Have you got the caffeine gene?

Have you ever done a cleanse with a friend or partner and wonder why they don’t have the same horrible headaches when they drink the same amount of coffee as you?

Turns out, its genetic.

Caffeine is a natural alkaloid and also a stimulant, which can cause dependence or addiction.  Most coffee drinkers (or tea, or anything else caffeinated) will identify the foggy feeling, dull headache that accompanies the absence of your morning cup.  I quit coffee a few years ago.  I hated the dependence on it.  I really hated knowing that if I missed my daily dose, then I would feel rubbish and feel like I was unable to “function”, so I quit.  I miss the habit, but not the actual stimulant.  I have drunk it a handful of times since have officially quit, and have regretted it almost every time (once was a long drive and I knew I needed something to really buzz me).  It left me feeling very jittery, incredible anxious, and I literally could not sit still.  And yet, my partner can drink it right before bed and still sleep very soundly…. 

So why do some people feel it more than others?

We all carry a gene that metabolises caffeine called the CYP1A2 gene. Individuals who are homozygous for the CYP1A2-1A allele are "rapid" caffeine metabolisers, whereas carriers of the variant CYP1A2-1F are "slow" caffeine metabolisers.

There are lab tests for this gene, but basically, if you can drink caffeine in the evening and still go to bed, you are a rapid metabolizer. On the other hand, some people have a cup of coffee and have the jitters for the rest of the day.

So it seems that those with a slow metabolisers are more inclined to feel the “withdrawal” effects when they stop drinking coffee.  Severe headaches, nausea, inability to focus are all the symptoms when the body quits an addiction, but some are more likely to feel the pain than others.  If you are planning on either quitting coffee or just doing a cleanse with no coffee for a week, then if you are one of the slow metabolisers, my best advice is to try and cut down the caffeine before your cleanse.  Start by dropping from full strength to half shot, then to decaf (this still has a small amount of caffeine in it), then to green tea, then very diluted green tea and then non caffeinated tea (like rooibos, or herbal).  Your head will thank you!


Catherine Craig
Catherine Craig

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