Written by L. Balbach in Standard Bearer magazine SDARM 1990’s
Caffeine belongs to a family of chemicals called methlxanthines. This drug has adverse effects on our body which can be felt from head to toe. So, while coffee lovers are brewing their coffee, soda lovers guzzling their soda pops and pill users are popping their pills, methlxanthines are brewing a whole host of health problems inside the body.
Central Nervous System.
Many people don’t depend on a nutritious breakfast to give them “go power,” but on coffee. It is common knowledge that caffeinated drinks affect the nervous system and provide temporary relief from fatigue and sluggishness. At first caffeine produces a state of alertness and increased energy. When the drug effects wear off, it causes irritability, nervousness, headaches and depression. Yet, while it may speed up reaction time and improve automatic processing skills like doing arithmetic problems, it worsens performance of more complicated tasks. “Caffeine also worsens fine motor coordination due to an increase in hand tremors.
Fetuses and Pregnant Women
Within thirty minutes of consumption, caffeine reaches peak levels in the blood and saturates the body tissues at a level proportional to their water content. Unborn fetuses taken in caffeine through the placenta and breast-fed infants get it through human breast milk.
Caffeine does not get eliminated from the body right away. Depending on age, sex and hormone levels, medications, smoking status and pregnancy, caffeine may stay around for days. Newborns, pregnant women and those using birth control pills remove caffeine more slowly from their body. After three hours to four days only 50% (half life) of the caffeine is removed from a newborn’s body. This is due to the fact that infants do not have the enzymes to metabolize the drug. The half-life of caffeine in nonsmoking adults is 5-7- hours, in pregnant women 18-20 hours.
Caffeine has a variety of physiological effects on the body. Adults who drink 1-3 cups of coffee or have 1-4 sodas consume 75-200 mg of caffeine and will experience clear physiological effects.
PMS and Fibrocystic Breast Disease
Women who drink 8-10 cups of coffee daily have a 7 times greater risk of having PMS symptoms than those who don’t drink. A female physician with Fibrocystic breast disease was consuming 1300 mg of methalxanthines per day. When she stopped using coffee, tea, colas and chocolate for a month, the lumps diminished. After two months, her Fibrocystic disease disappeared.
Osteoporosis. Linda Massey, a bone researcher from Washington State University states that caffeine can have negative effects on our bones. According to Creighton University’s Osteoporosis Research Unit, “The more regularly a women drinks coffee, the more calcium is excreted. The loss adds to about 5mg of calcium for every six ounces of coffee or two cans of cola.
Physiological Effects Of caffeine Intake;
* Increases urinary losses of calcium
* Low birthweight babies with possible birth defects
* Decreases fertility
* Causes insomnia and disrupted sleep
* Causes irritability, nervousness
* Causes headaches and anxiety
* Produces alertness at first, then depression
* Stimulates central nervous system
* Elevates blood sugar and blood cholesterol
* Aggravates peptic ulcers
* Elevates blood pressure
* Causes irregular heartbeat and palpitations
* Increases PMS symptoms
* Produces breast lumps
* Increases risk of bladder and other cancers
Birth Defect, Miscarriages and Infertility.
Studies with laboratory animals reveal that mother rats who take large amounts of caffeine bear malformed babies. Three women who drank 8-25 cups of coffee per day reported birth defects in their children. Since caffeine easily crosses the human placenta, the fetus is quite vulnerable to this drug, especially as infants metabolize it very slowly.
In one study 4,000 women who consumed 150-300 mg of caffeine per day during their pregnancy had more than twice the risk of delivering underweight babies (less than 5.5 lbs.) than those who consumed less caffeine. The risk of delivering a low birth baby is almost five times greater for women who consume more 300 mg of caffeine per day during their pregnancy had more than twice the risk of delivering underweight babies (less than 5.5lbs.) than those who consumed less caffeine. The risk of delivering a low birth baby is almost five times greater for women who consume more 300mg of caffeine per day. Infants born with low birth weight have an increased risk of dying in early infancy. Due to these adverse effects of caffeine on the fetus, the FDA advises pregnant women to “avoid caffeine-containing foods and drugs, if possible, or consume them sparingly.”
Cancer. Caffeine does not appear to cause cancer directly but increases the growth of tumours which are caused by other carcinogens. Heavy coffee drinking doubles the risk of bladder cancer, while tea drinking increases rectal cancer.
Ulcers. Caffeine causes increased gastric acid secretion which in turn aggravates peptic ulcers. Even decaffeinated coffee has been shown to stimulate stomach acid through the irritating effect of caffeole which contributes to taste and aroma in coffee.
Sleep. While caffeine can delay the onset of sleep it also interferes with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage when dreams occur. In a recent study, women who routinely took caffeine-containing medications had more trouble falling asleep at night than those who had no caffeinated medications.
Heart Disease. Caffeine affects the heart and blood vessels by elevating cholesterol and triglyceride levels. At Stanford University, researchers report that middle-aged men who drink three or more cups of coffee per day had elevated blood levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol).
A recent Norwegian study of 7589 and 8585 women found that the more coffee they consumed, the higher was their homocysteine level. Those with homocysteine levels have a greater risk of coronary artery disease.
What about decaffeinated coffee? Two studies have shown that LDL cholesterol increases when coffee drinkers switched to decaffeinated coffee. Besides elevating blood fats, coffee can cause heart palpitations and increase rate of irregular heartbeat. Mild hypertensives should also restrict their caffeine intake.
