Monday, 10 September 2012

Coffee allergy

I'm allergic to instant coffee.  It's nothing to worry about in the grand scheme of things, and it's easily avoided since I can drink ground coffee with impunity.  But it seems that there is something in instant coffee to which I am allergic, that is not present in filter coffee, or just possibly, perhaps, there is something absent from instant coffee that inhibits my allergic reaction.

The reaction itself is quite characteristic, is associated only with instant coffee, and is one I have only come across in one other context:  If I drink instant coffee on a daily basis, after about two weeks the skin on the palms of my hands starts to become dry and flaky.  My fingerprints disappear, and my hands start to itch.  At its extreme, I can see little pinhead-sized white spots under the skin, that, when they reach the surface erupt into areas of dry skin. This is accompanied by an increase in the sweat present on my palms, and an unpleasant, almost painful itch that is only relieved by dunking my hands is the hottest water I can stand.

Elsewhere: apparently, competitive cycling can bring it, or something very similar, on in certain people.  I believe that it's also known what metabolic pathway is disturbed, but it's something I haven't really looked into.

I discovered the cause of the reaction quite by chance, after having put up with it for 20 years or so. (Antihistamine and other creams never really worked).  I got fed up with the disgusting instant coffee with milk powder from the machines at work, that I drank simply because I was addicted to the stuff.  So I weaned myself off caffeine, and miraculously shortly after, my itchy hand symptoms were greatly alleviated.  It took homeopathic sulphur a little time later, to clear the problem completely, and I really don't care if homeopathy doesn't work because it can't.  It works for me, even if it's completely down to a placebo effect. 

I used to have a standard espresso machine, but I got fed up with the way the ground coffee would spill whenever I made a cup, so I invested in a Nespresso, with which I am quite content: no allergic reaction to domestic Nespresso.   So I got a Nespresso Pro machine for the gîte as well.

Now Nespresso Pro uses different-shaped coffee capsules from the domestic machines.  Apparently, it's to stop people nicking the capsules from work to use at home.  And here's the thing.  When I drink the Nespresso Pro coffee, I start to get a mild allergic reation to the coffee after a while, just like I used to with instant.  Nestlé tell me there is no instant coffee in the Pro capsules, but I am not so sure.  Or perhaps it is a colourant, or something.  Perhaps even some chemical residue due to the packaging.

So there you have it.  Got itchy hands?  Look at your coffee consumption.  Switch to filter for a while, just to see.  Good luck.


Tim Trent said...

Love your analysis of homoeopathy. I agree. For us not all remedies work, but those that work, work. Placebo schmacebo, who cares, as long as it works. Technically it can't work, of course it can't. But you tell my dogs that. We used it on them and they got better. We used vets, too, for big things. That worked, too. I was going to say 'horses for courses', but somehow that's a step too far.

Opus T. Penguin said...

I think I've isolated your problem. Ground coffee has an ingredient that instant coffee does not have. It's call TASTE.

the fly in the web said...

That is quite a puzzle...and very interesting that you get the reaction with the Nespresso Pro though not, if I read this correctly, with the household version.

Mark In Mayenne said...

Yep; Tim, I don't care, as long as it works.

Mr Penguin you could have the answer right there.

Yes, Fly, you do read correctly. I get allergy with Nespresso Pro but not the household version.

James Higham said...

That's an amazing tale but I also suspect it's an excuse to use that coffee machine there. I have similar and it makes life bearable.

Funny thing, allergies - there are some foods, e.g. coffee cake, which give me rhinitis [or makes it worse]. Probably the E number.

Mark In Mayenne said...

(Fly: I have changed the wording of the post to make my meaning clearer)

The bike shed said...

I have a nesspresso too - two in fact!

No wise insights into why though.

Cara Westerman said...

Thank you! I have a domestic Nespresso machine at home and haven't had a problem since we got it - like you, I am very content. However, I've started to get allergies since starting my new job which has the Nespresso pro machine. I get what sounds like the exact same reaction as yours (albeit not as intense)on the top of my lip next to my nose, not my hands.

I have been trying to work out the cause and have seen nutritionists that have changed my diet to try and fix it. I have also tried creams which have only sought to calm it down, not fix the problem.

Having recently stopped drinking the coffee at work, the condition has disappeared and this was the only thing I could think it may be related to...

Anonymous said...

An old thread that I just ran into, but I have the opposite problem and am allergic to ground coffee, but not to instant! Was trying to figure out why when I ran into this thread.

Sophie Loe said...

Never had issues with coffee. I started working for a company .months ago. They have a Pro machine which I never tried before. Now my sinus are blocked, I itch all over and feel tired achy and have difficulty concentrating. I read your article just now, and from today I'll stop drink the nespresso. I've not had the consumer nespresso anyway so cannot compare.

Coffee in Canada said...

It took me years to figure out I was allergic to the Nespresso pods. Extremely itchy sores on my scalp which after awhile to my back and then chest. Little sores that had white bumps on them that scratched off. Finally laid off the pods and voila. All gone. Now if I have a cup or two it comes back instantly. What is in those pods other than coffee?

RK said...

Wow, I am so glad I came across your blog post!

I’ve been using Nespresso regular consumer pods for a few years with no issues. About a year ago, made the switch to Nespresso Vertuoline (only available in North America) so that I could have a full cup of coffee versus just expresso shots with the regular Nespresso that is available worldwide.

For about a year or so, I have been fighting constant itchiness of the hands. At times, little bumps would raise up and it would be very itchy. Also, my hands have been extremely dry and flaky. Whatever I do, with creams, lotions, etc, I just cannot get over it and it has been a constant battle. There have also been a small amount of times where I would get bumps on my arms, similar to a rash, and where my fingers would get puffy like an allergic reaction.

The thing is, I have only used my Nespresso machines on the weekends. During the weekday, the company I work for supplies coffee.

For the past few weekends, I have been observing a very common theme. The weekend mornings where I have a cup of Nespresso Vertuoline, about a half an hour into drinking it, my hands get severely itchy. To the point they are so inflamed (probably from the scratching), that I have to run my hands under really cold water to help tame down the itchiness.

After reading your post and some of the comments here, I’m really starting to think I’m having a reaction to the Nespresso Vertuoline pods and/or coffee that is inside. I do not believe I have any issue with the regular Nespresso line that is available worldwide.

I am going to stop drinking coffee completely for 2-3 weeks to see if this helps clear up the problem I’m having with my hands.

Thank you again for your post!

Unknown said...

Ok so I broke out in a rash few days ago and was trying to figure out what's changed in my life....i bought a nespresso vertuoline machine so I googled allergic reaction to nespresso and here I am

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