Another Cup of Joe


March is National Caffeine Awareness Month, which is intended to raise awareness of how much caffeine you are consuming and maybe even help you cut that amount back. Caffeine is around us now more than ever. It’s not just in coffee, tea, and soda (or pop if you’ve never left the midwest!). It’s in energy drinks, smoothies, granola bars, and even little shots in every checkout line. The more caffeine we consume, the more immune we become to its effects, which leads us to need more of it to feel the effects. But more is not always better when it comes to caffeine and the effects it has on our bodies.

Every person is different and people tolerate caffeine in many different ways. What is important is knowing how much caffeine works for your body and how much is too much.

So how much IS too much? Dietary Guidelines for Americans note that moderate coffee consumption (up to three to five 8-oz cups per day or up to 400 mg of caffeine per day) can be incorporated into healthy eating lifestyles. It is important to note that every person should take into account how caffeine actually makes them feel and not just rely on the guidelines. If caffeine has a strong effect on your system, it is probably best to stick to a minimum. Trust your intuition and do not reach for another cup just because the suggested guidelines say that more is safe.

One of the most dangerous effects that caffeine has on the body is on the adrenal glands. These sit on top of the kidneys and release hormones into our bodies when we are confronted with stressors. They activate the fight or flight response and are designed to keep us alive in a time of danger. The problem with caffeine is that it stimulates those glands and releases adrenaline into the body. The more caffeine that is consumed, the more burned-out the adrenal glands become. This can drastically affect sleep patterns because after consuming coffee and activating the adrenal glands, cortisol (the stress hormone) does not allow the body to produce it naturally in the morning to keep us alert all day and asleep all night.

Consider your sources and how much it takes to derive a benefit from the good ol’ bean. Take a daily tally of your total caffeine intake from ALL sources. All these circumstances add up to our total caffeine intake and contribute to those sleepless nights, increased blood pressure and stomach acid. Gain benefits of caffeine by consuming it in moderation, but be careful to push it too far.

Like many others, I struggle with my daily caffeine intake and was shocked to find out just how much caffeine I truly consume on a daily basis. I suppose knowing there is a problem is the first step to recovery, and I hope others may benefit from recognizing their own caffeine intake.


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