Your Daily Dose of Caffeine May Be Hurting You
Over half of Americans over 18 drink at least one cup of coffee a day, and over 90% of people in the world (PDF) consume caffeine in one form or another. Caffeine is a favored stimulant, and one that many of us don't even think about using. (See also: Cheap Ways to Get Your Caffeine Fix)
We see caffeine as a safe choice — a good way to wake up, give ourselves energy when we need it, and help us keep working when we feel too tired and want to quit. We feel like it is a necessary, because otherwise we would be tired, lethargic, and unable to finish everything we feel like we need to get done.
While it's rare to hear about caffeine killing anyone, we also shouldn't put anything into our bodies without thinking about it first. If you've never considered your consumption of caffeine, or if you are struggling with issues like anxiety and dehydration, it might be time to think through some of the downsides of caffeine and decide whether you want to continue putting it in your body.
Coffee is a diuretic, which means that it increases your urine output. This means that, when you consume it, you will lose more water than you would have otherwise. Unless you're conscientious about replenishing that water, you could easily end up dehydrated.
Even minor dehydration can ruin your day, causing headaches, tiredness, and problems concentrating. And major dehydration is a major deal, making it difficult for your body to function on many different levels.
In most people, drinking caffeine interferes with your body's hunger mechanisms. You'll feel less hungry than you are. This is why many people who consume caffeine end up skipping meals, because they don't even recognize their own hunger.
Anything that shuts down the body's normal ways of functioning should raise some questions. Sure, we can be vigilant, knowing that we need to feed our bodies even though we take in caffeine, but do we want to be changing the way our bodies interpret natural signals?
Anyone who has ever tried to stop drinking caffeine can tell you that it sucks. You feel tired, you get headaches, and sometimes you just don't feel like your brain is functioning at optimum levels. These symptoms can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
While the withdrawal itself is something you can survive if you're determined to leave caffeinated beverages behind, it's not something that anyone wants to deal with. Add to that the fact that caffeine causes withdrawal symptoms because your body is dependent on it, and you have to ask yourself if the stimulant is something you want in your body at all. (See also: Kicky Drinks Without the Caffeine)
Even a small amount of caffeine can trigger a stress response, raising levels of adrenaline and mimicking a stressful situation. If you're continually consuming caffeine, your body will always be functioning as if you are stressed. (See also: 99 Free Ways to De-Stress)
Many people claim that coffee helps them jump start their days. However, what you're actually doing is giving yourself a small adrenaline rush every morning. Over time, this can contribute to adrenal fatigue. Even if that doesn't happen, though, most people would choose to be relaxed rather than stressed, even if they don't have quite as much energy.
Caffeine can disrupt your sleep for up to 24 hours after you consume it. While most people don't feel like they are under caffeine's influence after a couple of hours, it is still in the body and still affects how you function. (See also: Foods That Help You Sleep)
In most people, caffeine disrupts REM sleep, which is the part of sleep where your body processes emotions and interprets your day. This may not seem important, but over many nights, the cumulative effect can be a hampered emotional intelligence. You may struggle with your own feelings or in interpreting and responding to the feelings of people around you. Since these are skills that make life smoother, you may notice a change in how you feel about the world, how much you can handle, or how even your emotions are.
For young adults, recent research has shown that caffeine-induced sleep disturbances can slow brain development. Caffeine really may "stunt your growth."
Whether you choose to continue consuming caffeine or not, knowing these downsides can help you if you do begin to feel like your body isn't functioning as well as you might like. While quitting caffeine can be hard, some people find that it frees them and helps them become more balanced — and like they don't have to take on the world.
How much caffeine do you consume in a typical day?