Caffeine: The Real Story


Caffeine: The Real Story

Dr. Ronald Stern Internal Medicine in Pomona, NY, a member of Highland Medical, P.C., suggests looking at your caffeine intake to see if it is affecting your health.

Many of us love coffee, but caffeine consumption can have numerous effects on our health—even if we don’t realize it. Some people can be very sensitive to even a small amount of caffeine, such as a single cup of coffee in the morning.

It is important to remember that caffeine is a stimulant and all stimulants can alter the way the nervous system and other bodily functions work. Our nervous system controls the type of mood we're in, as well as energy levels, heart rate, blood pressure, and even our digestion. Caffeine is also a diuretic, meaning it depletes water from the body, which can lead to a loss of nutrients and cause dehydration.

There are many sources of caffeine. It can be found in sodas, coffee, tea (black, green and white), energy drinks, cocoa, diet pills, over-the-counter sports aids/drinks, and pain relievers. The maximum amount that an adult should ingest is between 250-400 mg caffeine per day. A single cup of coffee typically has between 95-200 mg of caffeine.

Some of the more common side effects of caffeine use include:

  • moodiness (anxiety, panic attacks, increased stress)
  • inability to focus
  • daytime urinary frequency as well as nighttime urinary frequency
  • insomnia
  • overwhelming fatigue
  • digestive symptoms (such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, heartburn or acid reflux, abdominal pain or cramps)
  • palpitations (increased heart rate)
  • high blood pressure

Other symptoms related to caffeine use can include headaches, restlessness, eye twitching, and more breast sensitivity in women (especially those with fibrocystic breast disease).

Long-term consumption of caffeine can lead to depression. It can also have an effect on bone density (especially in women), which can contribute to more pain in your hips, knees, and lower back.

If you feel that you might be experiencing some of the side effects of caffeine use, talk to your doctor about it. Be aware that weaning yourself off caffeine is not easy, since caffeine use can be an addictive behavior. However it can be done—and it can be worth the trouble.