NYACK, N.Y. -- Many people love coffee, but caffeine consumption can have numerous adverse effects on our health – even if we don’t realize it. Some people can be very sensitive to even a small amount of caffeine, as little as a single cup of coffee in the morning.
"It is important to remember that caffeine is a stimulant and all stimulants can alter the way the nervous system and other bodily functions work," said Dr. Ronald Stern, Internal Medicine Physician with Dr. Ronald Stern Internal Medicine in Pomona, a member of Highland Medical P.C. "Our nervous system controls the type of mood we're in, as well as energy levels, heart rate, blood pressure and even our digestion."
There are many sources of caffeine. It can be found in sodas, coffee, tea (black, green and white), energy drinks, cocoa, diet pills, over-the- counter sports aids/drinks and pain relievers. Although often consumed in fluids, caffeine is also a diuretic, meaning it depletes water from the body. As a result, it can lead to a loss of nutrients and cause dehydration.
"The maximum amount that an adult should ingest is between 250-400 milligrams of caffeine per day," said Stern. As a reference, a single cup of coffee typically has between 95-200 milligrams of caffeine.
Some of the more common side effects of caffeine use include:
- moodiness (anxiety, panic attacks, increased stress)
- inability to focus
- daytime urinary frequency as well as nighttime urinary frequency
- overwhelming fatigue
- digestive symptoms (such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, heartburn or acid
- reflux, abdominal pain or cramps)
- palpitations (increased heart rate)
- high blood pressure
Other symptoms related to caffeine use can include headaches, restlessness, eye twitching and more breast sensitivity in women -- especially those with fibrocystic breast disease.
"Long-term consumption of caffeine can lead to depression," warns Stern, "It can also have an effect on bone density, which can contribute to pain in your hips, knees and lower back."
If you feel that you might be experiencing some of the side effects of caffeine use, Stern urges patients to talk to their doctor. "Weaning yourself off caffeine is not easy, since caffeine use can be an addictive behavior," he said. "However, it can be done -- and it can be worth the trouble."