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All About Caffeine And Health

Updated on May 31, 2010

I have an addiction to coffee. I call it my writer's vice and allow it into my life because I figure that everyone has a vice and that one isn't a terrible one. But, am I wrong? Is the caffeine that I consume in mass quantities on a daily basis doing harm to my body? A lot of research has been done about the effects of caffeine on one's overall health, but it seems from what I can tell that the results are inconclusive. So, I'm continuing on with my coffee kick for now, but I'm keeping my eye out on the information that's available about its effects.

Here's the basics of what I've learned so far, in case you're interested on what I've read that's good to know but not enough to stop me from taking in the java:

  • Caffeine is a stimulant which affects the central nervous system. Of course, that makes sense, since its consumed with the purpose of stimulating you into staying awake. It does this by altering that part of the brain temporarily.
  • Caffeine can cause problems with anxiety, restlessness and lack of sleep. This makes sense, since it is a stimulant. In general, I don't consume caffeine in the evening so I don't have the sleep problems and the other problems ... okay, so I have the restlessness but I channel it into work anyway. I'm okay with the minimal effects its having on me for now but can see where this would be a problem for some people.
  • Caffeine generally takes about 45 minutes to go into effect in your body and remains in effect for approximately four hours, although these numbers depend a lot on individual body factors.
  • Caffeine has been believed to be associated with heart problems but studies of this have been inconclusive.
  • Caffeine is a drug - tolerance for it can be developed and therefore more is needed to achieve the same effects. That would explain why I drink it in mass quantities these days. Withdrawal effects can also happen, so you can start to feel pretty bad if you're used to having it and then you don't. I speak from experience.
  • Caffeine may possible have an effect on the health of your bones but consuming appropriate quantities of calcium should balance out this effect.
  • Caffeine temporarily increases your ability to do labor, both physical and mental. Well, that's a good reason to use it as a writer, right?!
  • It is widely believed that moderate consumption of caffeine is not dangerous for your health. What defines moderate varies from source to source but seems to be around three cups of coffee per day.
  • Peptic ulcers have been caused by abuse of caffeine. So, I could be doing major stomach damage to myself and eventually causing myself serious physical pain.
  • There are studies being done about caffeine and memory but it is inconclusive so far as to whether the stimulant causes improved or impaired memory. I certainly don't need any hindrance of my short term memory, but since it isn't determined yet, I'm watching this one warily.

In addition to the research that I have done through the studies and information made available to the public regarding caffeine intake and health, I've also paid attention to my own experience with caffeine. I believe wholeheartedly that the person who knows the most about your health is you and think that paying attention to how you feel and what is causing you to feel that way is critical to improving your overall health. I, personally, feel best when I am consuming my average amount of coffee on a regular basis.

I tend to go through phases where I'll build up that caffeine tolerance and start drinking too much coffee to compensate. I've noticed that I tend to have more ups and downs of both mood and energy when this happens. I get dizzy or lightheaded at times and I get a general sense of not feeling well. In contrast, when I don't have coffee at all, I get headaches, feel sluggish and generally don't feel that I'm working up to my full capacity. For me, there is a definite balance of finding the right amount of caffeine to be at my optimum health.


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