitely visit a doctor if your symptoms are severe enough to affect your daily routine. Since this allergy is a bit difficult to diagnose, you may want to see an expert sooner rather than later.
Whether it’s a tall Starbucks concoction or a super-strong espresso shot, those who love their coffee may shriek at the idea of being allergic to it. If you do suspect such a situation, however, try diagnosing it before anything major occurs. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and even that delicious cup isn’t worth risking your life over.