We are living in a time when it seems that there is a coffee shop on every corner, and caffeine filled soft drinks and energy drinks are easily accessible to people of all ages. Social media is full of plenty of jokes about people needing their daily coffee fix to survive. But those jokes aren’t so far from the truth, because many people rely on caffeine to give them the energy that they need to function throughout the day.
Currently, 54% of all Americans regularly drink coffee, with average daily consumption being 3 cups a day. That’s more than 100 million people drinking coffee each day. And although soft drink consumption has declined since 2012, between 20-25% of all people in the US still consume soft drinks daily, including those soft drinks with caffeine. In 2016, sales of energy drinks in the US, topped $12 billion dollars. Here in America, caffeine is big business and approximately 80% of people consume it daily in some form.
Why do people like caffeine so much? They like it because it does more than just give them energy. It also helps with focus, it improves mental functioning, increases stamina during physical activity and improves memory. These are some pretty convincing reasons to keep the coffee pot brewing each day.
What are some of the health concerns connected to caffeine?
It can cause insomnia
Because it is a stimulant it can impact sleep, particularly for those who are sensitive to caffeine. It can cause people to have difficulty falling asleep or it can cause sleep disruptions, which prevent people from getting the restorative sleep that they need. If you are currently working to try to restore health, good quality sleep is a vital part of the healing process, so assess whether or not your sleep is being impacted by caffeinated beverages.
It can make anxiety worse
If you already suffer from anxiety, consuming caffeine may just increase your anxious feelings. Those who are sensitive to caffeine may experience an increase in nervousness, anxiety and fear after consuming even small amounts. Even those who are not sensitive may experience increased nervousness after consuming moderate to large amounts. If you experience an increase in anxiety after drinking a caffeinated beverage, then you may want to consider cutting back, or cutting it out completely.
It can cause digestive upset
Caffeine raises the amount of acid produced in the stomach and can cause heartburn as well as aggravate GERD. It is best avoided by those who are suffering from any form of stomach ulcer because the increase in acid production can actually make the ulcer worse and prevent healing. If you are working to heal your gut from GERD, or any other digestive issue, it is important to decide if you should stop consuming coffee, soft drinks, or anything else that contains caffeine.
It can cause hormonal problems
Consuming caffeinated beverages and supplements causes the body to release cortisol and epinephrine, the two main stress hormones in the body. Levels of these hormones remain as high after consumption as they would be if an acute stress event had occurred. This means that every time a caffeinated food or beverage is consumed, the body is put into “fight or flight” mode, even if it is completely at rest.
This can ultimately contribute to HPA axis dysfunction, as the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands eventually stop recognizing the signal to stop producing stress hormones. The symptoms that result will increasingly get worse if left unchecked. If you are currently working to reverse HPA axis dysfunction, it is highly advised that you discontinue using any caffeinated items that can stimulate the HPA axis. Not doing so can prevent you from healing the HPA dysfunction and finding relief from the symptoms.
Consuming too much
While many rely on their caffeine “fix” daily, it is easy to forget caffeine is a psychoactive drug that is a central nervous system stimulant. Moderate consumption would be 300-400 mg a day, which equals 3-4 cups of home brewed coffee daily. High doses, which is typically 500 mg and above can cause a caffeine overdose.
As people are stretching themselves too thin more often than they should. And the stress of increased responsibilities and getting less sleep are causing them to reach more often for that caffeinated “pick me up” throughout the day. Because of this, more people are consuming more caffeine than they should. When the body is “over-caffeinated” it can manifest unpleasant symptoms
Here are the amounts in some of the most popular beverages:
- 5 Hour Energy drink (2 oz)- 200 mg
- Amp Energy drink (16 oz)- 142 mg
- Brewed tea (8 oz)- 45 mg
- Cappuccino (12 oz)- 154 mg
- Chai Tea (8 oz)- 50 mg
- Coke (12 oz)- 34 mg
- Coffee, brewed (8 oz)- 163 mg
- Coffee, decaf (8 oz)- 6 mg
- Diet Coke (12 oz)- 46 mg
- Dunkin’ Donuts, brewed (14 oz)- 210 mg
- Green tea (8 oz)- 25 mg
- Hot Cocoa (8 oz)- 5 mg
- Kombucha tea (8 oz)- 24 mg
- Latte (16 oz) 154 mg
- Matcha tea (8 oz)- 70 mg
- McDonald’s Iced Coffee (22 oz)- 200 mg
- Monster Energy drink (16 oz)- 160 mg
- Mountain Dew (12 oz)- 54 mg
- Red Bull (8.46 oz)- 80 mg
- Starbucks bottled Frappuccino (9.5 oz)- 90
- Starbucks Grande Caffe Americano (16 oz)- 225 mg
What are the top signs that you’ve had too much caffeine?
- Jitters, nervousness, restlessness
- Increased heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Cardiac Arrest
The DSM-V Physician’s Manual classifies this as “caffeine intoxication” if five of the following symptoms are present
- Flushed face
- Diuresis (you keep passing urine)
- Gastrointestinal distress (upset stomach or diarrhea)
- Muscle twitching
- Rambling flow of thought and speech
- Tachychardia or cardiac arrhythmia
- Periods of inexhaustibility
- Psychomotor agitation
The majority of the hospitalizations that occur due to caffeine intoxication are not caused by drinking coffee, but instead are typically due to over-consumption of energy drinks, caffeine containing supplements or a mixture of these along side of the consumption of coffee or caffeinated soft drinks.
For those people who are relatively healthy and are not dealing with compromised health, moderate consumption of caffeinated beverages poses minimal health risks. But those who are attempting to heal hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders and other systemic dysfunction may find that continuing to consume caffeinated beverages and supplements may cause more harm than good.
If you are currently working with an FDN Practitioner it is important that you discuss this information with your practitioner and come up with the best plan of action for your own body.