We all love our coffee, especially on those busy days and lazy mornings. But have you ever wondered if there’s such a thing as too much caffeine? Yes! Caffeine can affect your body in many ways and it’s possible to drink too much and cause yourself discomfort and distress.
Thankfully, caffeine is rarely lethal. You’d have to drink over 100 cups of coffee to reach a lethal dose. But the negative effects of caffeine can crop up at much lower doses. If you want to regulate your caffeine intake, read on to find out how.
What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that works on the central nervous system to produce feelings of alertness. It’s the world’s most used psychoactive substance and is found primarily in coffee and tea, but also in cacao plants, guarana berries, yerba mate, and some 30 other plants. It’s bitter to taste and its presence in plants is a form of natural insect repellant.
Coffee beans are the most popular source of caffeine but caffeine is also present in tea, chocolate, energy drinks, and fizzy colas. Caffeine can have both positive and negative health effects, depending on the amount consumed and the source.
How Does Caffeine Affect the Body?
Anyone who drinks coffee or tea can tell you that caffeine wakes you up. But how does this happen? As a psychoactive stimulant, caffeine works directly in the brain to produce feelings of alertness. This is achieved by binding to adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine causes feelings of tiredness and drowsiness. When caffeine binds to adenosine receptors, it prevents adenosine from binding to the receptor and caffeine has the opposite effect of creating feelings of alertness.
As for the rest of the body, caffeine can cause the following:
- Dilation of the pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood flow to the muscles
- Tremors or jitters
- Increased urination
How Much Caffeine Per Day Is Healthy?
As per the U.S FDA, the recommended maximum intake of caffeine is 400mg per day. This is about 4 cups of coffee. This recommendation varies from person to person, however, as some people have a low tolerance for caffeine and need to limit their intake more strictly.
Pure caffeine, especially in powdered form, can be toxic at lower doses and should be avoided. Children, teenagers, and pregnant women are much more susceptible to the ill effects of caffeine and they should avoid caffeine entirely.
Consuming Too Much Coffee- Signs and Symptoms
You may be familiar with the feeling of consuming too much coffee- you get jittery, your anxiety spikes, and eventually, you crash. Here are some of the other signs and symptoms of consuming too much coffee:
Caffeine makes you more alert, so it makes sense that it would interfere with your sleeping patterns. Caffeine can stay in the body for up to 5 hours (this varies based on body weight, metabolism, genetics, etc.) so even if you have your last cup in the afternoon, it can still be present in your body when bedtime comes along. It not only makes it harder to fall asleep but also disrupts sleep during the night and lowers sleep quality.
Caffeine is a diuretic which means it causes increased fluid loss through frequent urination. If you don’t pay attention to your water intake and drink a lot of coffee, cola, or energy drinks, you can end up dehydrated. This has a widespread effect all over the body, from making your skin drier to causing headaches and loss of concentration.
Caffeine gives you an initial boost in your mood but as dependence and tolerance increase, it can cause major crashes in mood leading to irritability. Caffeine can also induce feelings of anxiety and restlessness which can be quite distressing.
4. Digestive issues
Consuming too much coffee can worsen heartburn, indigestion, and diarrhea. Caffeine increases gut motility and can irritate the stomach lining, leading to these symptoms. In some extreme cases, it can even cause ulcers.
Caffeine can cause rebound fatigue. After the initial energy boost wears off, fatigue sets in once all the caffeine is cleared from the body. Rebound fatigue is directly proportional to the amount of caffeine consumed, so consuming too much coffee can cause more fatigue in the long run.
6. Heart issues
Caffeine raises the heart rate as well as blood pressure. Increased heart rate can worsen into heart palpitations when you drink too much coffee. This side effect varies from person to person and some people are more susceptible to heart palpitations and elevated blood pressure, even at relatively low doses of caffeine.
How To Regulate Your Caffeine Intake
If you’ve noticed the signs and symptoms of consuming too much coffee, it may be time to cut back on your caffeine intake. In some cases, you may need to regulate your caffeine intake due to health concerns or certain medications you may be taking. Regardless of the reason, here’s how to regulate your caffeine intake:
1. Keep track of your caffeine intake
Try to limit yourself to 2 cups of coffee or less. You can also reduce your consumption of cola and energy drinks. Research caffeine intake in different foods and beverages, and try to keep an eye on your daily intake.
2. Switch to decaf coffee
Decaf coffee, which is largely (but not completely) caffeine-free, is a good option if you love coffee but want to reduce your caffeine intake. However, Decaf is not 100% caffeine-free so you still need to track your coffee consumption. Half-caff coffee is another good option, which is half regular coffee and half decaf.
3. Switch to herbal teas or reduce your brew time
Reducing the brew time of your tea or coffee will reduce the caffeine concentration in the final cup. You can also substitute your regular coffee or tea for herbal teas which have no caffeine.
Cutting down on caffeine can be tricky- if done too suddenly or too quickly it can trigger withdrawal symptoms like headaches and lethargy. Go slow, listen to your body, and choose the best options for you and your lifestyle.