Every process in our body is governed by a complex network of chemical signals. Two of the most important of these signals are hormones and neurotransmitters. Caffeine produces its effects on the body by altering the actions of just a few of these hormones and neurotransmitters. First, caffeine binds itself to the adenosine receptors throughout the brain and nervous system. These receptors are used as an inhibitory neurotransmitter that suppresses the level of activity of the neurons that interact with it. Adenosine has been associated with promoting sleep and relaxation while also suppressing arousal.
Since caffeine binds itself to these receptors, it prevents them from performing the action they are designed to do. Once it has suppressed adenosine function, it then starts a cascading affect within the body that alters the function of other hormones and neurotransmitters. The most significant impact is its effect on our adrenals that produce and secrete the hormones epinephrine and cortisol. These are known as the “flight” or “fight” hormones that are used to increase your heart and respiration rates while also causing smooth muscle to relax. Caffeine has been shown to increase the amount of epinephrine in the body by as much as 250%, which means that caffeine is basically stimulating our bodies by producing a stress response. On top of that, caffeine also increases the circulation of serotonin in parts of the nervous system. This is why when you drink something with caffeine, your mood is elevated while at the same time your energy levels increase.
When you drink caffeine, you will feel more alert and awake and even feel like you have more energy. This is why coffee has become the drink of choice in the mornings. However, there are other effects that you should be aware of when you decide to drink coffee or any other drink that contains caffeine. Some of these side effects are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach irritation
- Chest Pain
Everyone reacts differently to caffeine, and some of us can handle more than others. The more often you drink it, the more your body will be able to process before some of the effects of caffeine become apparent. Still, there are some instances where it is important to know that caffeine can make things worse, and not better. For example, caffeine has been shown to make anxiety disorders and even bipolar disorders worse on patients suffering from these conditions. People with heart conditions must also use caution because of the effects that caffeine can have on your heart. These are just a few examples of conditions where people must use caffeine with caution or avoid it altogether. Caffeine can also provide a few benefits on the human body if it used properly.
- Morning Wake Up – Sometimes it is hard to get yourself going in the morning without a cup of coffee to start your day. That little jolt of caffeine can help jump-start your system preparing you for the day ahead.
- Athletic Performance – Studies have found that caffeine can help athletes improve both their endurance and muscular power. This equates to better training sessions and greater gains in strength, fitness, and performance in athletes.
- Improved Cognitive Performance – In addition to making your body more prepared for physical endurance, it can also help your mind think more clearly. Short-term memory and systems processing have both shown improvements in individuals using low to moderate caffeine.
While there are scientifically proven benefits, there are many negatives as well and it is important to be aware of these facts before you begin to consume more than your fair share of caffeine. Caffeine is addictive and over time your body will be accustomed to the levels of caffeine that you ingest. If you suddenly stop drinking caffeine, your body will be thrown off of its normal balance. Essentially, your body will be forced into a continuous replacement of hormones broken down by the continuous binding of caffeine to them. This leads to many of the withdrawal symptoms that you experience when you stop drinking caffeine including fatigue and even headaches. Regularly using caffeine can also suppress iron absorption in your body as well as decrease the level of B-vitamins. In extreme cases and in people with already low iron levels, this can lead to anaemia while at the same time reducing your body’s ability to continue to produce the hormones and neurotransmitters that caffeine binds with when it enters the body.
If you want to receive the most from caffeine while at the same time trying to minimise much of the harm that caffeine can bring you, there are several steps you can take when it comes to consuming caffeinated products.
1. Don’t Use Caffeine Every Day: Every daily coffee drinker will hate this one. While it is best to not drink beverages that contain caffeine every day, if you must, limit yourself to only one cup a day.
2. Find The Right Dose: When consuming coffee or other drinks with caffeine, it is important to find the right amount to drink. If you drink so much that you feel jittery, you have definitely exceeded your limit. If you don’t feel any effects from drinking coffee or other beverages, you aren’t drinking enough.
3. Try Alternatives to Caffeine: Cacao, or unprocessed chocolate, contains a compound that is related to caffeine but doesn’t interact with the nervous system. Instead, it stimulates blood flow throughout the body. Because your circulatory system is able to bring more nutrients to your brain, you will feel more alert and feel like you have more energy.
Caffeine is a natural part of many of the most popular drinks in the United States such as coffee and tea. While there is no stigma attached to it, it is still an addictive drug. However, it doesn’t come with many of the worst side effects found in many other drugs and, if used correctly, can actually be beneficial to the human body. It is important to understand how caffeine interacts with your body and how much caffeine you are getting with each cup of coffee so you can monitor your caffeine intake each day so you can benefit from all the positive effects of caffeine while minimising your risk of developing any of the negative side effects as well.
Remember, too much of anything is bad. I am not a doctor, so if you are concerned about the amount of caffeine you are consuming I suggest that consult with your physician. However, if you are drinking one or two pots yourself each day, one doesn’t have to be a doctor to tell you that you probably should dial it back a notch or two. I understand coffee is just so good. Why wouldn’t you want to drink it all day? As much as I wish that we could, much like everything else in life too much of a good thing can be bad.
For most of us, drinking coffee and any other caffeinated beverage is really no big deal, assuming we don’t go overboard. Still, for others, it is important to avoid or, at the very least limit your daily intake of caffeine. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your daily cup of coffee you enjoy every morning. By knowing and understanding how much caffeine is in your cup of coffee that you enjoy each day you can plan your diet accordingly so you don’t overdo it with your caffeine intake while still getting to brew up a great cup of coffee each day.