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Caffeine – What It Is And What The Effects Of Caffeine Are On Your Body

coffee

What Is Caffeine?

Caffeine has become a commonly used substance all over the world. It was originally used among cultures around the globe for ceremonies or stimulation but has since become a regular and overused energy stimulant for the Western world with North America being the highest consumer in caffeine and coffee use.
Coffee, which is ground from the coffee bean, is the main vehicle of caffeine consumption. In the Western world consumers are drinking on average about one to two cups of coffee per day and more than ten pounds yearly. Coffee is one of the most readily and freely marketed substance.

There are multiple reasons that are concerning when it comes to coffee. The toxic chemicals that are used in the process of growing and marketing coffee, is a major concern than that of caffeine itself. The rancified oils and acids that are contained in the bean add further potential hazards. For those trying to cut down caffeine consumption by drinking “decaf” still face being exposed to dangerous chemicals unless it is prepared by the “water or Swiss” process which uses steam distillation to remove caffeine. However, if that process is not being used, chemical agents such as TCE (trichloroethylene) or methyl chloride being used in the chemical processing can be found in residues in the decaf coffee.

Caffeine is widely used in many products such as soft drinks and many over-the-counter drugs. The problem is less with the drug caffeine itself and more with the amounts that are consumed and the constant need of the stimulation on people who use it daily and more than once daily. Labels should warn of the potential risk on health and regular use causing addiction. An area of concern is children and teenagers whom are consuming caffeine in large amounts through soft drinks. Colas already naturally contain caffeine, however, they are adding even more caffeine to the drinks.

Caffeine addiction is often accompanied with other substance addictions such as nicotine and sugar most commonly. Caffeine and sugar both over-stimulates the adrenals and weakens them with chronic use. This is of concern because sugar stimulates and weakens the adrenals resulting in fatigue to which we then use caffeine to awaken our selves and senses, which further depletes the adrenals. In response, more caffeine with sugar is consumed to again wake our senses and selves resulting in a never-ending cycle. People who overuse caffeine often need more tranquilizers and sleeping pills to help them relax or sleep.

Caffeine can become a lifelong drug for many because of its use in common beverages/foods. Hot chocolate and chocolate bars contain some caffeine which we then consume soft drinks which also contains caffeine. As we get older, coffee and tea is usually added to regular consumption, which contains even more caffeine. Many adults are regularly using caffeine on a daily basis, however, with proper education on caffeine and its long-term effects, this is slowly changing.

Caffeine is a class of methylxanthine chemicals / drugs. Theophylline, which is another class of xanthines is commonly found in black teas and is used in medicine to help aid breathing. Theobromine, which is the third class of xanthines is found in cocoa. Methylxanthines are found in many plants such as the kola nut, which was originally used to make colas.

Physiologically speaking, caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system (CNS). A dosage of caffeine, typically between 50-100 mg, which is one cup of coffee, produces a temporary increase in mental awareness and energy levels while reducing drowsiness. It also increases muscle-coordinated activities such as typing. Due to the CNS stimulation, it increases brain activity while stimulating the cardiovascular system, which in turn raises blood pressure and heart rate. Caffeine generally speeds up the body, which results in an increase of the basal metabolic rate (BMR), which helps to burn more calories. Caffeine initially lowers blood sugar levels causing the body to temporarily crave sweets and increased hunger. However, once the adrenals are stimulated, blood sugar levels rise. Since caffeine increases the respiratory rate, people with tight airways can benefit from it as it opens up the passages. Caffeine is a diuretic and mild laxative as well, which many people find as beneficial.

As with any addictive drug, the amount needed to produce the effects of stimulation and alertness will need to be increased when used regularly. Larger doses and more frequently will be needed to produce the same effects otherwise symptoms will develop if the “fix” is not received. Eventually, the body will become dependent on it for it to function; without it, fatigue and drowsiness will occur. Caffeine is a natural stimulant with both physical and psychological addiction potential with withdrawal symptoms similar to that of its abuse.

In a nutritional perspective, coffee and tea do not contain the nutrients needed to support the increased activity they cause. Due to the diuretic property of it, caffeine leads to urinary loss of nutrients.
There are many possible symptoms and signs of caffeine abuse. Caffeine should be used in moderation. Daily use of it can be considered as addiction. Caffeine abuse and addiction is not as bad as an addiction to drugs, however, it can be a problem. Stopping caffeine consumption cold turkey or tapering it off over time may produce symptoms. Slowing tapering it off eases the withdrawal symptoms. When withdrawal is over and detoxification of caffeine is done, it can be used moderately, however, it is easy for it to become a habit and relapse to occur for some individuals. The severity of the addiction will not be known until caffeine is eliminated.

Signs And Symptoms Of Caffeine Abuse

 

Nervousness

Anxiety

Irritability

Agitation

Tremors

Insomnia

Depression

Headache

Upset stomach

GI irritation

Heartburn

Diarrhea

Fatigue

Dizziness

Increased heart rate

Irregular heart beat

Elevated blood pressure

Increased cholesterol

Nutritional deficiencies

Poor concentration

Bed wetting

 

Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms

 

Headache

Craving

Irritability

Insomnia

Fatigue

Depression

Apathy

Constipation

Anxiety

Nervousness

Shakiness

Dizziness

Drowsiness

Inability to concentrate

Runny nose

Nausea

Vomiting

Cramps

Ringing in the ears

Feeling hot and cold

Tachycardia

 

A very common withdrawal symptom among people is a throbbing and/or pressure headache usually located in the temple areas but can also be present at the back of the head or around the eyes. Shortly after, a vague muscular headache will often follow. Caffeine cures the symptoms, however it is not the answer. Supplements and dietary changes may help with the symptoms and withdrawal issues.

