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Caffeine is a potent drug. So each time you drink tea, coffee, cola or cocoa you are giving your body a ‘hit' of caffeine. Along with nicotine and alcohol, caffeine is one of the three most widely used mood-affecting drugs in the world.
If you have more than two or three caffeine drinks per day this is likely to be affecting your moods and your physiology - and in a more powerful manner than you might expect.
Caffeine is not harmful - but overuse of caffeine could be.
It is a potent and quick-acting drug which produces an effect similar to the stress response in our bodies. Caffeine affects each person differently, depending on individual circumstances such as weight, build, etc. It has an almost instant effect on your mind-body which will continue to influence your state for 6-8 hours afterwards.
New research into the effects of caffeine continues appear every few months and these reports frequently contradict one another - depending on who did the research, how many people were evaluated and, of course, who funded the research...
So the definitive word on caffeine has not yet been agreed
Caffeine affects each of us differently - a hit of caffeine that will cause insomnia in one person can be a great nightcap for someone else
Take the list below, and the research into caffeine, with a pinch of salt (not literally, of course) and experiment to discover how you, personally, relate with this drug
The following effects are commonly attributed to over-use of caffeine - while reading them bear in mind that what is true for one person may not be true for someone else:
In addition to the above effects prolonged or very heavy caffeine use can produce the following:
NOTE: The fact that caffeine can produce these sensations and symptoms does not mean that it is the ‘only' cause of such symptoms. But if you experience similar symptoms and your medical advisor confirms that they do not have a verifiable organic cause then you may wish to cut out caffeine for a few weeks to see if the symptoms reduce or disappear.
... some research indicates that the caffeine in coffee (though not in cola) can be beneficial in preventing heart disease (see 1 below) - or, at least, that coffee drinkers have a lowered incidence of heart disease. Nevertheless they were unable to confirm that one caused the other nor why this apparent relationship might be appearing.
(An average cup is about 6 UK fluid ounces or 170 ml. Your precise intake of caffeine will, of course, vary with the strength of the drink. One person's mug of instant coffee might have 75 mgs while another person might prepare a 200 mgs hit! Useful link: CoffeeFAQ)
Physical and/or psychological addiction to caffeine is common and withdrawal symptoms usually can occur within 6-18 hours after suddenly stopping caffeine intake.
Withdrawal effects vary considerably from one person to another and can include headaches, drowsiness, lethargy, irritability, trembling, restlessness, and reduced concentration.
As with any addictive drug our sensitivity to caffeine reduces with use – so we need progressively more of it to get the same hit.
Avoid ‘cold turkey’ - don’t cut out caffeine straight away!
To avoid uncomfortable withdrawal effects it is wise to ease off caffeine over a period of 7-14 days to reduce the discomfort. Reduce and then stop the richest sources (especially coffee) first. It is unwise, particularly if you are a heavy user, to suddenly stop caffeine altogether.
Reducing caffeine too quickly can cause a quite dramatic drop in blood pressure, due to the body becoming over-sensitive to adenosine, and this can cause more blood to gather in the head producing a migraine-like headache.
Muscle cramps, giddiness, excessive sleepiness, and lack of concentration are other common withdrawal effects from going ‘cold turkey' on caffeine.
When you stop caffeine you allow your body to catch up on its lost rest. This takes some time. Using caffeine to force yourself into activity is like flogging an exhausted horse.
For the first few weeks after stopping caffeine you may find that you are sleeping deeper and for longer. For this reason it is a good idea to allow yourself an extra hour per night for a few weeks, increasing this if you continue to experience lethargy in the mornings.
If you feel drowsy during the day use breathing exercises preferably out of doors, to alert yourself.
And remind yourself that the drowsiness is a sign that you are allowing your body to get back into a more normal state and that your natural energy levels will soon return once things have got back to normal after the onslaught of the caffeine regime.
There's a related article on our blog:
References to check out for yourself:
(3) Check out the great UK National Health Service website for a balanced view of the health news - search under ‘caffeine’ and you’ll have reading material for a month or two.
(Originally from the free Pegasus NLP Newsletter - 7 August 2000 (and later edited).
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