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Caffeine has both negative and positive side effects

Posted Sep 17 2012 6:27pm


We all love our coffee and the day would be almost impossible to start without it, but what is it costing you in terms of negative side effects? If you drink excessive amounts of coffee (and who hasn’t at some point when you have a deadline looming), then you’ve likely already experienced  the jitters and possibly caffeine-related insomnia. 

Caffeine works by blocking adenosine, a chemical in the body that tells the body to rest when it’s tired. That’s what gives you the burst of energy for a couple of hours after drinking coffee. But continually blocking adenosine isn’t a good idea. After that initial high wears off, caffeine’s negative side effects rear their collective, ugly head. 

Five ways coffee is affecting you for the worse:

  1. Panic attacks. Part of blocking adenosine for too long means that it taps into our natural fight-or-flight instincts that we all possess from hundreds of years of evolution. And while the fight-or-flight instinct is essential, if you have caffeine in your system for too long, that instinct gets diminished to straight up panic attacks, meaning your hands become shaky, your skin becomes sweaty and clammy and you wind up expecting bad things to happen to you. Who needs that?
  2. Addiction. If you’re going to be addicted to one thing in the world, it might as well be something as innocuous as caffeine, right? While caffeine might seem like a relatively harmless addiction, it is an addiction nonetheless. And once your body gets used to it, if you fail to get that delicious daily dose of caffeine, you can become irritable, tired and can even show signs of depression
  3. Dehydration. Wait, what? Coffee is a liquid and therefore the more you drink, the more hydrated you are, right? Uh, no. Coffee and other foods that contain caffeine have been linked to dehydration. That’s because caffeine also has diuretic properties. (That means it makes you pee a lot and that loss of liquid from the body counteracts any hydrating qualities of coffee.) 
  4. PMS. Women who drink a lot of coffee (and, unfortunately, our dear old friend chocolate is implicated here, too) tend to experience the symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome more severely than women who don’t. The headaches, the bloated sensation and the cramping all become worse with the more caffeine you consume. 
  5. Emotional fatigue. Sure, that coffee wakes us up and that’s great when we need to be on the go and get stuff done but don’t forget that your body does simply need to stop moving and rest at times, too. When your body does not get the rest it needs, that can lead to physical tiredness, of course, but also emotional fatigue. (Your mind also needs a chance to rest, don’t forget.)

Okay, I feel like I’m giving coffee a completely bad name here and my World’s Greatest Mom coffee mug that I got last Christmas is judging me now. (This is clearly a sign that I’ve had a little too much coffee already this morning.)

So, allow me to also bring you some positives about caffeine.

Five ways coffee is affecting you for the better:

  1. Alertness. This is probably the most obvious one. Caffeine keeps our minds alert for an hour or two. Regular consumption of caffeine can keep a mind more active throughout the day. Just be sure not to overdo it! 
  2. Parkinson’s disease. Caffeine has been linked in studies to prevention of Parkinson’s because it keeps the dopamine the body active. Dopamine is the chemical that activate the brain’s pleasure centers. 
  3. Heart disease. Caffeine is a contributing factor in preventing heart disease because it is an antioxidant and antioxidants help to prevent heart ailments along with some forms of cancer. (Alas, it will not prevent heartbreak, though, so be careful in that department!)
  4. Diabetes. Caffeine promotes the production of adrenaline and cortisol (these are associated with the body’s fight-or-flight response talked about earlier) and when released into the body, they cause the liver to burn up more sugar. This only works, however, in caffeinated beverages and foods that are not sweetened.
  5. Stamina. Going back caffeine’s tendency to block adenosine, consuming it before a workout or physical activity will ward off muscle fatigue, allowing you to move faster and for longer periods of time. 

Now stop me if you’ve heard this one before; like all things, caffeine, when consumed in moderation, is good for your body. But, if you overindulge, it has the potential to be harmful. Of course you’ve heard that before. Caffeine is just like everything else; good in moderation. It’s important to monitor your daily intake of caffeine to make sure that you don’t go from moderation to problem with your consumption. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, my mug needs refilling ...



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