Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSSDid you know that the amount of time it takes a healthy adult to eliminate half the caffeine in their body is 5-6 hours? source
In this episode 26, I talk about how and why HSPs are more sensitive to caffeine than others. I also touch on the effects of other drugs as well as a possible connection to Mitral Valve Prolapse and HSP. I know–crazy.
If you like the podcast, please leave a positive review on iTunes!
Sign up for the twice-monthly newsletter to be notified of the latest blog posts, podcast episodes, and HSP news.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Dr. Elaine Aron “Coping Corner: Strengthening Your Decisions Through “Cardiac Exercise”
- Caffeine and Anxiety from stressbusting.co.uk
- Caffeine and shaking hands from Livestrong
- Mitral valve prolapse information
Related posts on this blog:
- A connection between caffeine, Mitral Valve Prolapse, and high sensitivity?
- Sensitive to Caffeine: It’s my Kryptonite
Do you like the show?
If you enjoy my podcast and blog, if you find it helpful, uplifting, or entertaining, that’s awesome! Would you consider giving just $1 per episode? It would allow me to continue making these shows every week. Check out my Patreon page to see how it works. You can get special rewards, too!
Note: All podcast and blog content is free, as always, I’m just asking for support!
Podcast music attribution: By the Coast (2004) (Antony Raijekov) / CC BY-NC 2.5
Don’t know if this is just a coincidence or maybe the reason why you chose this topic, but in the HSP sub on reddit (http://www.reddit.com/r/hsp/) there are currently 2 discussions on how coffee, alcohol and drugs have an effect on us HSPs.
I myself can’t really relate because I neither drink coffee nor do I take drugs, but it was an interesting episode nonetheless 🙂
That’s cool! Thanks for letting me know, I will have to check it out! It *was* a coincidence. 🙂
This episode (along with many others) made me tear up because of relatability. You spoke about caffeine. I am extremely sensitive to anything that may change energy levels like sleep meds(drugs with drowsy side effects) or caffeine. I am unable to take Benadryl because it puts me asleep for hours and hours. More than anyone I know. Side note- also gives me night terrors.
i feel an almost instant effect on just a sip of coffee. Any taste of caffeine has to be regulated.
But the thing that made me tearful was the mention of MVP. I was diagnosed with this after runs of palpitations. I had instant clarity when you quoted “sensitive hearts have to cope with a great deal to early in life”. I have also always been very aware of my heartbeat. I often find myself hearing my heartbeat and feeling blood pulsating in the areas of my body I focus on. Sometimes my heart beats so loud (not truly loud, but loud to me) it keeps me up at night. Thanks for this podcast.
Also.. I think you mentioned it a little bit and I haven’t gotten through all of your podcasts to see if you talk about it, but I think it’s worth mentioning.. I am that one person who gets the weird or unusual side effects from medications. For example, becoming incapacitated from a single dose of Benadryl, seizures from just a small dose of pain medication, etc. I also only take HALF of the lowest dose of anything. I took half of a melatonin one time (don’t remember the dosage) while my friend and own mother need 5-6 of those same pills for an effect. I could go on and on, but I just had to put it out there. Thanks again so much.
All what I can say is that you are not alone.
I really hope you are doing great and staying safe 🙂
I have struggled with caffeine for years (I hate to admit it, but 4 liters of Diet Pepsi a day is not uncommon for me). In my case, I know I drink caffeine to offset mental fatigue. I never understood why I felt so spent at the end of the day until I realized that it’s basically mental fatigue. Since learning more about HSP’s (thanks in great deal to this site), I realize that my brain is on hyper-drive compared to those whose brains move at a more “normal speed”.
Yes, I know it’s a vicious circle. On one hand, the caffeine is fighting off that mental fatigue, and on the other hand, it’s probably exacerbating it at the same time by causing my brain to work even faster. Still, there are some days when I feel like I just can’t maintain focus without it.
Dan, thanks for your comment. The vicious circle you mention is very interesting–I never thought about it that way. Maybe there is a happy medium where you allow yourself to only consume a certain amount per day. Or maybe a detox is in order??!?
