Does Caffeine Have the Same Effect on Everyone?

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of people say, “Caffeine doesn’t affect me,” which confused me.  It has always been my understanding that caffeine is a stimulant and should be likely to affect one person the same as any other. Right? I mean, a stimulant is a stimulant. It triggers the brain and central nervous system, making a person more alert and elevating their mood. On paper, caffeine should produce the same outcome for everyone.

And yet, that isn’t the case. Or, at least, not the perceived case. Instantly, I can think of two extreme examples.

I used to work with a man who drank coffee all day. I’m not talking about sipping on a cup or two throughout the day. He made several pots of coffee every day and never went anywhere without his travel mug in hand. When asked, he would say caffeine “didn’t bother him,” and yet, I can still see him in every meeting with his leg bobbing up and down, shifting in his seat every couple of minutes. It was impossible for him to sit still. (I won’t even get into his reactionary temperament.)

On the other hand, my niece used to say she couldn’t drink coffee, because it made her “feel weird.” When prodded to elaborate, she said she wanted to crawl out of her skin and had crazy thoughts and dreams—if she was even able to fall asleep. Were her brain and central nervous system simply more sensitive?

According to Healthline’s website, there is some truth to the idea that caffeine affects people differently. Depending on your level of sensitivity, you may be able to down a cup of joe just before bedtime and still fall asleep with ease, or you might curse every drop of caffeine when you try to settle down for the night. Healthline references a 2011 study which showed 10 percent of the population feels no effects, due to a gene that allows for higher caffeine intake without side effects.

While I’m not saying this study was wrong, are you part of that 10 percent? Or are you one of the many people who have an addiction to caffeine, and you don’t even notice anymore how it affects you? It’s an important distinction to make.

After all, the nutrition greats have been warning us about the detriments of caffeine for years:

Since we can’t all be part of the 10 percent with the caffeine-friendly gene, many of us would benefit from evaluating the effect it has in our lives. If you decide you want to cut back, or cut out caffeine entirely, try experimenting with caffeine-free herbal teas to see if one can scratch that coffee itch. If you’re a soda drinker, try using those herbal teas to make a batch of unsweetened iced tea. You may be surprised by the impact this small shift has on your everyday health.

Image from iStock/CREATISTA

Paula Widish

Paula Widish, author of Trophia: Simple Steps to Everyday Self-Health, is a freelance writer and self-healther. She loves nothing more than sharing tidbits of information she discovers with others. (Actually, she loves her family more than that—and probably bacon too.) Paula has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Relations and is a Certified Professional Life Coach through International Coach Academy.

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One thought on “Does Caffeine Have the Same Effect on Everyone?

  1. Danielle LeBaron says:

    Paula, Maria asked me to post this for her:

    Hi Paula,

    Great post on coffee and thanks for referencing my own recent blog post on the coffee subject. Indeed no matter how many articles you read about the efficacy that coffee helps the heart, asthma etc., it is a substance that does more damage than good. In a recent post I even read that the addiction to coffee can be as bad as that connected to heroine! Good luck to the gentleman in your post that drinks several coffee pots a day – Wow, no doubt his adrenals are in a constant state of high alert, not good healthy energy that can be had by so many other wonderful, non-addictive foods and drinks. Sally Fallon herself in a recent email to the chapter leaders says that her 3:00 PM slump drink is 1 TBS of coconut oil, and about 1/2 TBS organic maple syrup melted in a cup of hot water.

    Maria Atwood, CNHP

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