Coffee Allergies Are Rare But Real, & Here’s How To Tell If You Might Have One
If your daily coffee consumption rivals that of Lorelai on Gilmore Girls, being allergic to coffee is probably one of the worst things you can imagine. Cue the horror my friendlies, because you can actually be allergic to coffee. This shouldn't be too much of a surprise, because allergies to most foods exist, but it's a bit of a surprise to put two and two together for most of us who take our morning cup of joe for granted.
"The immune system then responds to coffee in a similar way to how it would respond to pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses," Dr. Stacy Sampson wrote for Medical News Today. "It releases protective compounds, such as histamine, to isolate and destroy the intruding coffee." It turns out that having an allergic reaction to coffee is actually an immune system response. Basically, your immune system views the coffee as an invader it needs to fight off.
If your beloved coffee has turned against you, you could experience symptoms like skin rashes and hives, nausea and vomiting, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, a wheezing cough, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, abnormal skin color, a weak pulse or sudden drop in blood pressure, and even dizziness and loss of consciousness, according to Medical News Today.
Coffee allergies are pretty rare, but even if you're not allergic, you can still have a sensitivity to the stuff. If you have a coffee intolerance, rather than an allergy, you could feel anxious, jittery, and irritable, have trouble sleeping, get an upset stomach, experience an elevated heart rate or high blood pressure, and you might even develop involuntary muscle spasms after drinking coffee, Medical News Today reported.
Dan Koday writing for Women's Health noted that after discovering he was coffee intolerant (though not allergic) he eliminated coffee from his diet for 10 weeks and felt noticeably better. However, he eventually went back to coffee because once you break up with someone, or something, you tend to forget all of the bad things about them and focus on the good times. "Though my skin did not break out, when I started drinking coffee again, it instantly felt duller and was generally more agitated. My stomach felt bloated too, the same way it had been in the mornings before I started the elimination diet — even though I hadn’t reintroduced any other foods," he explained, adding that he still hasn't permanently kicked coffee to the curb despite its negative effects. Because, let's face it, breaking up with coffee is hard AF.
It goes without saying that most everything should be enjoyed in moderation, and whether you're coffee intolerant or not, drinking too much coffee isn't good for anyone. If you're not sure what "too much" is, Dr. Sampson said the recommended consumption for adults is generally four small cups. After that most people, save for Lorelai Gilmore, will start to feel dark and twisty.
If you drink coffee morning, noon, and night and you feel like crap, caffeine might be the real culprit. Symptoms of overindulging in caffeine are similar to those of coffee intolerance, but you'll notice additional unpleasant side effects like chest pain, heart palpitations, mood swings, headaches, delusions, flu-like symptoms, and panic attacks, Medical News Today noted.
Because, yes, you can also be allergic to caffeine too. The journal Asia Pacific Allergy published a case study about a 27-year-old woman who went into anaphylactic shock after eating a piece of candy that contained caffeine. The woman reportedly had no history of any allergies. While being treated at the hospital, she experienced similar symptoms after drinking green tea and eating coffee jelly. After these episodes, her doctors diagnosed her with a caffeine allergy.
While caffeine allergies are rare, the study noted that they usually develop in childhood. However, this woman's allergy emerged suddenly after she had safely consumed caffeine for years. This means that, while it's unlikely, coffee and/or caffeine can turn against you, kind of like that BFF who's now a frenemy or that ex you know is toxic but who you pine for anyway. If you think you may have an intolerance or an allergy to your favorite breakfast companion, consider keeping a symptom diary and talking to your doctor about potential steps you can take to feel better (such as switching to a non-caffeinated morning beverage).
Seriously, if coffee and caffeine let you know they don't want to be your friends anymore, it's totally OK to cry and mourn your loss. I know I would.