Well, I guess it’s at least good that I’m not overloading myself with tons of sugar. Being Diabetic, it’s all diet pop. Not that it’s necessarily better. In fact, I often joke with my wife that when I die (which I hope won’t be for a very long time), she won’t have to pay to have me embalmed because I’ve probably got enough Aspartame in my body to preserve it for the next 100 years!
Hey, if ya can’t have a good laugh once in a while! 🙂
A very interesting episode, thanks 🙂 I kind of recognize the symptoms, but I was diagnosed with hyperventilation. And it was related to drugs I think, the first times I hyperventilated was after smoking marihuana. I stopped smoking, but the hyperventilation didn’t suddenly stop. I wasn’t a coffee drinker, so there is no connection.
I don’t know whether the hyper ventilation was part of MVP. I had all the symptoms, but I think those symptoms could all be caused by hyperventilation too.
And yes, sensitive to pain killers, which is cheap, I only have to take half a pill to make it work 😉
haha, me too, I save money on painkillers 🙂
Do you still experience hyperventilation? Is it part of a panic/anxiety attack?
I too am super sensitive to caffeine and drugs. I will limit myself to one or two cups of coffee or tea a week because I like the taste not because I need a jolt. At that limit I usually do not experience any side effects as long as I have it early in the morning. I have not been diagnosed with any heart conditions but I used to get heart palpitations. I attributed that too the stress I was under at the time.
And the sensitivity to drugs is challenging. I’ve always had to tell Anesthesiologists that I don’t need what most people at my weight need. If I take a Rx pain med it will make me drowsy and worthless for about 24 hrs. And sleeping aids are a major problem even when I cut the tablet down to a quarter I would get amazing technicolor, highly detailed dreams that would cause me to try to complete the dream after I woke up. Things like I need to change my clothes for no reason to needing to find something that was important but not knowing what that something was. I now use a natural melatonin for sleep. I still get amazing dreams but don’t wake up crazy.
The biggest action that I use to calm the HS traits in me is prayer. Being thankful for the gift and the positive attributes it gives and requests to guide me where I can use my gifts to help others.
Thank you for this forum Kelly
Thanks for the comment Johnnie! I have heard of people using melatonin for sleep a lot lately; I should check it out! It sounds like we share a lot of the same tendencies.
Thank you so much for sharing! I am an HSP who has recently been diagnosed with ADHD. Naturally, the medication for ADHD that they have given me is Dexedrine, a stimulant similar to coffee, though much more potent.
Since beginning the drug regime (two weeks ago) I have had an impossible time sleeping because every night I wake to my heart fluttering, and pounding out of my chest. I have seen 4 doctors over the past weeks and all of them tell me the feeling will likely go away once my body ‘adapts.’ This may be true, but it is very clear that my reaction seems to be strongly amplified compared to other patience these doctors are working with.
A few of the doctors have even mentioned that I am clearly “sensitive to medication.” I have also experienced medication sensitivity continuously.. I was unable to take birth control pills or Prozac (once perscribed to me for anxiety). I have been quite hesitant to take many medications because of this history.
Since beginning Dexedrine, I have had one ECG done and it came back as ‘normal’… Even though I could feel my heart thudding. The ECG was done about two hours after my medication had worn off that day, though. I am not sure what to do yet, because I feel much better through the day with the medication, and am able to get things done that I would normally feel very overwheed by. Nonetheless, I fear I might be doing some damage to my heart muscle despite the words of the doctors. I also very much think my body’s highly intense reaction to a dose that is actually quite low must be related to my high sensitivity.
Learning about your heart condition makes me ponder this more. I will also read about the connection from Dr. Elaine’s perspective. This is all very interesting.
Thank you so much.
Hi Jen, thanks for sharing. As I read your comment, I thought about how I get really anxious when I worry about health issues. I hope this worry about your medication isn’t causing you to feel even more anxiety. I have faith that your doctors will find a drug or dosage that works for you, especially since you are aware of how it is affecting you. Maybe they can just give you a smaller dosage? Well, obviously I’m not a doctor. 🙂
I listened to this podcast because I am experimenting with different OTC antihistamines right now. In the past, I have had extreme and unusual side effects from widely used over-the-counter antihistamines. Pseudoephedrine makes me white out and fall over. Chlorpheniramine obliterates my short-term memory so I can barely make it through a sentence before I forget what I’m talking about.