Among the most detrimental effects of caffeine on the body is drug dependency. The addiction to caffeine has given rise to a new disease called caffeinism. Increased blood levels of caffeine may cause a craving for nicotine, so anyone wishing to quit smoking must stop drinking caffeinated beverages.
How can you know if you are addicted to caffeine? Individuals who drink 5-6 cups of coffee or caffeinated beverages have shown behavioral and psychophsyiological symptoms to caffeine. The symptoms of caffeinism are: restlessness, anxiety, irritability, muscle tremors, agitation, jitteriness, insomnia, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, diarrhea and increased urination and headaches.
Children And Adolescents
According to pediatricians, children and adolescents are some of the most targeted groups for caffeine addiction. On a bodyweight basis, 1-5 years are the highest consumers of caffeine. A child who drinks one can of soda per day is getting the equivalent of four cups of coffee for an adult. One third of all the children who drink high levels of caffeinated beverages show hyperactive behaviour which is typical of caffeinism. No wonder pediatricians are concerned about the growing number of soda-guzzling youngsters and adolescents who come in with irritability, headache and nervousness.
7 Ways To Over Come The Caffeine Habit
Caffeine is a health hazard. For the optimal functioning of the brain, hear and body as well as for the abundant health of your family, complete abstinence from caffeine-loaded beverages is the prudent choice. So give caffeine a “quitting notice!” The methods below will help you to quit for good.
1. Have a dry brush massage
When you feel drowsy, take a dry brush massage before you shower. Brush the skin with short or long strokes toward the heart. Skin brushing acts as a natural stimulant.
2. Take a hot/cold shower
When you feel sluggish and need a mental pickup take a hot shower for a minute and follow it by a cold shower. Repeat this up to seven times each. This wet exercise will stimulate your circulation and energize your mental attitude.
3. Get outdoor exercise
If you are unable to take a shower, take a brisk 15 minute walk, jog or bike ride and you will have the same beneficial stimulus to brain, blood and muscle.
4. Watch your diet
Stay away from sugar and other concentrated sweets. Avoid overeating.
5. Have water or herbal tea on hand.
Keep a glass of cool water, catnip or other herbal tea, or cereal beverage(coffee replacement made from grains and cereals), on hand to replace the habit of sipping down caffeinated beverages.
6. Take a hot foot bath.
Headache is a serious withdrawal symptom which can be alleviated by a simple 20-45 minute hot foot bath. Finish the hot foot bath by throwing a bucket with ice and water over your feet.
7. Lubricate your body
Drink 8-10 cups of water daily and eat lots of raw fruit and vegetables.
An Alternative Stimulant
We live in a “click of the button” society. People want instant answers to their physical, emotional and social problems. If they are tired, they want some magical concoctions to pep them up, if they are emotionally down, they want something to instantly lift their spirits. So, thousands turn to caffeine, alcohol or illegal drugs to get an instant “high.” We must understand, however, that for every mountain peak there is a corresponding valley. The more frequently we depend on artificial stimulants, the greater will be the immediate “high,” but the deep and more drastic the “low.” The lows create an appetite for bigger and “better” highs which never gets satisfied and so addiction develops.
In 1669 a missionary named Bettendorf noted that the Maues-Sateres Indians tribe who live in the Brazilian rainforest were by far the most healthy of the natives that he encountered in his travels.
The missionary also noted in his journals how the Maues-Sateres used guarana as a tonic and stimulant to help them cope with extreme heat, to endure long journeys, and also to cure headache and cramp. The plant was regarded as something of a miracle worker and was even used as a form of currency.
Mrs Grieve wrote in her Modern Herbal (1931) that guarana was a ‘tonic, stimulant and is useful for mild forms of diarrhoea.’
Guarana is useful in maintaining energy and endurance, particularly during times of stress when the body can become depleted. The South American Indians also attribute cooling effects to guarana, making it a useful summer beverage or supplement. Its tannins can help relieve and perhaps protect against diarrhoea, making guarana an excellent traveller’s supplement, both as an energy booster and a protector for a sensitive stomach. Guarana is also claimed to suppress appetite, and so may be a beneficial part of weight loss program.
Whether it is due to its energy-lifting effects, or some possible male hormone-like activity, the general tonic actions of guarana will no doubt see some improvement in that area along with other health benefits.
How it works
Analysis of guarana reveals that it contains certain substances-about 3 to 5 percent of the total-called methlaxanthines. Some researchers say that one of these substances is caffeine, and that this accounts for the herb’s stimulating actions. Others hold that there is no caffeine in Guarana but rather that a group of chemicals very similar to caffeine, known as guaranine is responsible for the effect.
Guarana does contain some caffeine but the effects of the herb are so different from those of caffeine it would appear the other substances in the herb, such as tannins and saponins, act as a buffer and modify any short-term stimulation caused by any caffeine present.
Studies reported by Michael Van Straten in his book, Guarana, show guarana to have a strong and consistent positive effect on mood and some positive effects on performance. In fact, guarana can lead to long term sustained energy without the side effects of caffeine-rich drinks.
How to take it
In Brazil today, the national soft drink is not one of the massively promoted cola drinks but rather a drink made from the guarana seed; such drinks are also now available in Australia and New Zealand. Additionally, guarana is available in powder, tablet, and capsule form. Terry Robson, N.D. Health Medicine Magazine Feb/March 1999.