Have you ever wondered if you are sensitive to caffeine? Is it possible to have a caffeine intolerance, caffeine sensitivity, or some type of caffeine hypersensitivity?
What are the symptoms of caffeine sensitivity? Can you develop sudden caffeine intolerance even if you have enjoyed coffee or caffeinated tea most of your life? Furthermore, can you be allergic to caffeine altogether?
If you are sensitive to caffeine, there are caffeine alternatives that can boost energy for those with caffeine intolerance.
In this article, we will discuss whether it is possible to be sensitive to caffeine or have a caffeine intolerance or caffeine allergy, discuss common symptoms of caffeine sensitivity, and provide you with some alternatives to caffeine that can help decrease fatigue and boost energy.
We will look at:
- Can I Have a Caffeine Sensitivity?
- Symptoms of Caffeine Sensitivity
- Coffee Alternatives to Start Your Day
Let’s get started!
Can I Have a Caffeine Sensitivity?
Depending on your body size, habituation to caffeine, and individual biochemistry, you may or may not be more or less sensitive to caffeine than another individual.
People who regularly consume caffeine can build up a tolerance such that they need more of the drug to realize the same stimulating effects of caffeine over time. Additionally, generally, people with a larger body size have a higher tolerance for caffeine.
Then, there can be an influence of your genetics and/or your own individual biochemistry that affects your caffeine sensitivity.
Although there isn’t a specific diagnostic test to identify caffeine sensitivity for a caffeine intolerance, there are generally three categories of caffeine sensitivity as follows:
Normal Caffeine Sensitivity
If you have normal caffeine sensitivity, you feel energized by caffeine, and you can tolerate up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day without experiencing adverse effects unless you consume the caffeine all at one time at a rapid rate of consumption.
Studies suggest that about 10 percent of the population carries a gene that is associated with reduced sensitivity to caffeine.This means that these individuals can consume higher amounts of caffeine later in the day or larger doses of caffeine all at once without experiencing adverse symptoms of too much caffeine or sleep disturbances from drinking caffeine before bed.
People with caffeine hypersensitivity are only able to tolerate caffeine in very small doses spread out throughout the day. They may experience caffeine side effects even with a regular cup of coffee or caffeinated tea.
Caffeine hypersensitivity is often linked to an impaired ability of your liver to metabolize caffeine, your genetics, or some other difference in your biochemistry.
With a caffeine intolerance, you may not be able to consume any caffeine without experiencing unwanted side effects like headaches, high blood pressure, dizziness, jitteriness, and agitation.
It is also possible to develop a caffeine intolerance suddenly, particularly if you have stopped caffeine for a while and then try to jump right back into your prior caffeine consumption levels. Additionally, older adults tend to become increasingly sensitive to caffeine, as the liver becomes less able to metabolize caffeine as efficiently.
What about a caffeine allergy? Can you be allergic to caffeine?
Distinct from your personal caffeine sensitivity level, some people (though a small proportion of the population) do experience a caffeine allergy.
Like other types of allergies, a caffeine allergy occurs if your immune system perceives caffeine as a “pathogen” or harmful invader.
When you consume caffeine, if you have a caffeine allergy, your body mounts an immune response to attack the “invader“ by setting off a cascade of antibodies and antihistamines.
A caffeine allergy can result in symptoms like sneezing, wheezing, flushing of the skin, inflammation of the mucous membranes, red or itchy eyes, itchy skin or ears, hives, difficulty breathing, migraine, diarrhea, rash, tongue swelling, anaphylaxis, etc.
You should avoid all caffeine if you have a caffeine allergy and consider seeing an allergist for immunoglobulin allergy testing or skin prick testing to diagnose a caffeine allergy.
Symptoms of Caffeine Sensitivity
Symptoms of caffeine sensitivity or caffeine hypersensitivity essentially mimic the same symptoms of someone who consumes a lot of caffeine all at once, even if they have a normal sensitivity to caffeine.
Signs of a caffeine overdose or caffeine hypersensitivity to a normal amount of caffeine include the following:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Pounding head or headache
- Jitters or shaking hands
- Nervousness or anxiousness
- Agitation and restlessness
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
- Feeling wired
Coffee Alternatives to Start Your Day
The good news is that if you have a caffeine sensitivity or caffeine allergy, there are alternatives to caffeine or coffee that can either provide you with a physical or mental boost of energy in the way that caffeine does.
