The Highs and Lows of Caffeine Consumption

The Highs and Lows of Caffeine Consumption

For most Americans today, a hefty dose of caffeine is simply part of their day. It provides that surge of energy in the morning, that extra boost to get through the mid-afternoon lull and that jolt of energy that can quickly liven you back up.

While caffeine in moderation is relatively harmless, there are some side effects that can come with excessive caffeine consumption. The more you know about caffeine, how it affects your body and what can happen when you consume too much, the better.

The Effects of Caffeine on Your Health

Caffeine, in moderation, is generally healthy for most individuals. While it affects everyone differently, it is relatively healthy in small doses. There are some studies that suggest caffeine can have a positive effect on the brain and that it can boost long-term memory.

These are some of the highs of caffeine, but there are also some lows.

According to the Mayo Clinic, consuming too much caffeine, specifically 500-600 mg per day, can lead to the following symptoms.

  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Upset stomach
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tremors
  • Fast heartbeat

Those with anxiety disorders may be overly susceptible to the negative effects of caffeine. Smokers will also metabolize caffeine twice as fast as non-smokers and are more likely to experience the negative side effects of excessive caffeine consumption.

Caffeine Dependency

What many people don’t realize about caffeine is that even though it is extremely common in our world today, caffeine is still a drug and one that acts as a stimulant to the nervous system. Caffeine can be habit-forming for many and addictive to others. While some may argue that addiction is too strong of a word to associate with caffeine, there are many who develop a dependence on this drug. Here are some signs of caffeine dependency that any avid-caffeine user should be on the lookout for.

  • Large Caffeine Tolerance- Over time, many people will start to develop some type of tolerance to caffeine, especially when they consume it on a daily basis. However, when you are not getting your desired effect with your average coffee consumption and have to drink more and more caffeine to feel any effects—it is a sign that you are developing a dependency. 
  • Inability to Cut Back- One of the most common ways that people realize they may have a caffeine dependency is when they find they are unable to cut back or control their caffeine intake—no matter how hard they try.
  • Using Caffeine in Excess- There is a difference between drinking too large of a coffee and truly consuming caffeine in excess. For example, if caffeine consumption is starting to cause physical or psychological problems, or if it is making these problems worse, yet you still continue to use caffeine—you may have a dependency. 
  • Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms- Caffeine is a drug and just like any drug, your body can start to experience withdrawals from that drug when you don’t have a certain amount in your system. Experiencing headaches, fatigue, and depression that occur when you aren’t consuming caffeine and having these symptoms that don’t disappear once you have had a cup of coffee or two is not normal.  This is your body going into withdrawal.

Although many people do develop caffeine dependencies, it is generally quite easy to quit or cut back on caffeine if you take the process gradually. This can mean lowering your consumption by half a soda per day or blending decaf coffee with your regular morning cup. If you are struggling to slowly lower your consumption, talk to your healthcare provider for help with quitting the habit.

Unfortunately, even though many Americans love their caffeine, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Make sure you are aware of all of the highs and lows of caffeine consumption so you can safely enjoy caffeine in moderation without experiencing any negative side effects. Before asking for your next double shot of espresso take a moment to remember the key points of this blog and make a choice that is best for your health. If you have any concerns regarding your caffeine consumption, call us at Continuum Internal Medicine to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mandal.