About five years ago I visited a Chinese Herbalist and had an allergy test done. They took a small sample of hairs from my head and sent them off for analysis. When the results came back I was surprised to see I had a medium sensitivity to caffeine. As I drank 2-3 espressos a day as part of my daily grind running my restaurants and had had no adverse effects, I thought this was a little odd. However, I did up my dose from time to time to 5-7 shots a day when I was more tired or needed a pick-me-up.
Up until that point in time, and approx every 2 years, I had a really bad bout of illness around November time. I put it down to exhaustion coupled with catching one of the bugs that go around at that time of year (regular 60+ hour work weeks catch up with you). However, that year (nearly three years ago now) was different as I ended up hospitalised and on a saline drip after I collapsed behind the bar on a busy Friday evening (without the aid of alcohol).
After returning on Saturday afternoon, sitting quietly in a chair overseeing the floor, I just could not stand the smell of coffee any more. The distaste lasted for about two weeks before it wore off. I hated making coffee for our customers – the smell was nauseating. When the nauseous feelings finally subsided I reflected on my allergy test and the pattern of illnesses I had had over the years. Interestingly, they coincided with an increase in my uptake of caffeine so I decided to experiment with this to prove if caffeine was the catalyst.
I did not drink coffee for about a month and felt generally good. I had had no episodes of palpitations (as I had had often when I was a coffee drinker but had assumed they were a result of being overtired), no feelings of nausea, and, more interestingly, no real drops in energy. I had stabilised and my body knew what it was doing again. Tired felt tired, and I did not need to spike my energy with the drug called caffeine. While drinking coffee is considered to have some health benefits, there is also the downside that a lot of coffee production may not be the ‘cleanest’ process with the risk of toxic chemicals such as pesticides leeching into the coffee during the production process.
Coffee itself is a pretty complex concoction of chemicals in its own right. Caffeine is actually an alkaloid plant toxin (like nicotine and cocaine); plants use it to kill bugs. It stimulates us by blocking neuroreceptors for the sleep chemical adenosine. When the sleep chemical is blocked by caffeine, the result is you staying awake. There are numerous other less-than-ideal effects of drinking coffee which you can read more about at Very Well Mind: Caffeine Myths, Effects & Risks (you will see palpitations here also).
I switched to drinking tea and never looked back.
After about two years, I wondered if my body had changed and was now OK with caffeine. A number of people had told me that this can happen as the body rebalances itself and the substance does not trigger an allergic reaction.
I tried an Americano coffee and felt really wired. It freaked me out as the reaction was so sharp. I felt the bitterness in my stomach like an acid burn and was not particularly comfortable, but peer pressure tried to convince me that one-a-day should be OK. I persisted for a couple of days but felt pretty bad. Even the palpitations returned (albeit mildly) so I decided that caffeine was definitely off the menu.
I tried decaffeinated coffee also and this did not have the adverse effect that regular coffee did, yet still let me enjoy the taste of the coffee. There are plus sides from ingesting the good chemicals in the coffee beans, though there are perceived downsides from the decaffeination process which include the presence of solvents in the coffee as a direct result. However, we are told this is within ‘safe levels’ but my jury is still out on that one.
Most people aren’t affected by caffeine like me, but I think that kicking the addition to caffeine is a positive health choice you should make.
Stay clean kids!