And it isn’t just antihistamines. I had to stop taking ibuprofen for headaches because it was giving me headaches!
About diphenhydramine (benadryl), which several people mentioned – I have found it very effective without the drowsiness issue if I cut 25 mg pills in half and take one every 3 hours or so. Bear in mind it was tested durng an era when drugs were routinely tested only on men because hormonal cycles in women were considered to interfere with the tests. (This is unfortunately still often the case. Never mind that women with those very same hormonal cycles will also be taking the drug!). One result of this policy is that dosages are often geared towards larger bodies.
But getting back to my current experiments – once again I am experiencing uncommon side effects. And this made me wonder whether this might be typical HSPs. It also makes me wonder whether specific side effects that are uncommon in the general population maybe common for HSPs.
Researchers really need to be identifying HSPs within their subject pool so we can start getting answers to some of these questions.
The heart condition connection was news to me. I, too, can sometimes hear my heart beating, especially when I wear my noise reducing headphones.
I have not quite decided whether I fit the extra-sensitive HSP profile when it comes to caffeine. I definitely I have to be careful about taking it too late in the day, and I also limit my intake to one drink a day for the most part.
However I am a little confused about what constitutes a more sensitive reaction to caffeine versus a normal reaction, since caffeine is known for its effects on everyone.
My son keeps complaining that his tummy is aching, I thought that it was just normal but when he peed there’s a blood in his urine, it causes angst to everyone. We took him to the doctor to find out what was wrong, the doctor said that he has the classic signs of Henoch-Schönlein purpura. That explains, this episode helped me to figure out what’s the culprit behind this condition. My son loved soda and coffee is his partner in studies. Great!
I recently had heart palpitations and noticed coffee during the day made them worse. I am a classroom teacher, probably one of the most challenging jobs for an hsp, and I thought the combination of chaos, breaks in routine, and overstimulation at the end of the year, hot, humid weather, in a stifling, hot classroom, allergies, and caffeine all contributed to them. After a month of summer vacation, they went away, but just started up again! I racked my brain trying to think of what I did differently and came to the conclusion that it was dark chocolate! When we think of caffeine, we typically think of coffee and soda, but it turns out the one square of dark chocolate has the amount of a cup of coffee. Chocolate effects me in many other ways so I should know better.
Wow, I didn’t realize dark chocolate had THAT much caffeine! Thank you for opening my eyes!
Yes! I’m super sensitive to caffeine. It makes me nervous, jittery, and even nauseated and the effect lasts for hours. I don’t drink any caffeine now after realizing this pattern. I also had SVT (rapid heartbeat) and had to go to ER several times for heart to be put back in normal rhythm. One of the episodes was after taking the old version of sudafed. I had an ablation to fix the problem. I also can’t tolerate Benadryl or epinephrine used to numb for dental work. I also have high anxiety and sometimes panic attacks for no apparent reason. This podcast is very interesting to me. Ever since I was a child I’ve been told I’m sensitive so this all adds up!
Hi Kelly, Thank you for your wonderful podcast episodes and blog. I have only recently discovered that I’m an HSP and it’s a relief to know I’m not crazy. My boyfriend is being very supportive and is really interested in knowing all about it – another huge relief!
Anyway, yes, I have mitral valve prolapse. It bothered me a lot for many years and often I would think I was having a heart attack. I’m also hypoglycemic, have hypothyroidism, and for years I also had chronic adrenal fatigue – which I had no idea were in any way related to MVP until I read the article you posted a link to! Over the course of the last couple of years I have managed to heal all of my health problems using natural health solutions. The main thing that stops my crazy palpitations and regulates my heart beat is magnesium, but I also take all of the other things on that list in the article – though I was taking those for other health reasons and had no idea that they would also help with the MVP !!
