In less than an hour you start to feel its
effects. You're more alert, energetic and
productive. Your mood lifts and that foggy,
tired feeling is gone.
If you rely on daily doses of caffeine to
chase away fatigue and perk up your disposition,
you aren't alone. Millions consume some type
of caffeine regularly, making it the most
popular behavior-altering drug.
For most people, moderate doses of caffeine
— 200 to 300 milligrams (mg), or about
two to four cups of brewed coffee a day —
aren't harmful. But some circumstances, such
as caffeine sensitivity or use of certain
medications, may warrant limiting or even
ending your caffeine routine. Find out if
you need to decaffeinate your diet and, if
so, how you can do it with minimal distress.
your health: When to cut your caffeine use
Certain circumstances call for reducing the
amount of caffeine you consume. Evaluate your
habits. If any of these situations apply,
you may need to cut back.
You consume unhealthy amounts
Though moderate caffeine intake isn't likely
to cause harm, too much can noticeably affect
your health. Heavy daily caffeine use —
more than 500 to 600 mg a day, or about four
to seven cups of coffee — can cause:
- Muscle tremors
- Nausea, diarrhea or other gastrointestinal
- Abnormal heart rhythms
You have caffeine sensitivity
If you're susceptible to the effects of caffeine,
just small amounts — even one cup of
coffee or tea — may prompt unwanted
effects, such as anxiety, restlessness and
irritability. The more sensitive you are to
caffeine, the less you need to consume before
feeling its influence.
Your sensitivity depends on many factors,
- Body mass.
People with smaller body masses feel the
effects of caffeine sooner than those with
larger body masses.
- History of
caffeine use. People who don't
regularly consume caffeine tend to be more
susceptible to its negative effects than
people who do.
All types of stress — for example,
psychological stress or heat stress —
can increase a person's sensitivity to caffeine.
Other factors can contribute to variations
in caffeine sensitivity as well, including
age, smoking habits, drug or hormone use,
and other health conditions, such as anxiety
You're not sleeping well
Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep
each night. But caffeine can interfere with
this much-needed sleep. Chronically losing
sleep — whether it's from work, travel,
stress or too much caffeine — results
in sleep deprivation. Sleep loss is cumulative,
and even small nightly decreases can add up
and disturb your daytime function. Sleep deprivation
can cause impaired memory, mood swings, lack
of concentration, and poor performance at
work or school.
Using caffeine to mask sleep deprivation
can create an unwelcome cycle. For example,
you drink caffeinated beverages because you
have trouble staying awake during the day.
But the caffeine keeps you from falling asleep
at night, shortening the length of time you
sleep. Caffeine can also increase the number
of times you wake up during the night and
can interfere with deep sleep, which makes
your night less restful. With less sleep and
poor-quality sleep, you're more tired the
next day. To battle the fatigue and to feel
more energetic, you reach for your morning
jolt of Java.
The best way to break this cycle is to limit
your caffeine and to add more hours of quality
sleep to your day. Also, avoid caffeinated
beverages eight hours before your desired
bedtime. Your body doesn't store caffeine,
but it does take many hours for it to eliminate
the stimulant and its effects.
You're taking certain medications
Certain medications and herbal supplements
negatively interact with caffeine. The following
are some examples.
- Some antibiotics.
Ciprofloxacin (Cipro), norfloxacin (Noroxin)
and enoxacin (Penetrex) — types of
antibacterial medications — can interfere
with the breakdown of caffeine. This may
increase the length of time caffeine remains
in your body and amplify its unwanted effects.
(Theo-24, Uniphyl, others). This
medication — which opens up bronchial
airways by relaxing the surrounding muscles
(a bronchodilator) — tends to have
some caffeine-like effects. Taking this
drug along with caffeinated foods and beverages
may increase the concentration of theophylline
in your blood. This can cause ill effects,
such as nausea, vomiting and heart palpitations.
If you take theophylline, your doctor may
advise that you avoid caffeine.
- Ephedra (ma
huang). This herbal dietary supplement
increases your risk of heart attack, stroke,
seizures and death. Combined with caffeine,
it becomes especially risky. The Food and
Drug Administration has banned ephedra in
the marketplace because of health concerns.
This ban applies to dietary supplements
but not herbal teas, which may still contain
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether
caffeine might affect your prescription. He
or she can best direct you on whether you
need to reduce or eliminate caffeine from
your caffeine consumption
Caffeine can be habit-forming, so any attempts
to stop or lessen the amount you normally
consume can be challenging. An abrupt decrease
in caffeine can cause withdrawal symptoms,
such as headaches, fatigue, irritability and
nervousness. These symptoms usually resolve
after several days.
To adopt new caffeine habits, try these tips:
- Know how much caffeine
is in the foods and beverages you consume.
You may be consuming more than you think.
Keep track. Read labels carefully. Caffeine,
if present, is listed in product ingredient
- Gradually reduce the
amount of caffeine you consume. For example,
drink one less can of soda or drink a smaller
cup of coffee each day. This will help your
body get used to the lower levels of caffeine
and thereby lessen the withdrawal effects.
- Replace caffeinated
coffee, tea or soda with their decaffeinated
counterparts. Most decaffeinated beverages
look and taste the same.
- When preparing tea,
brew for less time. This cuts down on its
caffeine content. Or choose herbal teas,
which don't contain this stimulant.
- Check the caffeine
content in over-the-counter medications
that you take. Pain relief or headache medications,
such as Excedrin or Anacin, can contain
from 65 mg to 130 mg of caffeine in one
dose. Switch to caffeine-free versions,
If you're like most adults, caffeine is a
part of your daily routine. And most often
it doesn't pose a health problem. But be mindful
of those situations in which you need to curtail
your caffeine consumption.