Why Does Coffee Make Me Dizzy and Shaky?

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Nothing delights you more than the smell of freshly brewed coffee on an early morning. That sweet smell and the taste of a fresh brew is partly why you wake up so early and you relish every drop. But merely 15 minutes after that, you start to feel the energy jolt. 

And then comes the trembling, and the jitters, plus your heart starts racing like you’re being chased by a truck. If you can’t finish an 8 ounce cup of regular coffee without feeling shaky and restless, it may seem like something isn’t right with you because your friends can drink up to 4 cups and still feel amazing. And decaf is no different. 

This can be disturbing but it really isn’t something of major concern, it’s simply your body sending you a message saying; I can’t tolerate all that caffeine. You’re likely sensitive to caffeine. 

If you enjoy coffee so much and it isn’t something you’re willing to give up, but the caffeine really isn’t taking it easy on you, here’s what you should know about caffeine, how it affects your body system and how to deal with caffeine jitters.

[1] Can caffeine make you dizzy and shaky? 

Of course, it can make you dizzy and shaky. As a popular stimulant consumed around the world, caffeine affects the nervous system and the effects it has are different from person to person. 

For some individuals, these effects are mild while some others can show very obvious signs of caffeine consumptions. So the real question here should be; what is it about caffeine that makes you feel dizzy and shaky? Okay, so here it is. 

When you drink coffee (or any caffeinated beverage) the caffeine moves from your intestines to your bloodstream and to the brain. When caffeine gets to the brain, it prevents you from feeling sleepy by binding with adenosine receptors. 

Since adenosine is the chemical responsible for sending the ‘sleepy’ message to your brain, binding with its receptors blocks the effects of these chemicals thus keeping you awake. While this happens, adrenaline is also released into the bloodstream to boost your alertness and energy levels. 

Now, this unnecessary rush of adrenaline into your bloodstream will create a feeling of anxiety and panic causing you to feel shaky and jittery, with a racing heart. This is usually worse for people who are sensitive to caffeine, or when you consume too much. 

Another important element that contributes to how a person is affected by caffeine is the level and activity of CYP1A2 enzyme in the liver. This is because CYP1A2 is the enzyme solely responsible for the breakdown of caffeine which happens in the liver. 

Therefore, the higher the level and activity of CYP1A2 in the liver, the less sensitive a person is to caffeine. But unfortunately, not everyone has a super-active CYP1A2, in fact your CYP1A2 activity will depend on your age, sex and genetic makeup, which is the real reason why people react differently to caffeine.

[2] How do you get rid of caffeine jitters?

The effects of caffeine on the nervous system can cause you to feel shaky and jittery, this usually happens when you consume more caffeine than your system can handle. 

When it comes to caffeine, the simple rule is; know the amount of caffeine your body can tolerate and never consume more than that. But what happens when you slip and ‘unintentionally’ drink too much coffee, here are some tips to help you get rid of caffeine jitters.

Drink lots of water: you may have noticed that you pee more frequently when you drink coffee (or some other caffeinated drinks), that’s because caffeine is a diuretic. Caffeine makes your body lose water fast so you need to stay hydrated as you fight jittery and shaky nerves, dehydration can actually make this worse. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water. For every cup of coffee, drink one glass of water.

Rest and wait it out: caffeine jitters may be compared to a hangover, because it gets better with time. As your body works to get rid of the caffeine in your bloodstream you’ll gradually start to feel better. 

Of course, this will take several hours but within that time you can take a nap or rest and wait it out. And please no more caffeinated beverages. 

Eat some brassica veggies: some vegetables have been found to increase the production and activity of cytochrome enzymes (CYP1A2) in the liver, this enzyme is responsible for the metabolism of caffeine. 

According to the Oxford Journal of Carcinogenesis, eating diet rich in brassica vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, etc., will increase the production of CYP1A2 and which in turn will increase your caffeine metabolism and tolerance. Consuming large amounts of vitamin C can also increase caffeine clearance. 

While this may seem like the holy grail for getting rid of caffeine in your system, there is a downside to it. 

If you’re already battling with caffeine jitters, shoving a big bowl of cabbage or cauliflower down your throat won’t immediately erase every trace of caffeine in your system because it’ll take some time for the veggies to digest and become absorbed into the body. 