I also do not eat sugar as I have discovered it’s the number 1 offender for me in regards to anxiety. I can now enjoy one cup of coffee per day with no symptoms, but only since I’ve healed my adrenals. Any more than one cup and I’m in for a completely sleepless night, so it’s not worth it.
Thank you again for your work – it’s changed my life!
Love & Light
Rachel (in Spain)
Hi Rachel, thanks so much for your post! I have thought about stopping eating sugar but it seem SO insurmountable! But I keep hearing about it over and over….I really should try….but HOW?!? I love sugar…..
I’m so glad to hear you have learned about your health issues and taken steps to make them better. Thanks for listening to the show!
Thanks for your reply Kelly 🙂
I thought I couldn’t give up sugar either – it’s HIGHLY addictive!! However, with all of my health problems I knew that I absolutely HAD to give it up. Plus, when I gave up sugar for a few months and then had a blow out on a load of cake for my birthday I had such terrible anxiety and depression for about a week afterwards! It then became very easy to go back to my new way of eating because nothing is more important to me than my peace of mind. Piece of cake, or peace of mind …….. it’s an easy choice for me these days! If I want to sweeten a drink I use stevia – it’s a natural sweetener which is actually good for you.
I was a HUGE carb and sugar eater and it was a BIG adjustment to remove these things from my diet because they are so addictive – but I feel SO much better and now I no longer crave it because I’m not feeding my addiction. All I eat now are fresh organic veggies and fruit, fish, free range eggs, cheese, olives, nuts, olive and coconut oil, protein shakes, and Greek yogurt. No potatoes, (sweet potatoes are ok though), no pasta, bread, or rice – though I will eat brown rice occasionally. I appreciate my food more and I always enjoy it. I (almost) never get bored with it. Sugar is really bad anyway and going without it can really help to heal from many illnesses and help to prevent many others. I was having hypoglycemia attacks daily before I changed the way I eat – now I have not had one in almost 2 years. Gluten can also make me a little crazy – quite aggressive actually!! Plus, it can affect the body negatively in many other ways – so I don’t have that either! It might sound extreme but it’s a small price to pay for good health after being so sick.
I was really very sick for quite a long time – doctors were only interested in pill pushing which did nothing to address the root cause of any of my illnesses …… anti depressants …… really??!! All I did was change my diet and add in some carefully researched natural supplements …….. and now I’m healed. It’s pretty exciting and empowering I have to say!!
It definitely helps that I live alone in a remote place where there are no restaurants or any shops aside from a small supermarket that only stocks essentials. I have nothing to tempt me here! Trust me – if I were surrounded by sugary foods I would find it more of a struggle!!
Your comment meant a lot to me–I was at the store today and really wanted to buy a snack but I didn’t because I was thinking about sugar. Here’s a question–what about a food like Thai curry, in a restaurant, that probably has sugar in it? What if you don’t know if a food has sugar? Oh it just seems like such a huge mountain to climb. Did you use any resources to help you do it? (books, etc?) Other than stevia, can you use anything else sweet, like honey or agave? I just can’t imagine not having sweetness….guess I’m super addicted. :/
On the topic of sugar, just FYI… the new low-sugar version of their coconut milk butter pecan ice cream by So Delicious is fantastic if you’re trying to cut back on sugar. I think it has only 3g per serving, but you wouldn’t know it. I’m sensitive to sugar, wheat and dairy, but I seem to do very well with this particular ice cream when eaten in moderation. If you’re allergic to nuts, probably not so good, and it’s made in a plant that processes wheat, so not a safe bet if you’re diagnosed with Celiac. But if you’re just trying to reduce sugar, I think this ice cream is a genuine miracle for those who love ice cream but had to eliminate it due to dairy or sugar sensitivities. I’m so happy to be able to eat ice cream again 🙂
thanks!! I’ve tried the So Delicious ice cream before when I was trying to cut out dairy, but I never tried that flavor! will give it a shot :)) THanks!
