Green tea allergy: symptoms, causes, diagnosis

Tea (green, black and oolong) is considered one of the most popular beverages in the world. Green tea is ranked in the top three, thanks to its high antioxidant content.

Although generally well tolerated, it may cause an allergic reaction in some people.

This article explains the symptoms of a green tea allergy, how it is diagnosed and treated, and healthy alternatives.

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Health benefits of green tea

Some of the health benefits of green tea include:

Ongoing research examines green tea extract for preventing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and lowering cholesterol.

Green tea allergy symptoms

Like other allergies, a green tea allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to an allergen by producing antibodies that trigger an allergic reaction.

Allergic reactions can cause symptoms in the ears, nose, throat, and sinuses. It can also cause symptoms on the skin and stomach lining.

Potential symptoms of an allergic reaction to green tea include:

What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. Symptoms such as vomiting, swelling of the tongue or throat, and difficulty breathing come on suddenly and can progress quickly. For this reason, it requires immediate emergency attention.

Why does it happen

There is little information on green tea allergies. Research suggests that an allergy can be triggered by a tannin (natural compound) found in green tea called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).

Green tea also contains caffeine, which can trigger a reaction in someone with non-allergic caffeine intolerance or caffeine allergy.

However, a small study suggests it could also be triggered by tea leaf dust. Researchers looked at Japanese green tea factory workers who developed difficulty breathing, coughing, and loss of consciousness after ingesting green tea, oolong tea, or black tea. They also experienced symptoms after eating cakes or noodles containing green tea powder.

The study found that less than half of the participants had developed a food allergy due to inhaling green tea dust at work. Many participants with allergic reactions to green tea had consumed green tea in the past without difficulty.

Risk factors

For most adults, green tea is safe when consumed in moderation. However, the following people should consult their health care provider before drinking green tea:

  • pregnant people: Some research suggests that caffeine may reduce birth weight and height.
  • caffeine sensitivity: People sensitive to caffeine may experience irritability, anxiety, restlessness, or upset stomach after drinking green tea.
  • young children: Caffeine is not recommended for children under 12 years of age.

Green tea intolerance

Unlike a green tea allergy, an intolerance occurs in the digestive system. Intolerance can occur for several reasons, including:

  • Absence of certain digestive enzymes
  • Sensitivity to natural compounds in a food or drink
  • Sensitivity to certain food additives

How to Diagnose a Green Tea Allergy

If you suspect a green tea allergy, it’s important to see your healthcare provider or allergist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

To make the diagnosis, your healthcare provider:

  • Ask for detailed information about your medical history
  • Perform a physical examination
  • Perform proven allergy tests

Most diagnoses are confirmed by oral food challenges; However, more research is needed to develop a blood test to diagnose green tea allergy.

Tea Intolerance Symptoms

The symptoms of green tea sensitivity or intolerance are different from those of a tea allergy. If you have a green tea intolerance, you may experience:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nervousness
  • Gas or bloating

Green tea allergy treatment

For mild symptoms, your healthcare provider may suggest over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines, which can help reduce symptoms such as swelling, itching, and hives.

The best way to treat a green tea allergy is to not drink it. You may also need to avoid consuming other foods or beverages Camellia Sinensis, such as:

  • matcha tea
  • Black tea
  • Oolong tea

For a severe allergy that causes anaphylaxis, you will need epinephrine treatment (EpiPen), which must be with you at all times.

Alternatives to green tea

If you’re allergic to green tea, consider these alternatives, which have similar benefits:

  • Herbal teas
  • pomegranate juice
  • beet juice
  • Acai juice
  • Kombucha

Summary

Green tea is one of the healthiest beverages in the world. Although a green tea allergy is rare, it can still happen. Most green tea allergies are related to its compounds (tannins and caffeine). However, new studies suggest that a protein in green tea may also trigger an allergic reaction. Treatment often includes removing green tea from your diet.

A word from Verywell

Although rare, being diagnosed with a green tea allergy can be frustrating, especially if you enjoy it. The good news is that many alternatives can provide similar benefits. However, if you think you have an allergy or intolerance to green tea, you should speak with your health care provider or allergist.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you drink green tea before an allergy test?

    Prior to allergy testing, green tea and other supplements should be avoided for five to seven days.

  • Is green tea bad to drink every day?

    No, for people with no known allergies or intolerances, drinking green tea every day can benefit a person’s overall health.

  • Why do I have a sore throat after drinking green tea?

    The tannins in green tea can contribute to dry mouth and throat, leading to a sore throat.

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