Caffeine…either you can’t live without it or you rarely partake of it. If you must have your daily dose of caffeine, are you consuming too much? Do you ever notice symptoms possibly due to an overload of caffeine which might include nervousness, headache, feeling shaky or “jittery,” a racing heart, insomnia, increase in blood pressure, or dehydration? Any of these symptoms may be your body warning you to take a caffeine break. And if so, have you considered going caffeine-free to break your addiction to one of the world’s most widely used stimulants?
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a natural substance found in more than 60 plants. These plants include coffee beans, tea leaves, and cacao pods which are used to make chocolate. Caffeine is considered to be both a food additive and a drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Caffeine is found in a variety of commonly consumed products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, soda, and some medicines. Energy drinks are another beverage loaded with caffeine – anywhere from 60 mg to more than 250 mg per serving – that has been growing in popularity for many years.
How much caffeine is too much?
The average healthy adult can safely consume up to 400 mg or four 5-ounce cups of coffee daily without problems. But it also depends on a person’s body size, gender, and sensitivity to it. Everyone is different in their response to caffeine. If you notice any adverse reaction to it, such as a rapid heartbeat or jitteriness, then you likely need to cut back.
Tips to becoming caffeine-free
The best way to successfully kick your caffeine habit is to gradually reduce the amount of caffeine-containing beverages/foods each day. These items would include coffee, tea, cola beverages, energy drinks, and chocolate. The best substitute for replacing these items is water. Water is your healthiest choice and will help satisfy your need for a liquid replacement. In addition, water is necessary for keeping yourself hydrated and will naturally flush caffeine from your body.
Health benefits of going caffeine-free
While you may have depended on caffeine to wake you up, energizing you for the day ahead, the benefits of going caffeine-free outweigh the short-term gains this stimulant has to offer.
Here are several reasons why cutting off caffeine for goodwill benefit your health in the long run:
- You’ll absorb nutrients better – Caffeine is a diuretic that can result in certain water-soluble vitamins – vitamins C and many B vitamins – being “washed out” out of your body before being fully absorbed. In addition, caffeine also interferes with the absorption of two minerals, calcium, and iron, critical nutrients important for bone health and for preventing anemia.
- You’ll have more energy throughout the day – While most of us use caffeine as a pick-me-up, the lasting effect is only temporary. It’s not unusual to also experience energy plummet that only leads you to rely more and more on a caffeine-containing beverage for that shot of adrenaline. It’s much healthier to rely less on caffeine as an energy source and rely instead on keeping hydrated with water, enjoy regular exercise, and choosing healthy foods.
- You’ll have less heartburn – A common trigger for indigestion and heartburn is the consumption of caffeine. If you are experiencing acid reflux regularly, giving up acidic caffeine can help tremendously.
- You’ll experience less anxiety – Caffeine tends to increase cortisol levels, which on the one hand, gives you an energy boost. But if you add on your daily stressors to this, it can ramp up your anxiety levels much higher than necessary.
- You’ll sleep much better – Likely you already know that drinking caffeinated beverages right before bedtime is not advised. The spike in cortisol and adrenaline from consuming caffeine only reduces sleep quality by increasing wakefulness affecting your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Caffeine stays in your system for hours so it’s best to avoid consuming caffeine after 12 noon…or better yet, not at all.
- Your skin will look less wrinkled – The development of wrinkles depends on many factors such as your genetics, exposure to UV light, your age, tobacco, excessive sugar intake, and too much caffeine. Wrinkles form when collagen, a protein that provides structure to skin, begins to be produced less and less by the body. Aging is a factor but so is caffeine which can actually interfere with collagen synthesis. Instead of relying on expensive plastic surgery, go caffeine-free which is a simple and inexpensive dietary change helping maintain collagen stores and your skin’s smooth texture.
- Your digestion will improve – There are several ways caffeine negatively affects digestion: It can increase the production of stress hormones – cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine – causing your heart to race faster and gives you a shot of energy, but at a price to digestion. Blood flow to the intestines will be reduce and as a result, digestion will be slowed.
Caffeine is acidic which increases the acidity and amount of gastric secretions that can irritate the intestinal lining of the stomach. Excessive amounts of caffeine (more than 400 mg a day) can also cause ulcers and gastritis.
Caffeine also acts as a diuretic causing an increased flow of blood to the kidneys, resulting in increased urine production. This may result in dehydration which can, in turn, lead to constipation. That’s why it’s important to drink plenty of water if you consume caffeinated beverages.