Hi Rachel, Kelly & Everyone.. This has been eye-opening & helpful for me reading these things, cause I’ve experienced the heart palpitations, getting weakened physically & bothered mentally, by coffee or caffeine.. and recognize or identify with HSP (today is the first time I’ve read about it).
I also have hypoglycemic attacks, part of the problem is eating lots of dried fruit; raisins, dates, bananas, etc in lots of homemade yogurt..natural sugars. They, and carbs raise blood sugar too much! Have to tighten up the ship! Yeah.. so, I’m wondering what the supplements were that you found helpful in your case?
Yep, definitely sensitive to caffeine (I can feel the caffeine in chocolate and have resorted to that instead of coffee for alertness at work during the day and school at night). Also sensitive to medications – I typically ask for pediatric doses and usually cut those in half. Went to Urgent Care with tachycardia one time after taking normal doses of a nasal spray and decongestant for bad spring allergies. Also have been diagnosed with supra ventricular contractions in my heart – the EP cardiologist said they are because I have a cluster of cells in my heart that are sensitive to adrenaline, so I tend to get them with prolonged periods of stress and anxiety. About a year ago, I realized that caffeine gives me more anxiety than energy – those two can look a lot alike sometimes – so I hadn’t noticed. Glad there are others out there who know what this is like. It is exhausting, and noises can be so painful!!!! I have to wear ear plugs in the car when my husband is talking, put on soothing music in my headphones at work when my supervisor types loudly and I feel like she’s stabbing my inner ears, and always want the lights dimmer than others. Also riding in the car when sun is shining brightly through trees drives me nuts (no pun intended) – the constant flashing of bright light, tree blocking it, bright light, tree blocking it, and so forth, makes me nauseated. Curious if you have heard of the MTHFR gene and mutations? You may want to read about the 677 one in particular – my doc who is a genetic expert said that damaged copies of this gene are what causes my sensitivity. Hope this helps some.
Thanks for the comment. I have not heard of the MTHFR gene but I will do some reading. THank you!!
Omgsh. I didn’t know that other people felt like that when drinking caffine. I used to think it was panic attacks but coffee mainly gives me heart flutters once in a blue moon if I have had too much coffee.
I just found you podcasts on iTunes. I have never listened to any podcast (in general) before. I know I am an HSP for a few years now and I’ve read a book about it, but it is so nice to listen to your podcasts and to realise, once again, that I am not weird or different. So thanks for sharing your stories, it’s great!
About caffeine, I did read that it has a strong effect on HSPs. So when I occasionally drink caffeine, I know it probably effects me so much because of my trait. When I drink coffee I get really shaky hands and my entire body just feels really weird.
You also said something about the strong heartbeat. I wake up anxious on a daily basis, and often I can sense my heartbeat really well. I was wondering if there was something wrong with my heart or that I was just feeling really stressed (which I am very often). But I guess it is another thing that’s part of being an HSP.
Hi Robin, thanks for the comment. I’m happy this episode resonated with you!! 🙂
It’s hard for me to drink the right amount of caffeine when I’m sleep deprived. Too little and I’m still tired and too much makes me anxious (which also hurts my stomach). The range between the two extremes is very small. When you’re an HSP with IBS, you can’t win. Unfortunately, I developed a tolerance for Benadryl and it no longer helps me sleep unless I have a rash or mosquito bite.
Ah, I learn so much from this podcast – thanks, Kelly! I didn’t know heart palpitations was related to being a HSP. I have them too – usually during stressful times. But I’ve not been diagnosed with anything.
I’m very sensitive to caffeine – but I love coffee, so I just have decaf (unless they only have instant..). But sometimes the barista makes a mistake, which pretty much ruins the rest of my day. I end up feeling nauseated, shaky and .. yeah. Ill.
At home I like to have this coffee replacement, which tastes great: https://shop.wholeearthfoods.com/products/whole-earth-organic-nocaf-100-g (UK only, sorry – but I’m sure similar products exist elsewhere!)
I’m really quite sensitive to chemical substances in general. I have a very low alcohol tolerance level, for instance.. I haven’t tried any other drugs, perhaps because I have had this intuitive sense of not tolerating them. (And not wanting to mess around with my body) I am extremely careful when it comes to medication and avoid taking any as much as possible. But I do sometimes take pain killers if my menstrual cramps get intolerable.