As mentioned earlier, caffeine is used in a number of products produced by the food and drug industries. Xanthines are used in products such as coffee, many teas, cola and chocolate. “Black” teas or similar teas contain theophylline and theobromine as does some “green” teas, though they contain less caffeine than coffee. Teas and coffee also contain tannic acid, which is a mild irritant to the gastrointestinal mucosa, which may bind and reduce absorption of minerals such as manganese, copper and zinc. The kola but and cocoa bean also contain caffeine. These are all natural products that have been used as a stimulant throughout history. Caffeine and xanthines are used in many products artificially such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Mountain Dew, Dr.Pepper, and many chocolate bars.

 

Caffeine – Containing Food Products

 

Yerba mate

Kola nut

Some soft drinks

Coffee

Guarana root

Cocoa/chocolate

Tea

 

Both synthesized and extracted forms of caffeine are common in many pharmaceutical preparations. They usually contain caffeine for its stimulating effects to counteract sedating antihistamines or for its cerebral vasodilating effects, which is used to relieve headaches. For example, Cafergot is a prescription drug containing caffeine, which is used for migraines. Caffeine can either help reduce headaches or cause them, which is more common.

 

Caffeine Drugs Available Over The Counter:

  1. Stimulants – NoDoz, Vivarin, Refresh’n
  2. Weight Control – Dexatrim, Dietac
  3. Pain Relief – Excedrin, Anacin, Vanquish, Empirin Compound
  4. Menstrual Pain Relief – Midol, Premens, Aqua-Ban, Cope
  5. Cold Remedies – Dristan, Sinarest

Caffeine Levels* In Common Substances**

 

Coffee and Other Drinks/ 6 oz. cup Amount of Caffeine (mg.) OTC Medicines Amount of Caffeine (mg.)
Drip

Percolated

Instant

Decaf

Black tea

Green tea

Cocoa

Chocolate milk

Cocoa (dry, 1 oz.)

Chocolate (dry, 1 oz.)

120-150

80-110

60-70

3-10

50-60

30-40

10-30

10-15

40-50

5-10

NoDoz

Vivarin

Dexatrim

Dietac

Cafergot

Excedrin

Fiorinal

Anacin

Vanquish

Aqua-Ban

Midol

100

200

200

200

100

65

40

30

33

100

32

Soft drinks, per 12 oz. serving:

Colas                   30-65 mg. caffeine

Mountain Dew         50 mg. caffeine

*These caffeine levels and caffeine equivalents may depend on length of brewing time or amount of product used.

**Information gathered and integrated from at least six different sources.

 

Negative Effects of Caffeine

Negative effects are not of concern with occasional caffeine use a few times a week or even once a day. When the limit of 100 mg. of caffeine daily is exceeded, many problems will arise. A limit of one cup of coffee daily is recommended with every few months taking a week break from caffeine all together to make sure there is no addiction or symptoms following. If symptoms occur, it is best to stop caffeine intake completely.

The following is a list of possible negative effects caused by caffeine abuse, however it will vary depending on the level of caffeine intake:

  • Common side effects of caffeine use include excess nervousness, irritability, insomnia, “restless legs,” dizziness and fatigue. Headaches and “heartburn” are also common side effects. Psychological symptoms include general anxiety and panic attacks. Children who consume caffeine may develop hyperactivity and bed-wetting.
  • Caffeine is an acid irritant to the GI tract and liver, therefore directly increasing stomach hydrochloric acid production, which can be a huge problem for those prone to ulcers and gastritis. Chronic use of coffee increases the chances of peptic ulcer disease. Decaffeinated coffee is also acidic but is less stimulating.
  • Due to caffeine’s diuretic effect, the body loses nutrients and can therefore be deficient in said nutrients unless compensated through consuming foods with increased amounts of such nutrients or taken through supplementation. Caffeine causes loss of potassium, magnesium, zinc and other minerals, and B vitamins especially thiamine B1. Caffeine also washes away vitamin C.
  • Caffeine, especially in the form of coffee, reduces the bodies’ ability to absorb iron and calcium especially when it is consumed around mealtime. Both minerals are very important for women. Osteoporosis and anemia are more common among regular caffeine users. Caffeinated drinks that children and adolescents are consuming are interfering with these minerals needed for growth and health.
  • Diarrhea may occur when consuming increased amounts of caffeine because relaxes the smooth muscle found in the colon. Due to the laxative effect of caffeine it may also cause a dependency.

There are a number of negative cardiovascular effects that may arise from excessive and chronic caffeine use. Caffeine raises the blood pressure. Hypertension is a risk factor in heart disease. Caffeine raises the cholesterol and triglyceride blood levels which is another risk factor for cardiovascular related diseases. Caffeine increases the heart rate and the excitability of the heart nerve conduction, which can cause arythmias leading to palpitations and extra beats. Caffeine also increases the norepinephrine (adrenaline) secretion causing a restriction of the blood flow.

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