What is caffeine?

Caffeine is simply a natural substance found in around 60 plant species or more. Tea leaves, coffee beans, guarana, and cocoa seeds are included in these. Caffeine can be produced synthetically as well and can be added to some certain foods, beverages, and medications. Caffeine that is synthetically produced is a component of many medications, including cold and flu, appetite suppressing and pain-relieving medications. Caffeine is one of a group of drugs, which have been said to have several effects on the body:

  • They can stimulate the central nervous system.
  • They can increase the frequency of urination in the body.
  • They very well stimulate the heart muscles.
  • They can increase smooth muscle relaxation, which helps affect body systems regulated by smooth muscles.

Caffeine is consumed as psychoactive in the most basic way (affecting the mind or moods). This drug is globally consumed and has a long history. Coffee was/has been consumed in Arabian nations since the 13th century and tea has been consumed in China for almost several thousand years now.

Which foods contain caffeine?

Caffeine is naturally found in many foods, beverages, and medications. Naturally occurring caffeine can also be found in coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate. Some nuts are also said to contain caffeine, like kola nuts. Caffeine is present in many soft drinks nowadays, particularly the drinks with cola flavor and energy drinks as well. An average cola drink will contain about 1/3rd the amount of caffeine found in an equal volume of coffee. However, it is important for one to know that not all the caffeine contained in a product is specifically detailed in the ingredient list of the product. If caffeine is presented naturally in an ingredient of the product the ingredient might be listed but not the caffeine it contains. If synthetically produced caffeine is added will it appear on the ingredients list of the product. In addition, caffeine can be easily removed from foods and beverages through a process known as decaffeination, like decaffeinated coffee and tea.

How much caffeine is it safe to consume?

The amount of caffeine which can be safely consumed is different for different individuals. In Australia, health authorities have strictly asked that the adults consume no more than 600mg of caffeine a day. However, for people who are very sensitive to the effects of caffeine consumption, mostly pregnant and lactating women and children, should consume less to no caffeine.

The unknown dangers of caffeine:

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Caffeine is questionably safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women when used daily amounts of less than 200 mg. This is almost the amount put in 1-2 cups of coffee. Consuming larger amounts of caffeine during pregnancy or when breastfeeding a child is unsafe. When consumed in larger amounts during pregnancy, caffeine might increase the chances of a miscarriage and other related problems.

  • Anxiety disorders: Caffeine might make conditions like anxiety worse. Use caffeine with utmost care.
  • Bipolar disorder: Too much caffeine might make the condition of the patient worse. In one of the cases, a 36-year-old man suffering from bipolar disorder was hospitalized after drinking several cans of an energy drink containing caffeine over a period of 4 days.
  • Bleeding disorders: There is a possibility that caffeine might aggravate bleeding disorders. Usage of caffeine should be cautious if one has a bleeding disorder.
  • Heart conditions: Caffeine causes irregular heartbeat in people sensitive to caffeine. Use caffeine with utmost caution.
  • Diabetes: Research suggests that caffeine might affect the way the body uses sugar and might worsen the diabetic condition.
  • Diarrhea: when caffeine is consumed in large amounts, can worsen diarrhea problems and trouble sensitive stomach.
  • Epilepsy: People suffering from epilepsy disorder should completely avoid using caffeine in high doses. Even when consumed in low doses one should be extremely cautious.
  • Glaucoma: Caffeine intake can lead to increased pressure inside the eye. This increase takes place within 30 minutes and lasts for as long as at least 90 minutes after drinking caffeinated beverages.
  • High blood pressure: Caffeine consumption may increase blood pressure within people who suffer blood pressure issues. However, this may not affect those who are regular consumers of caffeine of caffeinated drinks.
  • Weak bones (osteoporosis): Caffeine reportedly increases the amount of calcium that the body flushes out in the urination processes.
  • Schizophrenia: in diseases as severe as schizophrenia caffeine intake might lead to worse symptoms and increase issues for schizophrenia patients.

Studies have shown that people who consume an average of 100 mg of caffeine per day (amount in one cup of coffee) can acquire a physical dependence that could and most probably would trigger withdrawal symptoms which includes headaches, muscle pain and stiffness, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, depressed mood, and marked irritability. A professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, named Professor Roland Griffiths strongly opines that caffeine withdrawal should be classified under a psychological disorder. His research tells us that withdrawals may begin within 12–24 hours after stopping caffeine intake and could last almost as long as 9 to 10 days. If the person continues to expose his or her body to caffeine, it will lead the body to create and increase more adenosine receptors in the central nervous system. this makes the body more sensitive to the effects of adenosine in two different ways. First, it might lead to a reduction in the stimulatory effects of caffeine by increasing tolerance. Secondly, it will increase the withdrawal symptoms as the body will be more sensitive to the effects of adenosine once caffeine intake stops.

Research suggests that within 24 hours of quitting the drug, one can notice the withdrawal symptoms to begin. Initially, they seem subtle. The first symptom that comes under light is that one feels mentally foggy, and lack alertness. Your muscles are extremely fatigued, without even performing any strenuous activity or work, and one can easily suspect that their behavior is more irritable than usual. Over a period of time, a series of a strong headache/migraines sets in, making it nearly impossible to concentrate on anything. Eventually, as one's body protests not consuming the drug, one might even feel dull muscle pains, nausea and similar flu-like symptoms. We’re talking about quitting caffeine, not heroin, not tobacco or even alcohol for that matter. This substance is so widely and normally consumed with no restriction whatsoever even legally or morally. We as a society and people often forget that caffeine is a drug and by far one of the world’s most popular psychoactive drug. Like many drugs, caffeine is chemically addictive.

So, can caffeine cause death?

Experts say, yes. All you have to do is you have to drink 80 to 100 cups of coffee in one quick succession, which amounts up to about 6 gallons (23 liters) of coffee. And even if you could manage to drink that much coffee, the extra amount of water trapped in your body would kill you first by diluting the essential nutrients in your bloodstream.

But does that mean it’s not dangerous?

Coffee is just as dangerous as alcohol and marijuana. Expert research suggests one is more likely to develop an addiction to caffeine than to marijuana. Now this is one of my favorite points but Cannabis won’t leave you with an epic midday crash but caffeine most probably will. Ironically, marijuana a highly shamed drug helps with some medical conditions, whereas caffeine just creates more problems than it solves. The withdrawal symptoms of caffeine are just as bad as any other drug. One can say that caffeine is a socially accepted and well-promoted drug. For all of you who think that caffeine actually helps you wake, all it does is help you not feel tired, which you could feel even after a good session of workout. And let’s be honest here a workout session is going to profit you and your body way more than a cup of coffee.

Make better choices.