This can take hours and all these will have to happen before you can see any positive effect. Therefore, including a healthy dose of brassica veggies in your diet may be the way to go. 

[3] How do you know if you’re sensitive to caffeine?

Since people react differently to caffeine, how you react to it will tell if your body is sensitive to caffeine. And this has nothing to do with consuming too much of it. 

The daily recommended amount of caffeine for adults is no more than 400 milligrams and that’s what you get after drinking about 3 to 4 cups of coffee. 

Now, if you drink up to 4 or 5 cups of coffee before reacting negatively, then you’re probably not sensitive to it, you just have too much caffeine in your system. 

But if you find yourself shaking and feeling restless with jitters, headache, a racing heart or you experience an intense adrenaline rush when you only had an 8 ounce cup of coffee or a small glass of cola, then your body may indeed be telling you something; and that something may be that caffeine isn’t good for you. 

Caffeine sensitivity is a real thing and if your body reacts negatively to very small amounts of caffeine, then it means that your liver is unable to effectively metabolize caffeine. 

Though there are different degrees of caffeine sensitivity, people who are caffeine sensitive will experience symptoms like racing heartbeat, headache, jitters, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, for several hours. 

If you think you’re sensitive to caffeine, the best thing you can do is to eliminate caffeine from your diet. But if this isn’t an option for you, then you should seriously limit your daily intake to about 30 t0 50 milligrams.

[4] How common is caffeine allergy and intolerance?

With the sheer amount of people that consume caffeine every day around the globe, it may be hard to imagine that caffeine allergy and hypersensitivity are very real. Everyday many people consume caffeine without any problems but a few others may experience symptoms like diarrhea, anxiety, headache, etc. 

Caffeine allergy and caffeine intolerance are actually two different things. Caffeine allergy is a more serious condition and can be life-threatening while caffeine intolerance isn’t. 

A person who is caffeine intolerant (or caffeine sensitive) will show adverse effects (like jitters, headache, insomnia, restlessness, etc.) after consuming some amounts of caffeinated beverage. While a person who is allergic to caffeine will show more serious symptoms like hives, cough, swollen throat or tongue. 

In the latter, the body perceives caffeine as a toxin (or invader) and will try to get rid of it by producing antibodies called immunoglobulin E, which prompts the body cells to release histamine. 

The histamine will start working to rid the body of these ‘harmful molecules’  (the caffeine), causing swelling, itching, hives, and — in very severe cases — anaphylaxis. This condition is actually very rare but some do have it and for these few caffeine can be deadly. 

Caffeine intolerance is more common and will cause only minor discomforts which aren’t life-threatening. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you only have to reduce your intake while a person with caffeine allergy will have to completely eliminate caffeine from their diet. 

If you think you’re sensitive or allergic to caffeine, then you may have to avoid caffeinated beverages or talk to your doctor so you can get tested for confirmation. 

[5] Does caffeine build up in your system?

Caffeine doesn’t build up in the body, it’s gradually metabolized and flushed out of the body. So the question should be; how long until caffeine is completely out of your system? 

The half-life of caffeine is about 5 hours, this means that when you consume 20 milligrams of caffeine, it will take your body 5 hours to completely metabolize half of it, leaving only 10 milligrams. After another 5 hours, you’ll have only 5 milligrams left in your system. 

Because of this, American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that you don’t drink coffee at least 6 hours before bedtime. While the half-life of caffeine is 5 hours, it doesn’t take that long before you can start to feel it’s effect. 

Actually it takes between 15-30 minutes after consumption to start feeling the energy boost and anxiety from caffeine, that’s when the level of caffeine in your bloodstream is at its peak before the liver steps in and starts to gradually break it down.  

Wrapping Up

Drinking coffee is cool until you start to feel funny, but this doesn’t make it bad for you. The recommended daily dose of caffeine for adults is 400 mg (equivilent to 3-4 cups of coffee), this doesn’t work for every one because caffeine metabolism depends on certain factors like sex, age and genetic makeup. 

For persons with caffeine sensitivity, daily caffeine intake should be within the amount your body can tolerate. You can switch to decaf coffee or darker roasts as these contain less caffeine. 

Even as you satisfy your daily coffee cravings, always remember that the more caffeine you consume the more likely you are to get jittery nerves and other unpleasant effects of caffeine. Limit your caffeine intake to the amount you can tolerate.