Do You Have a Coffee Allergy, Sensitivity, or Intolerance?

If you think you have a coffee allergy, you’re not alone. You are a member of a rather small group, though. This type of allergy is not common, as is apparent by the millions of people who have their morning “cup of joe” every day. You don’t hear about people breaking out in a rash after coffee or having to forgo their favorite breakfast beverage for tea or something else.

It Might Be the Beverage, or It Could Be What You Put in It

If you can’t have a cup of the brew without breaking out or experiencing swelling around your lips, it’s probably safe to assume you are allergic to the beverage and are not merely a victim of coffee or caffeine intolerance, which is also a possibility. If you don’t drink it black, it could be the cream that’s the problem or an artificial sweetener if you use one. Food allergies are strange disorders. They aren’t that common and they can crop up all of a sudden. It could be that for years you’ve been enjoying that second cup during breakfast, and now just the smell of it brewing causes you to break out.

It Could Be the Caffeine That’s to Blame

If you indeed are allergic to the beverage, it might be the caffeine that’s to blame. There are naturally more people with a caffeine allergy, since there are other foods and beverages that contain it. If this is the case, switching to decaf might be an option, but you’ll have to try it to find out. Caffeine is not only found in some of the beverages you drink, but it is also in some food items and even in some prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs. A One a Day vitamin tablet for women contains the same amount of caffeine as does a cup of coffee.

It Could Be a Sensitivity

There are also those who are merely sensitive to caffeine, or for that matter to coffee. Being sensitive to a food item is not the same as being allergic to it, although the line between the two is a rather fine one. Being sensitive to the brew isn’t quite the same as experiencing an intolerance, either; another fine line. Being sensitive to a substance will often mean you can take in a certain amount of it before experiencing any problems or symptoms, as opposed to breaking out in hives if you happen to glance at a package of ground coffee beans.

An allergy to a food or beverage can sometimes be an insidious thing. You don’t experience a rash around your mouth or numbness in your lips when drinking a cup. An allergy to the beverage, and particularly to the caffeine in it, may not kick in until a few hours later. If you have more than just toast to eat at breakfast, you may have no idea what is causing your problems. There are a number of food allergies that are like this. If you consume more than one type of food, it can be difficult to pinpoint the one you need to avoid.

It Could Be Related to Gluten Intolerance

What if you regularly drink decaf or have switched to decaf and still have a problem? One question you should ask yourself is whether or not you have a problem with gluten. You may not have thought of a cup of joe as being a source of protein, but it actually is a fairly good source, even if you aren’t mixing any dairy products with it. According to a recent study, approximately ten percent of what’s in your morning cup of decaf coffee is protein, and it happens to be a protein that cross-reacts with gluten antibodies. This could be one reason why those on a gluten free diet can experience some of the symptoms of gluten intolerance. The bottom line is if you think you are allergic to coffee, there is a far higher chance you may have gluten intolerance instead, and if it is a fairly mild one, you may not even be aware of it.

If you do have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, you may have become aware of it when eating or drinking dairy products. Dairy products are the most common source of proteins which have this cross-reactive relationship with gluten antibodies. If you’ve discovered that not having cream with your cup of brew doesn’t seem to be making a difference, it’s probably because the cross-reactive relationship with the protein in coffee is much more intense than is the case with dairy products. In other words, there are those times when you just can’t win.

It Could Be All or None of the Above

One test to determine if you truly are allergic to this beverage would be to rub some of the beans or grounds between your fingers or on your hands and see if you get a reaction. You could try it with both regular bean and decaffeinated beans. If it’s a food intolerance, or even a sensitivity to the beverage or the caffeine, you wouldn’t expect to get any reaction. You may not get a reaction even if you have an allergy, and your test might be inconclusive, but it still is worth a try. The only guaranteed way to find out what is causing the reaction would be to seek the services of an allergist.

If your problem is one of a sensitivity or an intolerance, it can be even more confusing. Some medications can increase a sensitivity to caffeine and even decaf coffee has some residual amount of caffeine in it.

There is some good news in all of this. Having a true coffee allergy is rare, and if your problem is intolerance or sensitivity to coffee, it is something that can often be overcome. The bad news is that getting to the root of any food allergy can often be a difficult process.

Maybe you’re a person who enjoys the smell of a morning cup of brew but can’t partake in it, or can’t visit a Starbucks because there’s really no reason to do so. Coffee drinking is an addictive habit, so you can console yourself knowing that, from the standpoint of your health, you are better off if you find another beverage to enjoy.

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