Have you ever noticed that if you (or someone you know) go a day without caffeine will develop headaches, body sweats and irritability? These are all symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, very similar to withdrawal from other stimulants and drugs.
Although it’s completely legal, caffeine found naturally in coffee and other drinks is really a stimulant drug. In fact, caffeine is the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world. It is recognized as an addictive substance by the World Health Organization.
Whether caffeine is consumed in food, drink or as a medicine, it changes the way the brain and body work. Most of us know that coffee, energy drinks and soft drinks contain caffeine, but you may be surprised to learn that caffeine is hidden in many commonly consumed items. Protein bars, decaf coffee, hot or cold tea, chocolate, “fortified” water and pain medications are a few of the items that contain hidden caffeine.
Did you know that caffeine increases your energy by increasing your stress levels?
The most desirable effect of caffeine is a noticeable energy increase. However, in order to achieve that, your body has to increase the amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. People who use caffeine regularly generally have higher amounts of this hormone in circulation and that can cause many other stress-related symptoms.
Although caffeine may appear to have some positive effects, its negative effects greatly outweigh them. Below are some of the most commonly experienced side effects of regular caffeine use:
1. Dependency and Addiction
Similar to any drug, caffeine is very addictive. Most people change how much they use over time based on their built-up level of tolerance. Over time, you will need more caffeine to produce the same energizing effects because your body will naturally build up a tolerance. This is very similar to the increased tolerance for alcohol or illegal drug use.
Moreover, according to the Food and Drug Administration, caffeine is classified as “generally recognized as safe”. However, according to Dr. Axe, the “safe” amount of caffeine is equal to just over a little more than “one grande Starbucks coffee (which has about 360 milligrams)”.
2. Heavy Withdrawal Symptoms If you’re a coffee drinker and have ever had to go without your “fix”, you know how difficult the withdrawal symptoms can be. Withdrawal is a serious reaction to weaning yourself off of caffeine and should not be taken lightly. These symptoms can include headaches, anxiety, irritability, body sweats, trouble concentrating, fatigue, digestive issues and changes in appetite. Relying on caffeine for energy is extremely dangerous and can produce adrenal fatigue that can lead to negative effects on other aspects of your health.
3. Anxiety and Depression
If you suffer from high stress levels, nervousness and anxiety, caffeine can exacerbate these symptoms and make you more susceptible to the negative effects of caffeine. According to the research by the Korean Journal of Family Medicine, higher caffeine intake was linked to higher weight, lower academic achievement, and a higher risk of severe depression. So, if you are someone who already suffers from these conditions, you should completely avoid caffeine, sugar and other similar stimulants.
4. Insomnia Caffeine is known to disrupt sleep and can make insomnia worse in people who suffer from sleep-related concerns. However, the effects of caffeine won’t be felt immediately, usually, it takes 25-45 minutes for the caffeine to work, but the effects of caffeine will last in the human body for quite a few hours. According to the Sleep Doctor, it can take from 6 to 8 hours for the stimulant effects of caffeine to be reduced just by one half. Even if you generally have no trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, caffeine can disrupt your body’s natural hormone levels, such as serotonin and melatonin, that help promote restful sleep. Because of this, you’re more likely to need caffeine to help you function the following day, putting yourself in a never-ending cycle of “needing” caffeine to have a productive day.
5. Hormone Levels Over time, caffeine causes the adrenal glands to overwork and eventually weaken. When you’re lacking quality sleep, you suppress healthy hormone production. Moreover, the results of the NIH Study indicated that caffeine consumption among women of child-bearing age influences estrogen levels. Caffeine can be especially harmful for women suffering from many hormone-related issues such as PMS, PMDD, PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis and infertility.
6. Pregnancy Complications
According to Medical News Today, more than 300 mg a day of caffeine, or the amount equal to around three cups of coffee consumed by a pregnant woman, could lead to delayed fetal growth, abnormal fetal heart rhythm or even loss of pregnancy.
More than that, the National Institutes of Health also claim that couples’ pre-pregnancy caffeine consumption is related to miscarriage risk.
7. Dehydration Caffeine is a diuretic, so you’ve probably noticed you have an increased need to urinate after consuming it. Additionally, caffeine depletes levels of key nutrients and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc.
The effects of caffeine combined with sugar in sweetened coffee, soft drinks and energy drinks have an even bigger, negative impact on the body than caffeine alone. These high-sugar, processed ingredients are full of artificial sweeteners and chemicals and are extremely dangerous especially when combined with caffeine.
So, if you are ready to eliminate caffeine from your diet but are unsure where to begin, try switching out some of your sugar-filled, caffeinated beverages with some healthy alternatives. You can try flavored herbal teas, including green tea.
If you really enjoy the taste of coffee, try switching out your daily fix with a dandelion root tea or latte. To sweeten your caffeine-free beverages, try sweetening with pure stevia.