|Nutritional Program for Caffeine Detoxification |
Caffeine Drugs Available Over the Counter
|Stimulants—NoDoz, Vivarin, Refresh’n|
|Weight control—Dexatrim, Dietac|
|Pain Relief—Excedrin, Anacin, Vanquish, Empirin Compound|
|Menstrual pain relief—Midol, Premens, Aqua-Ban, Cope|
|Cold remedies—Dristan, Sinarest|
Some people run their bodies on caffeine and not on their basic life force and the natural energy of their hormones, such as adrenal and thyroid. Caffeine, although it is not seriously addicting, is very habit forming. It is not particularly good for athletes or anyone seriously interested in their health. Although it may improve muscular work and short-term performance in both physical and mental athletes, it creates depletion by its diuretic nutrients, and foods can help balance this.
Caffeine Levels* in Common Substances**
|Coffee and Other
|Drinks/6 oz. cup
|Cocoa (dry, 1 oz.)||40-50||Vanquish||33|
|Chocolate (dry, 1 oz.)||5-10||Aqua-Ban||100
|Soft drinks, per 12 oz. serving|
*These caffeine levels and caffeine equivalents may depend on length of brewing time or amount of product used.
**Information gathered and integrated from at least six different sources.
Negative Effects of Caffeine
Most of the negative effects are not a concern with occasional caffeine use, such as a cup of coffee, tea, or cola a few times a week or even once daily. However, with regular use of over 100 mg. daily, many problems arise. A limit of one cup of coffee daily is suggested, along with a week off every few months just to assure us that we are not addicted and that we do not have appreciable symptoms from stopping or restarting. If we do, then we should stop totally.
The risks discussed in the following list vary with the level of caffeine intake. A total of over 500 mg. daily could be a relatively high intake. The total includes coffee, tea, soft drinks, and drugs (that is, five cups of coffee a day or a few cups of coffee and a few caffeinated aspirins, as examples). Between 250 and 500 mg. might be classified as moderate intake, while under 250 mg. would be low. With chronic use, the risks of problems rise, and even lower amounts become more of a concern.
For a long time, the popularity of caffeine has led people to resist the initial negative findings. Now the dangers are fairly clear, and it is hard to refute the evidence of the many difficulties generated by this addictive drug. Possible negative effects from caffeine use and abuse include the following:
- Common side effects of caffeine use include excess nervousness, irritability, insomnia, "restless legs," dizziness, and subsequent fatigue. Headaches can also be very common, as is "heartburn." Psychological symptoms of general anxiety or panic attacks may also occur. Hyperactivity and bed wetting may also develop in children who consume caffeine.
- An acid irritant to the gastrointestinal tract and liver, caffeine directly increases stomach hydrochloric acid production, so it is clearly bad for people with or prone to ulcers or gastritis. Regular coffee drinking thus also increases the likelihood of peptic ulcer disease. Decaffeinated coffee is also acidic, though it is less stimulating.
- Caffeine’s diuretic effect causes loss of potassium, magnesium, zinc and other minerals, and B vitamins, especially thiamine B1. Caffeine also washes out vitamin C. Therefore, all of these nutrients can be deficient unless they are obtained from foods in increased amounts or taken as supplements.
- Caffeine, and particularly coffee, reduces absorption of iron and calcium, especially when it is drunk around mealtime. These minerals are extremely important for women. Osteoporosis and anemia are thus more common with regular coffee use. Also in children and adolescents, caffeinated drinks interfere with these essential minerals needed for growth and health.
- Diarrhea can also occur with increased amounts of caffeine, which relaxes the smooth muscle in the colon. The laxative effect of caffeine can also create a dependency.
- A number of negative cardiovascular effects are caused by caffeine. First, it raises the blood pressure. Hypertension is a risk factor in atherosclerosis and heart disease. Caffeine increases cholesterol and triglyceride blood levels, also risk factors in cardiovascular disease. Heart rhythm disturbances, arrhythmias, though usually of a mild type, occur with caffeine; these include a generally increased heart rate (tachycardia) and excitability of the heart nerve conduction system, leading to both palpitations and extra beats. Caffeine also increases norepinephrine secretion, which causes some vasoconstriction—that is, restricted blood flow. Although caffeine may have a mild direct vasodilating effect in the heart and body (vasoconstricting in the brain), the adrenal stimulation may override this. Research reports regarding caffeine’s role in increasing the risk of heart attacks are mixed; however, it seems reasonable with the cardiovascular stimulation of caffeine to assume that drinking four to five cups of coffee per day does increase the incidence of myocardial infarctions. Overall, caffeine clearly increases risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Fibrocystic breast disease (FBD) may also be a consequence of caffeine use. Although results of various studies seem to be contradictory as to whether caffeine is a cause of FBD, it is clear that some women are more sensitive to caffeine use and that they experience an increase in size and number of cysts with increased use and a reduction of the disease when they stop using caffeine.
- Birth defects have been noted with higher levels of caffeine use during pregnancy. Spontaneous abortions are also more frequent with coffee drinking early in pregnancy. It is clear that caffeine crosses the placenta and affects the fetus, but whether it is the caffeine itself or other chemicals in coffee which have a mutagenic effect is not clear. It is wise to limit or completely avoid the use of caffeine during pregnancy. Caffeine also gets into breast milk, so it is also wise to limit its use during the nursing period to prevent having a jittery baby.
- The incidence of certain cancers is increased with caffeine use. Bladder cancer may result, probably also from a nicotine and caffeine combination along with the mild dehydration that occurs from the result of using these two drugs. Ovarian cancer is increased in women with an association of long-term coffee intake. Pancreatic cancer, which is very deadly, has also been in question as occurring more frequently with increased coffee use (more than three cups per day). Whether this is caused by the caffeine or by the chemicals used in coffee that concentrate in its oils is not clear. Recent research has cast some doubt on this relationship, however. Prostate enlargement and cancer may also be attributed to increased caffeine intake.
- Caffeine may also be correlated with kidney stones, possibly as a result of the diuretic and chemical effects. The fluoride mineral that is found in coffee and tea can also cause problems when consumed in excess. In addition, caffeine use may increase fevers, both by a mild direct effect and by counteracting the effect of aspirin.
- The adrenal exhaustion/stress/fatigue/hypoglycemia syndrome is tied to caffeine use as well. Caffeine has an overall effect of increasing blood sugar (especially when it is sweetened), as it stimulates the adrenals. Both stress and sugar use tend to pressure and weaken the adrenal function. Recovery from the resulting fatigue requires rest, stress reduction, and sugar avoidance, but caffeine can override this fatigue and restimulate the adrenals. This process can eventually lead to chronic fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, and subsequent inability to handle stress and sugar intake. Caffeine will then be of little help.
About The Author
Elson M. Haas, MD
is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more