I was diagnosed with MVP as a teenager it has since gone away but the connection is so interesting. I am also very sensitive to caffine and sugar(feel as if I’m crawling out of my own skin.
Thank you so much for being brave and sharing your knowledge and experience!
I find this podcast very informative and really helpful, especially since I love drinking coffee. Although I usually suffer from heartburn whenever I drink it.
I have been listening to all your podcasts on youtube, until I reached to this episode and said I must write to you. I hope you read it and comment.
I’m 37 years old, and I’ve always struggled in my career not knowing the reason. I’m really good in what I do however I was always unhappy, really unhappy person.
In my last job, I worked as a brand manager which is sales (Watches and Jewelry) and my manager told me that my problem is that i’m sensitive, the word really triggered me and I started my research.
Now that I am at home, I got the chance to listen to all your podcasts, Kelly, they all speak to me big time. But when I reached to this episode and when you spoke about MVP I was even more surprised. I was diagnosed with MVP when I was 27 years old.
I really need to read more above this subject and understand the link between MVP and HSP.
Thank you so much for your efforts and the help you’re giving HSP’s to understand the reason for why they are experiencing such an intense life.
Hi Sanaa. Thank you for your message. It is ironic that you wrote about MVP at this time because I recently discovered I do not have MVP, but I have another heart issue. I have symptomatic frequent palpitations (also called PVCs) and I now take a beta blocker to regulate my heart. My heart also races sometimes for no reason (tachycardia). I sometimes think the fact that I have been constantly anxious my entire life may have caused my heart to behave this way. I am relatively young to have heart issues so it makes me quite sad. So I do wonder if heart issues could be caused by a lifetime of being very sensitive to things. Maybe it takes a toll on one’s body.
Thank you for the kind words! I’m so glad you enjoyed the podcast :))
Hi Kelly. I have recently realised I am a HSP and have loved listening to your short podcasts. I have enjoyed giggling to your funny quirks and annoyances as I totally get it.
Your caffeine one really rang true to me and weirdly I related to all the symptoms of MVR.
I went to the doctor and have been diagnosed with this plus mild-moderate regurgitation. I am feeling a little bit anxious about it as I also have paplations and weird ectopic beats that seem to be happening a lot. I wondered if you may have discussed this topic further anywhere?
I’m about to have a holter monitor to check things out. The palpations have coincided with me starting a very stressful job. Have you noticed your symptoms alter with stress? I don’t remember having these prior the the last few months and now they won’t go away.
Thank you for listening 😊
If I could sleep 7-8 hours straight through a night, I think perhaps I wouldn’t have such a need for the caffeine. I love my two cups of Cafe Verona in the morning. And then, I will go through approximately another 32 fl oz of Diet Pepsi per day. I want that focus and that edge while i am working and I really don’t notice (at least currently) feeling anxious.
I have always been very sensitive to caffeine and even a half a cup makes me sick with anxiety, rapid heart beat, shaky hands and nausea so I don’t drink it anymore. I am also very sensitive to medication. I do not like to take any pain killers, cold medicine or really anything that alters the way I feel. Last year I was experience bouts of rapid heart beat that would occur up to twenty times daily with a distinct start and end, occurring after intense workout and throughout the day randomly. It was very strange and because I get very worried about health issues it was causing me a lot of stress and panic attacks, which I’m sure was not helping the situation at all. I went to a cardiologist and he had me wear a heart monitor for a couple weeks and eventually told me that it was nothing to worry about. They also told me that since I was a small person I may be more aware of my heartbeat than others. I got a second opinion and this doctor told me that he prefers to do a procedure to fix what he calls a glitch in the electrical rhythm of your heartbeat. The doctor performed Cardiac Ablation for the AVRT causing the tachycardia and I haven’t had many issues since. It was a very scary experience for me. I am just learning about highly sensitive people and it surprises me how much I can relate with my experiences. Thanks for the podcast! It was very interesting.