Caffeine: Good or Bad? {Caffeine Solutions}

Yesterday I started the conversation on the topic of caffeine: Caffeine: Good or Bad? {Caffeine Addictions and Side Effects}.  Today I will continue the topic and conclude it tomorrow.

I have to add a slight correction to yesterday’s statistics.  According to John Hopkins Bayview Medical Hospital, it is not 50%, but rather “…80 and 90 percent of adults and children habitually consume caffeine in North America.”  In addition to that, according to the same source: “Studies show that 30 milligrams or less of caffeine can alter self-reports of mood and affect behavior and 100 mg per day can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon abstinence.”

I think we all can agree that caffeine addiction is not only accepted but is also encouraged in our society.  Just watch your friends’ latest tweets or Facebook posts to see where they are spending their time–most likely at a local Starbucks.

While we view drug addictions in a negative light, we tend to condone caffeine and food addictions, counting them nearly harmless.  Although we might not get high, in a sense of seeing floating smurfs, over-consuming coffee or food, the side effects a lot of the times are as serious and lasting.  The list is vast, but here are are few for you to pick from:

  • Cancer risk
  • Infertility
  • Fibrocystic Breasts
  • Possible Death
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Stomach upset
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors
  • Coffee causes the body to lose alkaline minerals such as calcium and potassium, due to its acidity [more information on acidity in the free report]
  • Coffee is a strong diuretic–it dehydrates users
  • Wasted Money

What’s your favorite?

Are you still not convinced that caffeine is bad?  I bet you did not know this, but there is actually such a thing as caffeine intoxication.

Caffeine Intoxication

[Source: John Hopkins Bayview Medical Hospital]

The potential for caffeine intoxication to cause clinically significant distress is reflected by the inclusion of caffeine intoxication as a diagnosis in DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition)(American Psychiatric Association, 1994) and in ICD-10 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Edition)(World Health Organization). Caffeine intoxication has long been recognized as a discrete syndrome associated with excessive caffeine use. Caffeinism is an older term that has been used to describe the toxic effects of caffeine resulting from acute or chronic use. Caffeine intoxication is currently defined by a number of symptoms and clinical features that emerge in response to recent consumption of caffeine. Common features of caffeine intoxication include nervousness (anxiety), restlessness, excitement, insomnia, rambling flow of thought and speech, gastrointestinal upset, tremors, tachycardia, diuresis, muscle twitching, periods of inexhaustibility, and psychomotor agitation. In addition, there have been reports of patients with caffeine intoxication having fever, irritability, tremors, sensory disturbances, tachypnea, and headaches. High dose caffeine toxicity is very rarely fatal. However, caffeine can be lethal at very high doses (i.e., 5 –10 g).

Although DSM-IV diagnostic guidelines indicate that diagnosis is dependent on the recent daily consumption of at least 250 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of just two and a half cups of brewed coffee, intoxication is most often observed at much higher doses of caffeine (i.e., > 500 mg). However, individual sensitivity and tolerance are likely to influence the dose effects. A person with high sensitivity and little tolerance might show signs and symptoms of caffeine intoxication in response to doses of caffeine much lower than a regular user.

A random digit telephone survey found that 7% of current caffeine users met DSM-IV criteria for caffeine intoxication by reporting use of more than 250 mg, five or more symptoms, and that symptoms interfered with their functioning at work, school, or home. Other studies that have focused on special populations (e.g., psychiatric patients, college students) have reported caffeine intoxication rates ranging from 2% to 19%.

Is All Caffeine Bad?

We all have seen enough chocolate and tea commercials, infomercials and ads touting the benefits of caffeine; anything from better blood circulation to weight loss; enough to say: “Hey, Elena, are you telling me that all forms of caffeine are bad for me?”

Let’s start with tea.

A couple of you left comments on yesterday’s post asking if tea had the same side effects as caffeine.  To answer the question I first must clarify that there are different types of teas:

  • Black
  • Oolong
  • Green
  • White
  • Herbal [not that other three are not herbal, but the term implies that there is no caffeine content in the tea]

The first four [black, oolong, green and white teas] are made from leaves of Camellia sinensis.  The less processing of the leaves, the less stimulant that will be in the tea leaves.  Black tea is processed more than other three, so it is oxidized more, ending up with more stimulant; white tea is least processed, having less stimulant [caffeine].