There are also non-caffeinated coffee alternatives that can serve as a decaffeinated coffee substitute for the morning ritual of drinking a cup of coffee with another warm beverage that won’t trigger caffeine sensitivity symptoms.
Here are some coffee alternatives with no caffeine:
#1: Chicory Coffee
If you’re looking to replicate the taste of coffee without the caffeine jolt or you don’t want the acid found in decaffeinated coffee, you might enjoy chicory coffee.
Chicory root can be roasted, ground, and then brewed into a coffee-like hot beverage that tastes and looks much like coffee but doesn’t have any caffeine, is low in acid, and is high in prebiotic fiber like inulin, which is great for your gut bacteria.
A chicory root coffee drink may also promote better digestion overall and aid fat digestion by stimulating the liver to produce more bile.
As research on the powerful effects of probiotics has grown over the last two decades, the popularity of kombucha has exploded.
Kombucha is a fermented black tea drink that contains natural probiotics after the bacteria ferment yeast and sugar that is added to the tea.
Kombucha may aid digestion, improve immune health, help regulate blood sugar levels, and provide other health benefits.
Note that the fermentation process of kombucha creates a very small amount of natural alcohol in the final probiotic-rich tea drink.
#3: Golden Milk
Another caffeine-free coffee alternative is golden milk, which is a warm beverage that is made with invigorating spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and cardamom.
It also sometimes includes honey and vanilla for additional flavors.
The turmeric imparts the “golden” color of golden milk, and it is rich in a compound called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
Making golden milk with whole milk and black pepper increases the absorption of curcumin.
#4: Rooibos Tea
For those with a caffeine intolerance or caffeine allergy, or severe caffeine hypersensitivity who want to avoid caffeine altogether, herbal tea or rooibos tea are great caffeine-free coffee substitutes.
#5: Yerba Mate
If you want a caffeinated alternative to coffee, but you aren’t a fan of regular black tea or green tea, you might try Yerba mate.
Yerba mate is one of the naturally caffeinated teas.
It is made from the dried leaves of the South American holly tree, llex paraguariensis.
Yerba mate tea contains several vitamins and minerals, including riboflavin, thiamine, phosphorus, iron, calcium, vitamins C and B6, as well as antioxidants like those found in green tea.
It’s important to keep in mind that one cup of this tea has about as much caffeine as a standard cup of home-brewed coffee (78-80 mg), so if you are over-sensitive to caffeine, Yerba mate won’t be one of the best coffee alternatives for caffeine sensitivity.
However, if you are looking for more antioxidants and a different way to start your day other than coffee, this could be a great herbal option.
#6: Chai Tea
For those who are overly sensitive to caffeine but still want a little bit of a jolt and more than you would find from decaffeinated coffee, chai tea can be a great coffee substitute.
One cup of chai tea has about half as much caffeine as a cup of coffee (48 mg).
As a form of black tea, studies have found that chai tea is still effective and improves mental alertness, and it may reduce the risk of heart disease.
#7: Matcha Tea
If you have a mild caffeine hypersensitivity and don’t do well with regular coffee, you might try Matcha tea.
Matcha tea is a type of green tea in which you actually consume the tea leaf after it has been pulverized into a powder.
One of the benefits of matcha tea vs green tea is that because you are consuming the whole leaf and some of the stem of the Camellia sinensis plant, you’re getting a much more concentrated source of the potent epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) antioxidants found in green tea.
This antioxidant has powerful anti-inflammatory effects on the body, and it also boosts metabolism, promotes fat burning, and may help reduce body weight and total body fat, as well as reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Keep in mind that Matcha tea, like green tea and coffee, is still caffeinated, so if you have a caffeine intolerance or caffeine allergy, this won’t be a good coffee substitute.
However, if you don’t like the taste of coffee or you are sensitive to caffeine, and you want a slightly lower caffeinated alternative coffee drink, Matcha tea can be a healthy coffee alternative that will still give you a boost of energy and lots of antioxidants.
For another coffee alternative for those who can’t have caffeine, check out our guide on the benefits of nettle tea here.