Is Caffeine Giving You A Headache? Why Your Body May Have Trouble Dealing With This “Foreign” Substance

Have you ever noticed that products such as cologne, laundry detergent or shampoo give you a headache? If so, one of the reasons is that most of them contain perfumes. What you may not know is that perfume – often labeled as “fragrance” or “parfum” on a cosmetic ingredients’ list – usually represents a complex mixture of dozens to hundreds of chemicals! Interestingly, fragrance is used as an ingredient in nearly every type of personal care product.

Another common cause of headaches is caffeine. Exposure to any caffeinated substances – coffee, cola, chocolate and related foods, and pain-relieving medications that contain caffeine – can be extremely deleterious to certain individuals.

What’s The Connection Between Certain Perfumes And Caffeine?

A significant percentage of the population’s bodily chemistry is ineffective in detoxifying foreign, biologically troublesome chemicals – the way their body removes chemicals is inefficient. Unfortunately, all of us meet with a myriad of foreign chemicals daily. Yet, certain individuals are made ill by these foreign chemicals as, since their bodily chemistry is slow in dealing with foreign chemicals, these chemicals end up accumulating in their blood. These individuals often experience a variety of symptoms upon exposure to foreign chemicals, such as headaches, not due to an allergic process, but, rather a biochemical process due to enzyme- deficiencies. These people typically do not connect their suffering to the source.

This genetic difference among individuals is called genetic polymorphism, the foreign molecules are called xenobiotics, and the system of enzymes that detoxifies chemicals is called the Cytochrome P450 system. Therefore, these individuals have a genetically inefficient Cytochrome P450 system and are, thus, genetically predisposed to have such problems.

Besides headaches, when these people encounter these foreign molecules, the result can be symptoms that include asthma, gastrointestinal and bladder problems, muscular aches, joint pain and even depression.

Common culprits are vapors from some household cleansers and automobile exhaust fumes, organic solvents (like those from permanent marking pens), new carpeting, and carpet glues.

Although a “natural” substance, caffeine acts as if it were a “foreign,” synthetic substance and must be processed and detoxified by an enzyme system (xanthine oxidase), in a process that is like the detoxification of “foreign” chemicals. This is why caffeine often causes these genetically sensitive people to feel ill.

Others Are Born Efficient In Detoxifying Foreign Chemicals But Undergo Genetic Damage & They Too Suffer

While some people are born with an inefficient Cytochrome P450 system and do not detoxify foreign molecules well, other people are born efficient, but due to substantial or regular exposure to xenobiotics, particularly ones that have some degree of toxicity, genetic damage ensues resulting in inefficient chemical detoxification. Thus, they also deal with a plethora of symptoms upon exposure to foreign molecules – caffeine being one of these.

How Do You Know If Your Symptoms Are Due To Inefficient Chemical Detoxification?

Make note of the way you feel upon exposure to these chemicals as well as a few days later. Adverse reaction can occur anywhere from minutes to hours after you have encountered these chemicals, while a delayed reaction can begin about 24 hours after the exposure. Paying attention to how you feel will offer a clue as to whether you are inefficient at detoxifying xenobiotics and can help to explain any symptoms you are suffering with.


Rea WJ: Chemical Sensitivity. Boca Raton, Lewis Publishers, 1991, vol 1; 1994, vol 2; 1996, vol 3
Nebert DW: Possible Clinical Importance of Genetic Differences in Drug Metabolism. BioMed J. 283:537, 1981