How to Identify a Caffeine Intolerance


Oh, coffee, the substance the nation loves to love. It is not often we find ourselves crawling out of bed without a hot brew of coffee first on our priority list, or when walking by a coffee shop we find ourselves without the pull to go in and order a pumpkin spiced latte – after all, it is the season!

Our reliance on a hot cup of java can also have some less than desirable side effects. This piece looks at how you can identify a caffeine intolerance, and if there is anything you can do about it. For now, set your non-fat, extra foam, almond milk, double-shot to one side to find out about a common yet often misunderstood condition.

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a stimulant that can be found in coffees, teas, sodas, and energy drinks, and is one of the most commonly used ingredients in the world. Caffeine can be seen as that magic wake-up rocket. Often taken with breakfast, as an attempt to cure a hangover, or a means of getting through an afternoon slump, caffeine is found in most scenarios where you want to wake up and have a little more energy.

Caffeine has been proven to be loaded with some significant health benefits, which is great for the ones that can tolerate their dark roast beans. However, for those that might be intolerant, the payoff might not be worth the side effects.  

Getting the jitters

Perhaps one of the most common side effects of experiencing a caffeine intolerance is the jitters.

‘The jitters’ is your body’s response to being overstimulated by caffeine after it boosts your adrenaline levels. This can cause high blood pressure, jittery sensations, a fast heartrate and palpitations, and sweatiness, to name just a few! Psychologically it can make it difficult for people to concentrate or focus, and can also cause anxiety.

Headaches and migraines

Another classic response to a caffeine intolerance is the onset of a headache or migraine. The reason for this could be because caffeine is able to reduce blood flow, especially to the brain.

Those that use caffeine daily have trained their brain to expect a dose, and if it is not received, this can also cause headaches. Headaches and migraines are a symptom of both intolerance and withdrawal, so it is best to find out which it is so you can adjust your intake accordingly.


When it comes to caffeine and insomnia, this does not include the students who choose to knock back two Redbulls at 9pm to finish their essay, nor does it include those who choose to have an espresso post dinner! But, if you are consuming your caffeine at a sensible time, such as earlier than 2pm, the cause of your sleeping issues could very well be an intolerance.

Test the theory by cutting out caffeine altogether to see if your quality of sleep improves, but if not, make sure to see a doctor to rule out anything else.