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All About Caffeine, Caffeine Addiction, And Its Side Effects

Caffeine is perhaps the most famous substance in the world right now. In the US alone, about 80 percent of the total adult population consumes caffeine day-in and day-out with the typical adult consuming about 200 mg of caffeine (two 5-oz. cups of coffee or four bottles of soda) daily.

Naturally-occurring in over 60 plants (coffee beans, kola nuts, tea leaves, etc.), caffeine has found its way to just about any food we eat – the coffee we gulp down every morning; the chocolate bar we munch on; the colas and sodas we drink to quench our thirst, and everything else in between.

True, the FDA and other health agencies have classified caffeine as a food- and drug-additive, which is generally safe for consumption. Having said that, the risk of caffeine addiction is VERY real and so are its side effects. And here are some:

Cardiovascular Problems

Looking at the highly-respected Framingham Heart Study that looked at ALL the possible links between caffeine consumption and cardiovascular problems, it’s concluded that drinking coffee doesn’t lead to harmful side effects (as far as the heart goes).

As usual, there are exceptions to take note of. Some people react differently to caffeine – leading to increased blood pressure known as arrhythmias. While they are usually short-lived and can be compared to the feeling you get when you climb the stairs, it’s always advisable to speak to your doctor if you’re experiencing even the slightest side effects.

Bone Loss

When you take too much caffeine, you lose more than just sleep. In a study that involved post-menopausal women (who took more than 300 mg of caffeine everyday), it was shown that the caffeine-heavy participants have lost more bone in their spines than women who didn’t take caffeine at all or kept their consumption at less than 300 mg every day. Now, this study (along with the others) are anything BUT conclusive. More evidence is needed to make a definitive conclusion regarding caffeine’s role in osteoporosis and bone loss. The initial findings, however, seem to point to caffeine as a potential catalyst of bone loss.

Don’t wait for the 10th man (Read: World War Z reference) to prove the initial studies wrong. It’s a lot safer to minimize caffeine intake and counteract bone loss by adding milk to your caffeine-infused drink.

Exhaustion

Within 5 short minutes after gulping down your favorite brand of Joe, caffeine gets to work – stimulating the central nervous system; causes the release of stress hormones; and this, in turn, triggers a ‘fight or flight’ response.

These ‘fight or flight’ hormones are good – if you’re a boxer; facing a life or death situation; or engaging in extreme sports. BUT if you’re just sitting at your desk – whittling away at that stockpile of documents – the increased alertness is soon replaced by feelings of agitation.

About an hour after coffee intake, the stress response and hormones subside – bringing feelings of tiredness and hunger. When faced with this, the most common response is to grab another cup of coffee to stay alert. The vicious cycle is set in motion – alternating alertness with sluggishness and hunger. Continued throughout the day, this cycle inevitably leads to exhaustion. It’s not at all uncommon to feel really drained and unable to focus from the roller-coaster ride that your body has to endure throughout the day.

How To Know If You’re Caffeine Addicted And What To Do

Determining if someone is a caffeine addict isn’t an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. Some caffeine junkies suffer from very mild and negligible symptoms that are very easy to overlook. On the other hand, there are caffeine addicts that Ping-Pong between addiction and non-addiction. My advice: answer the following questions –

  • Do you gulp down two or more caffeinated drinks on a daily basis?
  • Do you always experience high levels of energy, which suddenly drops?
  • Are you suffering from frequent headaches, insomnia, and muscle tension?
  • Were you diagnosed with gastrointestinal problems like heartburn or ulcer?
  • Are you always feeling dehydrated and have heavy eyes?

If your answer is YES to most of these questions, it’s very likely that you’re a caffeine junkie, and taking magnesium supplements should be high on your list of priorities. You see, caffeine causes magnesium-loss…and you’ve lost A LOT since you started drinking coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages.

Recognized as the human body’s natural energizer, magnesium has an excellent calming effect to the body – canceling out the muscle and nerve tension caused by calcium and caffeine. It also does a good job of neutralizing the adrenalin surges from caffeine, and this goes a long way in helping restless, insomniac get the quality bed-time they need.

Now, there are many forms of magnesium, BUT taking magnesium citrate powder is HIGHLY recommended as it is used easily and assimilated by the body without any hiccups. Just mix sprinkle a scoop to 6 ounces of water and you’re good to go! Alternatively, you can also find magnesium glycinate and magnesium dimalate (in pill form) in your favorite health food stores or through online shops, and they can work just as well.

BUT whatever you do, steer clear from magnesium oxide. Only 4 percent of these supplements are absorbed while the rest (96%) act as a very potent laxative. Unless you happen to suffer from extreme constipation (along with caffeine addiction), it’s best to stick to magnesium citrate powder for relief and extra energy.

To get started, plan to cut down on coffee about 2 to 3 weeks of regularly taking magnesium supplements. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how easy it is. With your body infused with magnesium, substitute coffee with black tea for about a week ONLY. After a week of drinking black tea, settle for caffeine-free herbal teas, which can be easily found in health food shops.

Despite all of these steps, it’s still possible to suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Extremely irritating and inconvenient, many have buckled under the pressure and you need all the help you can get to cope with the adverse effects of caffeine withdrawal. Here are two things you can do to minimize the inconvenience:

– If you are experiencing irritability, severe headaches, and sensitivity, it’s HIGHLY recommended that you take homeopathic Chamomilla 12 times a day – stick to a dose and take it 3 to 4 times a day.

– On the other hand, if you’re suffering from insomnia, taking homeopathic Coffee (12 times – one dose for 3 to 4 times a day) could help you get better sleep at night. It’s also advisable that you increase your magnesium intake by at least one more dose.

Take these two remedies for about a week after you’ve TOTALLY stopped caffeine intake. Be wary of herbal teas and other beverages. Many of these, especially green tea, can be caffeinated so don’t forget to read the label!

About Clara Valdez

Clara is a dietitian, nutritionist and professional speaker specializing in prevention and performance. She believes that a healthy life is synonymous consuming nutritious food.

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