Although it’s completely legal, caffeine found naturally in coffee and other drinks is really a stimulant drug. In fact, caffeine is the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world. It is recognized as an addictive substance by the World Health Organization. Have you ever noticed that if you (or someone you know) go a day without caffeine, will develop headaches, body sweats and irritability? These are all symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, very similar to withdrawal from other stimulants and drugs.
Caffeine affects the central nervous system by elevating your heart rate, increasing alertness, and changing the way your brain and body function. While these may sound somewhat useful, it should only be used occasionally. Caffeine should not be used to replace sleep. It is absorbed into the blood and body tissues within 15 minutes and its effects lasts up to six hours, which can greatly affect sleep.
Whether caffeine is consumed in food, drink or as a medicine, it changes the way the brain and body work. Most of us know that coffee, energy drinks and soft drinks contain caffeine, but you may be surprised to learn that caffeine is hidden in many commonly consumed items. Protein bars, decaf coffee, hot or cold tea, chocolate, “fortified” water and pain medications are a few of the items that contain hidden caffeine.
Although caffeine may appear to have some positive effects, its negative effects greatly outweigh them. Below are some of the most commonly experienced effects of caffeine use:
Dependency and addiction
Similar to any drug, caffeine is very addictive. Most people change how much they use over time based on their built-up level of tolerance. Over time, you will need more caffeine to produce the same energizing effects because your body will naturally build up tolerance. This is very similar to the increased tolerance of alcohol or illegal drug use. If you’re a coffee drinker and have ever had to go without your “fix”, you know how difficult the withdrawal symptoms can be. Withdrawal is a serious reaction to weaning yourself off of caffeine and should not be taken lightly. These symptoms can include headaches, anxiety, irritability, body sweats, trouble concentrating, fatigue, digestive issues and changes in appetite. Relying on caffeine for energy is extremely dangerous and can produce adrenal fatigue that can lead to negative effects on other aspects of your health.
If you suffer from high stress levels, nervousness and anxiety, caffeine can exacerbate these symptoms and make you more susceptible to the negative effects of caffeine. If you are someone who already suffers from these conditions, you should completely avoid caffeine, sugar and other similar stimulants.
Caffeine is known to disrupt sleep and can make insomnia worse in people who suffer from sleep-related concerns. Even if you generally have no trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, caffeine can disrupt your body’s natural hormone levels, such as serotonin and melatonin, that help promote restful sleep. Because of this, you’re more likely to need caffeine to help you function the following day, putting yourself in a never-ending cycle of “needing” caffeine to have a productive day.
Over time, caffeine causes the adrenal glands to overwork and eventually weaken. When you’re lacking quality sleep, you suppress healthy hormone production. Caffeine can be especially harmful for women suffering from many hormone related issues such as PMS, PMDD, PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis and infertility.
Caffeine is a diuretic, so you’ve probably noticed you have an increased need to urinate after consuming it. Additionally, caffeine depletes levels of key nutrients and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc.
The effects of caffeine combined with sugar in sweetened coffee, soft drinks and energy drinks has an even bigger, negative impact on the body than caffeine alone. These high-sugar, processed ingredients are full of artificial sweeteners and chemicals and are extremely dangerous especially when combined with caffeine.
If you are ready to eliminate caffeine from your diet but are unsure where to begin, try switching out some of your sugar filled, caffeinated beverages with some healthy alternatives. You can try flavored herbal teas, including green tea. If you really enjoy the taste of coffee, try switching out your daily fix with a dandelion root tea or latte. To sweeten your caffeine free beverages, try sweetening with pure stevia.
If you have a severe caffeine addiction and don’t know where to begin, call our office today at (704) 334-3761 to schedule a free phone consultation with one of our Naturopathic Physicians. We can get you started on a detox that will kick start your journey to a happier and healthier you without the need for caffeine.