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Coffee Intolerance: The Symptoms & How To Deal With It

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Your coffee is your favorite part of the morning. It’s flavor, the caffeine rush, and the comforting warmth is a great way to start the day. But if you drink a cup of java and feel sick or uncomfortable afterwards, you may have a coffee intolerance.

While coffee is a favorite for many, there are some people who feel sick after drinking a cup of joe. While you may be inclined to blame a bad piece of meat or some old fruit, the coffee itself may be the issue. Some people develop an intolerance, or even an allergy, to coffee and the things we mix it with. By understanding what causes a coffee intolerance, you can make the right dietary choices to make sure that you’re not upsetting your stomach.

Coffee intolerance is exactly what it sounds like. Your body simply doesn’t react well with coffee. You may feel one or more of a host of symptoms, making your favorite drink a struggle to enjoy. There are a few causes of coffee intolerance, and it’s also important to look at the difference between an intolerance and an allergy. If you experience these symptoms, you may want to look into how coffee may be affecting your health.

Intolerance vs. Allergies

Intolerances are usually your body’s inability to handle certain foods. For example, if you’re lactose intolerant, than your stomach simply can’t digest lactose, resulting in stomach pains after drinking dairy.

An allergy, however, means that your body recognizes a harmless foreign substance as something invasive, causing your immune system to kick in. This severe reaction is much more noticable, and is usually developed early in live.

Symptoms of Coffee Intolerance

The symptoms of coffee intolerance are generally much more mild than those of a coffee allergy. You’ll begin to experience these symptoms within a couple of hours of drinking coffee. So if you’re worried that your coffee may be causing these symptoms, pay attention to how you feel after your next cup of java.

Upset stomach

An upset stomach is pretty self explanatory. Anything from the temperature to the amount of coffee you drink could have an impact on your stomach, or the things you put in your coffee. If you’re generally sensitive to foods, coffee may be causing your upset stomach.

Shortness of breath

You may have trouble breathing in all the way, or you constantly feel like you’re out of breath. This could come from the caffeine in your coffee, you it could be a reaction to the hit, acidic drink itself. Pay attention to any emotional stress you experience to see if this symptom is related to any mood changes.


When you drink something that your body can’t process, you may experience vertigo, lightheadedness, or nausea. Dizziness could be caused by a number of things, including blood pressure, your mood, or an upset stomach. Make sure that you lay down if you feel fatigued or light headed, since dizziness can cause balance issues.

Symptoms of Coffee Allergies

Coffee allergies come with a huge range of symptoms, including the ones associated with an intolerance. Generally, symptoms from allergies will be much more severe, since your body is actively trying to attack the allergens. You will feel these symptoms within a few hours of consuming coffee.

Skin rash and hives

Hives and skin rashes are common symptoms of food allergies. These symptoms show up on your skin whether or not your drink actually touched your skin. If you experience hives after drinking coffee, you may want to see a medical professional for advice on how to handle a coffee allergy.


Just like an with upset stomach, ingesting an allergen can cause vomiting. Your body will try to remove the foreign substance, so if coffee has this extreme effect on you, you may need to avoid the stuff for good. But also be sure that you’re reacting to the coffee and not something you had before the coffee.

Respiratory issues

If you experience a wheezing cough after drinking coffee, you may have a coffee allergy. While having too much caffeine can give you shortness of breath, wheezing is caused by inflammation in your respiratory system, something that caffeine wouldn’t directly cause.

Causes of Coffee Intolerance

If you’re worried about developing a coffee intolerance, you’ll want to know what causes them. While an allergy is out of your control, there are certain things you can do to prevent your body from reacting negatively with coffee. By looking at how coffee reacts with the body, and what things can cause a Coffee intolerance, you’ll be able to avoid or minimize the effects of a coffee sensitivity.


Coffee is pretty acidic, sitting near a 5 on the pH scale. While most people can handle a cup or two of this acidity per day, too much will damage your stomach lining. Or, if you have a sensitive stomach, even a single cup may be too much to handle.

Avoid drinking too many cups of coffee in a day. Or try to use low-acid coffees. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy that delicious, bold flavor without hurting your stomach.

Dairy products

You may actually be experiencing symptoms of a coffee intolerance caused by what you put in the coffee. Dairy products are notorious for causing upset stomachs. Lactose intolerance is extremely common, and dairy is a very popular coffee additive.

If you want to cut the intense flavor of coffee with something creamy, consider using a non-dairy creamer or milk. You can get that perfect balance of creamy, toasty flavor without the upset stomach.


Many of the symptoms associated with coffee intolerance are actually coming from caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, raising your blood pressure and heartbeat. This can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and mood issues in some people. This is especially true if you also have a caffeine intolerance.

If you still want to get that unbeatable coffee flavor but can’t have the caffeine, reach for some decaf. Or even consider cutting your regular coffee with decaffeinated coffee to lower the total caffeine. Then, you’ll be able to continue enjoying your favorite morning brew.

What Is Caffeine Intolerance

While coffee intolerance isn’t the most common thing, caffeine intolerance affects quite a few people. If you feel jittery, anxious, or dizzy after a single cup of joe, you may have a caffeine sensitivity. Caffeine is a potent drug, and while some people are still sleepy after a whole pot of coffee, others are wired almost immediately.

There are a few symptoms to a caffeine intolerance that mostly revolve around a high-sensitivity to its effects. The causes of a caffeine sensitivity are a little sparse, but by understanding them, you can try to maintain a tolerable amount of caffeine in your diet.


Caffeine can cause mood problems, dizziness, circulatory issues, respiratory issues, or stomach problems. When you first drink caffeine, your blood pressure and heart rate increases. This is part of what gives you that energy boost, but if you have a caffeine sensitivity, you may start to feel anxious. This can lead to shortness of breath or stomach pains, which are common symptoms of anxiety and caffeine intolerance.

If you have a caffeine sensitivity, you may feel a stomach ache or dizziness. If you experience these symptoms, you’ll want to lie down to recover, since you can also experience balance issues with the dizziness. Also consider what else you’ve eaten, since that can contribute to your stomach problems.


There are two main causes for caffeine intolerance. You can be born with a sensitivity to caffeine, or you may have had too much caffeine in a short period of time. With both of these causes, the end result is that you have to cut or strongly reduce your caffeine intake. Fortunately, you can do that with decaf coffee and coffee extracts, giving you access to the rish, powerful flavors of coffee without the caffeine.

If you want to minimize your risk of developing a caffeine sensitivity, make sure that you never overdo it with your coffee. When you have too much too quick, you body may begin to react negatively when you ingest it in the future. While caffeine sensitivities are usually developed naturally, it still helps to be cautious with the amount of caffeine you consume.

Making Sure You Treat Your Body Right

When it comes down to it, you’ll need to make sure that your coffee isn’t hurting your health. No matter how good it tastes, your morning cup of joe isn’t worth any long term health effects. Whether you have a full blown coffee allergy or just a mild caffeine sensitivity, it’s important to make sure that your coffee fits into a healthy lifestyle.

By reducing your caffeine intake, cutting out things that may be upsetting your stomach, and keeping an eye on your coffee’s acidity, you’ll be able to make your coffee as non-intrusive on your health as possible. Then, you can enjoy your favorite beverage without sacrificing your comfort, health, or nutrition.

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