We normally associate caffeine-containing drinks with times of comfort; freshly brewed coffee in the morning, a refreshing cold soft drink with lunch, or a relaxing cup of tea after dinner. But does caffeine harm us in some ways? The answer is probably not, if used in moderation. Caffeine is associated with everything from raising the risk of migraines to making one live longer.
Caffeine occurs naturally and is found in the leaves, seeds or fruits of many plants, including coffee and cocoa beans, kola nuts and tea leaves. It is a drug in every sense of the word, being a stimulant to the central nervous system. Consuming too much over time can lead to dependence and stopping suddenly may cause headaches. Caffeine is a chemical compound similar to adrenalin, stimulating activity of the brain, heart, kidneys and intestines. It has been used in treating some types of headaches, increases the potency of pain medicine, and somewhat relieves asthma attacks by widening the bronchial airways.
In addition to coffee, tea and chocolate, many carbonated beverages contain caffeine. Coffee and tea contain other drugs in addition to caffeine whose action is similar; included are theophylline and theobromine, old time asthma drugs.
Although caffeine does not accumulate in the bloodstream, it is slow in leaving the body. It will not reduce the effects of alcohol, although many people believe it will “sober up” an intoxicated person. Caffeine will relieve drowsiness and to a limited amount, fatigue. It may increase calcium excretion, so it is recommended that a glass of milk be consumed daily to offset its effects. Most health professionals recommend limiting caffeine intake to 200 milligrams daily (about 1-2 cups of caffeine-containing coffee or 2-3 caffeinated soft drinks).
Caffeine does react with some medications, and pregnant women and people with heart disease or peptic ulcers may be better off restricting or avoiding it. Gradually cutting back on caffeine instead of stopping all at once is a sensible way to eliminate it in your diet. Tea has become more popular at a fast rate, and many people have switched to it from coffee, especially since studies have found that tea, especially green tea, contains beneficial antioxidants. Additionally, studies have found that cocoa is highly abundant in antioxidants.
Many studies linking coffee with certain diseases such as cancer and heart disease have been conducted, but no solid evidence has been found to substantiate these connections. For the present, even though there are some minor health concerns regarding caffeine, moderate tea, coffee or cola drinkers will probably have no health problems due to caffeine consumption. That is, provided other lifestyle habits (diet, alcohol consumption) are in line as well. Symptoms of caffeine overdose include face flushing, frequent need to urinate, rapid heart rate, restlessness or shakiness, insomnia, and upset stomach or nausea.
Although numerous studies have been carried out on the good and bad effects of caffeine, none have been conclusive. The bottom line, as in all nutrition, is moderation.
I am a registered pharmacist who has always been highly interested in good health, and who utilizes current knowledge and experience to achieve that objective. I believe this includes exercise, sensible eating, social interaction, and striving to keep your mental capacity. I’m not a specialist in any of these fields, but in my pharmacy career I have learned a lot. I worked in my family-owned drugstore for many years, and interacted with a variety of people and many different maladies, picking up invaluable hints and easy treatments of everyday medical issues. I want to share some of these with you, to perhaps make a difference in solving and preventing health problems. If I learned anything along the way, it’s that I can advise you when and if you should seek medical help. I also plan to share some recipes of mine that contribute to healthy eating. I am convinced that the old adage “you are what you eat” still reigns true. I’ve enjoyed my work all these years, especially counseling patients and hope that you derive some knowledge and comfort from what I have learned.
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