The content of caffeine varies in different tea varieties.  Generally, however, there are 100-175+ mg of caffeine in a 7 oz serving of coffee, and about half the amount in same size serving of black tea.  BUT… caffeine is still caffeine–overconsumption will create dependency and side effects associated with caffeine.

One of my brothers used to make, and I am sure still does, a glass of tea that was so dark and strong, it could probably compete with an espresso shot.

Now, I am not saying: DON’T DRINK TEAS from now on.  If you have a cup a day, you probably will get some of the stimulating effects, which will increase your blood flow, yet not get you in the danger zone.  I personally don’t like teeth staining effect of caffeinated teas [just look at the Britts 🙁 ], so I stay away from it altogether.

But with all of the touted benefits I can tell you this–there is no one substance/food so beneficial that we have to consume it every day in mass quantities.  And don’t get me started on weight-loss teas! I can blow a gasket here.  Caffeine is diuretic.  What it does, when consumed in large quantities, is dehydrate you, forcing your body to dump water.  Let me emphasize this–there is NOT a magic pill or tea for weight loss.  There was none a 1000 years ago and there isn’t one now.  Weight loss happens when we take care of our bodies, treat them with respect, feed them good, unprocessed foods, exercise and rest.  It is time for us to take the responsibility for our choices and not look for a magic bullet.  It does not matter how much tea you want to consume to get the little benefit from it that is possible, if the rest of your diet is made up of processed junk.  A cup of tea can’t benefit a screwed up diet  just as a band-aid cannot be used to close up an open-heart surgery scar.

I Want To Be Caffeine Free

Great!  I am with you all the way.  Save occasional dark chocolate I am caffeine free myself and have been for years.  Last year I made the mistake of having a caffeinated drink and the unpleasant side effects were enough for me not to be ever tempted again.  You can read about my experience here: Caffeine is NOT My Friend!

If you do not consume too much caffeine the transition should be nearly painless, save the pleasant memories you created in connection to tea drinking.  But you can always create even better memories splitting a glass of a fruit or green smoothie with your friends, or a warm cup of herbal tea.

For those who are actually dependent on caffeine the journey might not be as easy, however it is as beneficial, so it is worth traveling.

When quitting caffeine, just like any other addictive substance, including junk food, you can expect to experience following symptoms:

[Source]

  • Headache – (often described as being gradual in development and diffuse, and sometimes throbbing and severe)
  • Fatigue — (e.g., fatigue, tiredness, lethargy, sluggishness)
  • Sleepiness/drowsiness — (e.g., sleepy, drowsy, yawning)
  • Difficulty concentrating — (e.g., muzzy)
  • Work difficulty — (e.g., decreased motivation for tasks/work)
  • Irritability — (e.g., irritable, cross, miserable, decreased well-being/contentedness)
  • Depression — (e.g., depressed mood)
  • Anxiety — (e.g., anxious, nervous)
  • Flu-like symptoms — (e.g., nausea/vomiting, muscle aches/stiffness, hot and cold spells, heavy feelings in arms or legs)
  • Impairment in psychomotor, vigilance and cognitive performances

For caffeine abusers 😉 it might be wise to start by cutting caffeine intake by 50% every few days until it is totally eliminated.  Avoid other addictive substances, such as fats, sugars, processed foods, and up the intake of clean, organic [if possible] foods, with a ton of green smoothies.  Greens will help your body eliminate caffeine build up from your system, while repairing damaged tissue and cells at the same time.

Teeccino, an herbal [caffeine free] coffee provider (I will talk about this company tomorrow) has a great plan of action you can follow for 21-Days to kick the habit.  Check it out here: 21 Day Optimal Energy Challenge.

Herbal Teas

So, hopefully we concluded that caffeine is not a magic bullet.  If you want the little benefit it offers, go grab a piece of dark organic chocolate and enjoy it occasionally, or have a cup of green or white tea.

Herbal teas, the ones without caffeine content, do offer a lot of benefits.  I recently blogged about Rose Tea (by the way, just to prove my point that too much of even a good thing can be… well, too much, read the article to see what happened to me when I drank too much of a good thing).

There are other herbal teas I enjoy for various benefits: raspberry, including leaves; nettle tea, dandelion tea, etc., each of which deserve a separate post to highlight the benefits.  There are so many options that you can choose from and still enjoy a cup of something warm in your hands every morning.

But Where Will I Get My Energy Boost?

