Americans love their caffeine. Many people start their days with a cup of coffee or lightly caffeinated tea, and many people drink sodas or energy drinks throughout the day. Caffeine stimulates our minds and bodies and helps us get moving when we’re tired. Unfortunately, a lot of conflicting messages exist about whether or not caffeine is actually good for your health. Here are the facts, so you can decide for yourself how you’d like to incorporate what to do about caffeine in your diet.
What is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a substance that is found in many natural sourcesplaces, including coffee beans, cacao beans, and many of the herbs and leaves used to make tea. Mild amounts of caffeine can even be found in unexpected sources, like chocolate, pain relievers, and even some natural supplements. It’s a stimulant that acts as an “adenosine receptor antagonist.” Adenosine is a substance in your body that causes you to feel sleepy, and caffeine blocks it to prevent the feeling of sleepiness. This can help people experience who consume caffeine feel more alert, awake, and energized after consuming caffeine and awake and have more energy to get things done.
The truth about caffeine is that its effects on you truly depend on who you are and what your body needs. No two people respond the exact same way to it, so for some people, caffeine can be a healthy substance to consume in moderation, while for other people, it could have no effect or do more harm than good.
Negative Effects of Caffeine Consumption
Given that caffeine is a stimulant, it works by artificially controlling the chemicals in your body to help you feel more alert. It also has the potential to be mildly addictive. Some scientists even consider caffeine to be a “gateway drug,” since the potential to become dependent on it as a substance can lead to experimentation with other substances.
It’s incredibly easy to drink too much caffeine in one day. Many people who rely on coffee on a daily basis to help them get work done end up drinking several cups of coffee, a few sodas, or even an energy drink or two. The recommended average amount of caffeine that doctors recommend people drink on a daily basis is about 400 milligrams, the equivalent of four to five cups per day. While that may seem like a lot, people who regularly fill thermoses with coffee or who take a coffee break every few hours may easily reach or exceed this limit without realizing it. Other drinks like sodas and teas also contain significant amounts of caffeine, so if you drink coffee and soda on a regular basis, you may be getting way more than a healthy amount of caffeine in your diet.
Combining With Sugar
Many caffeinated drinks also include a large amount of sugar. Since sugar provides a burst of energy and caffeine blocks your brain’s tiredness signals, it’s not hard to understand why specialty coffee drinks and soda are so popular. They make you feel good and energetic, at least until the effects of the caffeine and sugar wear off and cause what’s commonly described as a “crash.” Since sugar and caffeine can be processed relatively quickly, consuming large quantities only for them to fade quickly can put your body through a roller coaster. your body’s energy and blood sugar levels to crash. This can lead to many negative health consequences if such a routine is continued on a regular basis. This isn’t to say that drinking sodas and specialty coffee drinks are bad for you, but they should be consumed in moderation if you want to maintain a healthy nutritional balance.
Some people are more susceptible to caffeine addiction, or caffeine use disorder, than others. People who are accustomed to drinking large amounts of soda or coffee every day may begin to gain a tolerance to the caffeine and need more to help them feel the same way or even function normally. This is commonly what happens to people who struggle with substance abuse. Additionally, many people who seek to break the cycle of caffeine addiction find that they experience withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, shivers, intense headaches, and overwhelming fatigue until their bodies reset to their original state of operation. Those who remain addicted to caffeine, however, may find themselves gaining weight, getting irritable easily, and potentially walking down a path to more severe health problems down the road.
Mental and Developmental Health
Caffeine consumption has been shown to have significant effects on mental health, as well. It can increase anxiety and depression levels due to the way it controls your brain chemistry. Given caffeine’s effects on sleep, as well, some people who consume caffeine regularly may end up having a difficult time getting quality rest, which will also affect their mental health.
Caffeine can also potentially have a negative impact on developmental health in young children and the health of both a pregnant parent and growing baby. This is why doctor’s usually suggest cutting down on or eliminating caffeine consumption during pregnancy.
While caffeine may not be the only cause of gut health issues, many drinks that contain caffeine are acidic enough to have negative impacts on more sensitive stomachs. People who struggle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may find that coffee disagrees with them. While some people find that caffeine has little to no effect on their digestive systems, people with poor gut health may not be able to drink much coffee. In addition, caffeine can cause contractions in the stomach that can result in minor diarrhea or loose stools, which can also lead to dehydration. If your digestive system doesn’t react well to caffeinated drinks or foods deal well with such an influence, it may be a good idea to cut down on or eliminate caffeine consumption.
Positive Effects of Caffeine
Caffeine does also have many positive effects on the body, as well, including the potential to protect against future or chronic disease. Drinking a moderate amount of caffeine is actually something that doctors and scientists sometimes even recommend.
Protecting Against Disease
Caffeine, and specifically black coffee drinks, often contain a large amount of antioxidants that can help your body respond better to environmental and nutritional stressors. As a stimulant, it can also help your insides function much more efficiently than usual, causing your body to actively fight things that negatively impact your health over time. Some diseases that coffee can help protect against include:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Heart Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Liver Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Clinical Depression
- Higher Metabolism
Caffeine amps up your metabolism, so it can help if you’re trying to burn fat in a nutrition and/or workout program. It can also help you digest sugar faster so it doesn’t affect your body as much (though that means you also won’t feel the effects of sugar as much if you wantif want to feel them).
Of course, being able to focus more is one of the main reasons why people drink coffee and other caffeinated drinks. Coffee stimulates the brain, making it easier to enter a focus mode or flow state, which is why it’s often a staple in the lives of college students and businesspeople. Not only does it help you focus, but a healthy amount of coffee consumption can actually improve memory and help you process your thoughts better, potentially leading to greater intellectual achievement.
Improved Gut Health
If your digestive system is healthy, caffeine and the other substances found in coffee can actually help your stomach become even healthier. The vitamins and nutrients can promote healthy digestion and more efficient metabolizationmetabolizatiobsm of food (like mentioned earlier). It’s also an incredible source of antioxidants, which means it can help reduce inflammation and get rid of any toxins that many be affecting your body.
Again, caffeine affects everyone differently, and your version of healthy coffee consumption may be different than someone else’s. If you need help figuring out what foods and drinks should stay in your nutritional plan and which ones need to go, we’re here to help you find your way. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!