Caffeine is an alkaloid that has marked physiological effects. It is commonly found in coffee beans, tea leaves, kola nuts, cacao, maté, and guarana. On one hand, its positive effects can include improved motor performance, decreased fatigue, increased alertness and enhanced sensory activity. The other side of this coin shows that excessive caffeine can produce irritability, anxiety, insomnia and potentially serious symptoms such as heart irregularities and even delirium. How much caffeine is appropriate or safe for each individual is hard to determine, but the key to avoid complications is to be aware of the total amount ingested at any given time.
The main reason why people often overdo this stimulant is that caffeine is ubiquitous in many drinks and foods. The amounts can range from 160 milligrams in some energy drinks to as little as 4 milligrams in a 1-ounce serving of chocolate syrup. Even decaffeinated coffee isn’t completely caffeine free. It is also present in some over-the-counter pain relievers, cold medications and diet pills. These products can contain as little as 16 milligrams or as much as 200 milligrams of caffeine per dosage. Not surprisingly, it is quite easy to exceed the recommended amount of daily caffeine by virtue of combining any of the above items. The result can be unsafe for some individuals.It is essential to read labels in order to avoid over consumption.
Caffeine is also a mild diuretic. It can draw water from cells and it increases the rate of urination potentially leading to dehydration. When consuming caffeinated beverages, make sure to include plain water in your diet daily, particular if you are exerting yourself or if the weather is hot.
Caffeine is also a stimulant to the central nervous system. Regular use of caffeine does cause mild physical dependence. As a result, stopping caffeine abruptly may cause undesirable symptoms for a day or two, particularly if you habitually consume two or more cups of coffee a day. Symptoms may include headache, fatigue, anxiety and increased irritability. Fortunately, caffeine is quickly processed through the liver and readily excreted from the body. Therefore, moderate amounts of daily caffeine (about 300 milligrams) or the equivalent of three cups of light drip coffee in a 24 hour period, actually cause no harm in most otherwise healthy adults.
Nevertheless, there are instances in which it is safer to err in the side of caution. Pregnant women should avoid caffeine whenever possible. The March of Dimes suggests fewer than 200 milligrams daily due to recent findings that indicate that women consuming higher amounts of caffeine had an increased risk for miscarriage. Other common conditions aggravated by caffeine are angina pectoris, benign prostatic hyperplasia, atherosclerosis, glaucoma, osteoporosis, PMS and depression.