What’s Wrong with Caffeine? Give a Minute…or Sixty

Caffeine gets a lot of love from a lot of people. (especially personal trainers!) Probably no drug in the world, legal or otherwise, has the breadth of influence that caffeine enjoys. Do not be mistaken, caffeine is indeed a drug, squarely fitting into the category of central nervous system stimulant. That’s why you feel pretty good within an hour after drinking it. Over time though, the body begins to expect the caffeine and consequently depresses its own nervous system to compensate. At that point you will need the caffeine just to feel normal, and the heightened sense of energy is no longer there-unless of course you continue to raise the level of your intake, which will obviously increase the negative effects. Also, as a stimulant, the quality of sleep will be affected if it is still active in your system, even if you are still able to sleep. Waking up every morning in a state of “withdrawal” does not make for good days either. Additionally, correlating to its effect on the CNS, caffeine is a vasoconstrictor: it shrinks your blood vessels while it is active in your system. The headaches experienced when not “on” the caffeine are due to the “bounce-back” effect: the rehydrated thicker blood storms through the tired walls of the previously restricted vessels, causing pain. People with high blood pressure or high blood sugar levels should especially avoid caffeine, as it can raise each of these. It also creates problems for people with heart conditions, and in high doses, can induce irregular heartbeats in healthy people. Finally, as a diuretic, caffeine removes water from the body, yielding detrimental effects on all areas of health. It becomes tougher to properly hydrate and lubricate connective tissue in your joints and the fibers in your muscles. The cardiovascular system struggles more to dilute toxins in the blood, and the lymphatic system, full of the body’s “dumpsters,” finds it harder to “take out the trash” and keep the system clean with the shortage of water. If you do plan to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet, remember to step down your caffeine intake gradually to avoid the withdrawal symptoms. This will make it more probable that you stick with your new resolve, instead of running back to the drug to ease the initial pain during transition. The good news is that once you have kicked the habit, your energy will more stable around the clock, and your appetite will be easier to control with more consistent brain chemistry. As caffeine also changes hydrochloric acid production, your stomach and esophagus will thank you as well when digestion is eased and heartburn dissipates.