Is Your Reaction to Coffee Really a Coffee Allergy?
Coffee is a part of daily morning routine for many people around the world. Caffeine contained in this drink helps to stimulate your body and mind and increase your productivity during the day. However, it is not the healthiest choice due to potential problems with blood pressure and heart associated with caffeine. Besides, some people may have a coffee allergy, meaning they develop an allergic reaction every time they come into contact with coffee bean. Caffeine or other ingredients found in coffee may also cause intolerance or sensitivity in some people.
A coffee allergy and coffee intolerance are two different conditions leading to different reactions. If you notice developing abnormal symptoms after drinking coffee or using coffee-based non-food products (e.g. lotions, candles, shampoos, etc.), you should speak to a professional allergist.
What’s the Cause of a Coffee Allergy?
A true allergy to coffee is a very rare condition. In fact, coffee allergy hasn’t been mentioned in any recent medical literature, but there were some reported cases of allergic reactions to drinking coffee in the past.
Thus, if you have a food allergy to coffee beans, your immune system will react to a protein found in coffee, as if it was a foreign invader like viruses or bacteria. The reaction involves the release of antibodies and chemicals, such as histamine, which is meant to protect your body from the invader. Histamine is responsible for many symptoms of an allergic reaction, including itchiness, hives, swelling, etc.
You may also have a caffeine allergy. Although rare, allergic reactions to caffeine may lead to anaphylaxis. You should report any symptoms you experience when drinking coffee (or other caffeinated drinks) to your doctor.
In addition, experts say that an allergy to coffee beans may actually be caused by the dust found in coffee beans before they are roasted. Therefore, if you work with coffee beans regularly, you may experience some allergy symptoms as a result of exposure to dust.
What Are the Symptoms of a Coffee Allergy?
People who are truly allergic to coffee are likely to develop a reaction soon after drinking it. The symptoms of the reaction can range from mild to severe, and include: skin rash or hives, changes in the skin color, difficulty breathing and swallowing, wheezing and coughing, nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, low blood pressure, and extreme dizziness and fainting.
In some cases, allergens contained in coffee may trigger anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening medical emergency that requires an immediate treatment. The symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction often include swelling of the mouth, throat and airways, as well as altered heart rate and blood pressure. If you develop these symptoms, you should use an epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector right away and seek further medical attention.
What’s the Difference Between a Coffee Allergy and Coffee Sensitivity?
Abnormal reactions that occur after you drink coffee are not necessarily allergic. A non-allergic sensitivity to coffee may also cause various symptoms, but they are not likely to be severe.
If you are sensitive to coffee, you may experience anxiety or nervousness, unease, or irritability after drinking it. Other symptoms of a coffee intolerance may include: sleeping problems or insomnia, stomach cramps, nausea, increase heartbeat rate or blood pressure, as well as muscle spasms. These symptoms usually disappear, when you stop drinking coffee.
Moreover, sensitivity to coffee may worsen the symptoms of other health conditions you may have. Thus, if you have heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), drinking coffee may not be a good idea.
How to Tell If You Have a Coffee Allergy or a Caffeine Overdose?
Sometimes, you experience allergy-like symptoms after drinking too much coffee. In this case, the reaction is caused by too much caffeine, rather than an allergy.
Experts recommend that you should consume no more than 400 milligrams (mg) per day, which is about 4 small cups of coffee brewed at home. If you exceed this amount, you will most likely develop abnormal symptoms.
Besides, if you have a caffeine sensitivity or simply drink coffee rarely, even small amounts of caffeine may cause symptoms. People who are not used to drinking caffeine, may develop some reaction even after one cup of coffee or tea. This is because their body is not used to the effects of caffeine and therefore, tries to get rid of the caffeine.
Consuming too much caffeine caused symptoms that are similar to those of a coffee sensitivity. In addition, if you have a coffee sensitivity and drink too much caffeine, you may experience flu-like symptoms, chest pain, abnormal heartbeat, anger, irritability, depression, extreme numbness, difficulty breathing, headaches or migraines, cold sweat, panic attacks, and even hallucinations.
Are There Any Other Possible Caused of a Reaction to Coffee?
Coffee contains various ingredients that are potentially allergenic. Coffee beans are associated with different reaction-causing substances, including pesticides and chemicals, which contaminate them during the production and transportation processes.
Thus, a recently conducted research found that various green coffee bean samples, used within the study, were contaminated with mycotoxins, which is caused by fungi on the beans. Roasting the beans may not help to break down these toxins, meaning they can be present in coffee and trigger an allergy.
If you drink coffee with milk or cream, your symptoms may be caused by dairy allergy. If you put a lot of sugar, you may actually react to sugar rather than coffee itself. Various flavored syrups may also contain ingredients triggering your allergies or intolerance.
In order to spot the tendency in your symptoms, you may want to keep a food diary, where you mention what you eat and drink during the day. This can help to understand which foods are causing the reaction.
Which Foods Should You Avoid with a Coffee Allergy?
Depending on what exactly you are allergic or sensitive to, you may need to avoid different foods.
Thus, if you have an allergy to coffee itself, you need to avoid drinking or eating coffee, or coming into contact with the beans before they are roasted.
In case your reaction is caused by caffeine, you may also need to avoid foods like chocolate and some energy bars. In addition, caffeine is often found in foods and beverages like coffee, tea, energy drinks, soft drinks and sodas, energy and meal bars, cocoa, and chocolate. Make sure to always check the ingredients labels of the foods in question.
Remember that decaffeinated drinks may still contain trace amounts of caffeine, which is enough to trigger a reaction in some people. Besides, this compound is also found is some painkillers. People with caffeine sensitivity should avoid such medications.
What Can You Replace Coffee with?
Depending on the cause of your allergy, there are various coffee substitutes available. In case of an allergy to coffee beans, you can replace your morning coffee with a cup of tea. Although tea contains less caffeine that coffee, it can still provide you with energy in the morning.
If you are sensitive to caffeine, you can try non-caffeinated herbal teas. People with a caffeine sensitivity who love the taste of coffee in deserts may use carob as an alternative.
How Is a Coffee Allergy Diagnosed?
Abnormal symptoms occurring after coffee consumption may indicate some kind of sensitivity. In this case, you should arrange a visit to your doctor. Based on various factors including your symptoms, medical history, and allergy testing, the doctor will make a diagnosis. Depending on your condition, the specialist will design a special treatment plan which will help to control the symptoms.
Keeping a food diary or following an elimination diet can help to identify certain patterns in your symptoms in regard to the foods you eat.