Reducing Caffeine Consumption

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The following information is from Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Dr. Elson Haas

Caffeine is a stress on the body

Caffeine has become an overused energy stimulant across the world, and as a central nervous system stimulant, is a stress on the body. One cup of coffee, with 50 to 100 mg of caffeine, will produce a temporary increase in mental clarity and energy while simultaneously inducing drowsiness.

Caffeine increases brain activity, however it also stimulates the cardiovascular system, raising blood pressure and heart rate. It speeds up the body by increasing basal metabolic rate (BMR), which burns calories. Initially caffeine may lower blood sugar; however this can lead to increased hunger or cravings for sweets. After adrenal stimulation, blood sugar rises again.

The amount of caffeine needed to produce stimulation increases with regular use, as is typical of all addictive drugs. Later and more frequent doses are needed to achieve the original effect, and symptoms can develop if we do not get our ‘fix’. Eventually we need the drug to function; without it, fatigue, drowsiness, and headaches can occur. Caffeine withdrawal produced headaches in almost everyone for 1 to 2 days.

Usually the slower the tapering of caffeine use, the easier the withdrawal. After complete withdrawal and detoxification from caffeine, it is possible to use it in moderation, but care must be taken as it can be re-addicting. For healthier detoxification, a more alkaline diet is helpful, as is drinking plenty of water and doing regular exercise. Since many people appreciate the milk laxative effect of coffee, care must be taken with diet, fiber, and even herbal laxatives to prevent constipation, which worsens any detoxification process.

Some common negative effects of caffeine:

  • Excess nervousness, irritability, insomnia, restless legs, dizziness, and subsequent fatigue
  • Headaches
  • General anxiety (even panic attacks)
  • Hyperactivity and bed wetting in children who consume caffeine
  • Increased heartburn from stomach hydrochloric acid production (clearly bad for people with existing ulcers or gastritis)
  • Loss of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and zinc and vitamins including the B vitamins, particularly thiamin and vitamin C
  • Reduced absorption of iron and calcium (especially when caffeine is consumed around mealtime)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Diarrhea
  • Interrupted growth in children and adolescents
  • Increased blood pressure and hypertension, especially in atherosclerosis and heart disease
  • Increased cholesterol and triglyceride blood levels
  • Heart rhythm disturbance and mild arrhythmia, tachycardia, and palpitations
  • Fibrocystic breast disease (results vary but it’s clear that some women experience an increase in size and number of cysts with increased caffeine use)
  • Birth defects and miscarriages
  • Kidney stones, which can occur as a result of the diuretic and chemical effects
  • Increased fevers, both as a direct effect and by counteracting the effect of aspirin
  • Increased incidence of certain cancers, including bladder cancer (more frequently due to a combination with nicotine), ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate enlargement possibly also attributed to increased caffeine intake
  • Adrenal exhaustion/stress/fatigue/hypoglycemia syndrome

While caffeine has the overall effect of increasing blood sugar, stress and sugar intake weaken the adrenal function. Recovery from the resulting fatigue requires rest, stress reduction, and sugar avoidance, and even though caffeine can override this fatigue and re-stimulate the adrenals temporarily, eventually chronic fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, and subsequent inability to handle any stress or sugar will result. Caffeine will then be of little help.

Caffeine Levels in Common Substances

Coffee, TEAS, MEDICINES Amount of caffeine (mg)
Drip 120-150
Percolated 80-110
Instant 60-70
Decaf 3-10
Espresso (1 oz) 75
Caffe Latte 70
Cappuccino 70
Caffe mocha 80
Black tea 50-60
Earl Grey 50
English breakfast 50
Green tea 30-40
Jasmine tea 20
Cocoa 10-30
Chocolate milk 10-15
Cocoa (dry, 1 oz) 40-50
Chocolate (dry, 1 oz) 5-10
Soft drink (12 oz) 30-55
Excedrin 100
Midol 30

Herbal Caffeine Substitutes

Roasted barley

Chicory root

Dandelion root

Comfrey leaf

Miso broth

Peppermint

Ginseng root

Ginger root

Lemon grass

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