Caffeine - Benefits and Risks

Many of us feel like we cannot function without our first cup of coffee in the morning. Why do we feel that way? Does the caffeine in the coffee have a physiological effect on our body? If so, is it harmful or is it beneficial? As with so many things, there are benefits and there are risks.

Caffeine, the main ingredient found in coffee is a stimulant. It causes your heart rate to increase, your pupils to dilate, and your muscles to tighten up. Caffeine injects adrenalin into your system to give you a boost and make you feel good.


Believe it or not, certain amounts of caffeine can have beneficial effects. Historically, small amounts of caffeine have been used to help control weight, alleviate pain, open up airways for improved breathing, and overcome chronic fatigue.

Small amounts of caffeine are found to provide the following benefits:

* Can benefit people who are at high-risk for liver disease.

* Increases muscle strength.

* Increases metabolism by breaking down fat, freeing fatty acids and forcing them to be burned. (Caffeine is the most active ingredient in many diet pills.)

* Increases pain relief medication effects.

* Increases mental faculty.

* Reduces asthma symptoms.


Two cups of coffee a day is considered an acceptable amount. Caffeine does not become a problem until you start consuming an excessive amount of it. As your body gets used to caffeine, it becomes addicted to it. The symptoms for drinking too much caffeine and the symptoms for caffeine withdrawal are very similar.

EXCESS CAFFEINE - Too much caffeine can cause an array of problems including:

* Restlessness

* Irritability

* Anxiety

* Heartburn

* Headaches (sometimes severe)

* High blood pressure

* Sleeplessness

* Rapid heartbeat

* Nausea

CAFFEINE WITHDRAWAL - Symptoms can begin as soon as 12 hours after your last cup, depending on the amount of caffeine your body is used to. Symptoms can last for up to a week and include:

* Restlessness

* Irritability

* Anxiety

* Headaches (sometimes severe)

* Muscle stiffness

* Chills and/or hot spells

If you are attempting to reduce your caffeine intake, do so gradually. Cutting back slowly will help you avoid some of the withdrawal symptoms. If you simply must have a cup of something in the morning, try decaf or an herbal tea.


Most people who drink coffee regularly, do so to combat fatigue. Regular coffee consumption increases tolerance to caffeine, resulting in a greater dependence on it. There are other options to deal with fatigue that do not rely on caffeine.


Having a healthy breakfast (Include protein, not donuts!) every morning revs up your metabolism, improves your concentration, and makes it much easier to get through the morning.


If you find yourself getting sluggish by the middle of the morning, eat a healthy snack like fruit, whole grain crackers or yogurt. Complex carbohydrates supply your body with the energy it needs to be effective.


Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk during your break or at lunch, and get up and stretch as often as possible during your day. Regular physical movement makes your heart pump harder and helps your body fight fatigue.


If you find yourself falling asleep at your desk by 3:00 every afternoon, a high-fat lunch may be to blame. After you eat, your body is busy with the digestion process and distributing nutrients to the proper places. If you consume a lot of fat, it takes your body longer to work through the digestion process, causing you to feel more tired.

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