Our energy should never be dependent on a drink.  It is quiet easy to stay energetic by following these steps:

  • Quit eating junk;
  • Eat whole, unprocessed, preferably organic, foods that won’t tax your body;
  • Eat most of your foods uncooked [raw], so that your body can use food enzymes for digestion and absorption rather than stealing  its own enzymes from other processes;
  • Introduce green smoothies into your diet–they provide a wide rainbow of benefits: vitamins, nutrients, minerals, enzymes, fiber, etc.;
  • Exercise!  You won’t believe the energy boost you can get from jogging for an hour or taking an fitness class, rather than sitting on your blessed seat all day long, which is so easy to do in our technologically advanced society.
  • Rest!  With all the help we get from technology you think we would actually save time and spend it on important things such as family, exercise, and rest.  However, we are left even more deficient in time being so well equipped to preserve it.  We spend countless hours watching TV, browsing the web, chatting online, texting or tweeting, that we simply don’t get enough rest.  With lack of rest, it does not matter how many cups of coffee you down each day, you are still overtaxing your body, and it WILL eventually break down and fail you.  Your body needs time to repair itself, and it happens when you lay down in your warm and cozy bed, close your eyes, stop worrying about all the great things you must do, so that the world won’t come to an end and REST!
  • You also should take the time to create and foster relationships that will make you feel loved, important and as a part of something larger than the four walls of your house.  People who have friends and happy relationships are naturally more energetic and happier.
  • Also don’t forget to spend time growing your spiritual life.  We need to be connected to our Creator–who knows all the ins and outs of our workings.  When you have this connection straight and well oiled, you will be more relaxed, worry less, and sleep better too.

Isn’t this all so much easier than having to depend on a cup of dark brew [or ten of them] to get you through the day?  I think it is!

What do you think?

Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will offer an amazing, tasty alternative to coffee AND host an equally delicious giveaway to finish the Caffeine topic series.

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  • One of the best energy boosts I know is half to a whole pint of pure water. If I’m feeling a bit wilted, it’s usually dehydration and a good, long drink of water just hits the spot. I feel better within 5 minutes.=)

    I’m convinced that caffeine (along with alcohol) also contributes to skin wrinkling. I’m 44, but have less skin ageing signs than many women 15 years younger than me. Sometimes people ask my ‘secret’ and it’s just this: Leave off caffeine and alcohol. They’re both utterly poisonous and will not do you any good at all – ever. I’m glad I never got into either. Some people call me ‘boring’ or tell me that ‘my problem is that I just don’t know how to have fun’ (being almost vegan too), but I can’t say I’ve noticed that my life is so empty and dreadful for not consuming health compromising stuff!

    =)

    • Elizabeth, what a great point! We would get along beautifully. I not neither a caffeine nor alcohol consumer. The best way to boost energy is eat right, sleep well, have less stress in life, workout and have a great social life! Who needs alcohol to have fun when I have all this and more to be happy about?

  • Dave

    Studies have shown that caffeine lowers the risk of Parkinson’s Disease, colon cancer, and liver cirrhosis. Where exactly has it been proven to have any of the first three side effects in your list?

    • Dave, have you not seen the link to my source?  John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center: http://www.caffeinedependence.org/caffeine_dependence.html; and there is a lot more where that came from too, not to mention common sense and personal experience.  There is some benefit you can get from unprocessed sources of caffeine, like cacao beans & raw cacao powder, but not roasted/toasted/ and most of the time, chemically laden coffee.  I do have sources and studies to back up my statements, that I link to in my posts; which, it seems, you are lacking, besides saying “Studies have shown”–that means nothing to me. 

  • Kim

    Very informative articles on coffee drinking/caffeine!  Thanks for putting something so full of facts together that is also easy reading! 
     

    • Kim, my pleasure 🙂  Thanks for reading.  

  • Great info !!
    thanks 🙂

    • Kathy, glad you found it helpful.  

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  • Melindameyer79

    I guess I will be switching my black iced tea to herbal tea =)

    • Melinda, I have no issue with occasional cup of green or black tea, but if you drink tea daily, like I do, I would agree with you–herbal is better.

  • Kristen Feola

    Good information, Elena. I used to be a black tea and green tea drinker, but I cannot have any caffeinated tea now without having major headaches and other side effects. I drink herbal tea now and enjoy it! My favorite right now is peppermint leaf. Simple but soothing. 🙂 Sorry about your rose tea experience! I’ll be sure to take it easy if I have some. Only 1 cup for me!

    • Peppermint leaf sounds so good. My new favorite is Rose tea, as long as I don’t overdo it :).