It is something most people have every day, but have you ever really thought about the effect caffeine has on the human body?

What it is

Classified as a drug, caffeine is a bitter substance found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, some nuts and certain medicines. 90 percent of Americans consume some form of caffeine regularly. It has many effects on the body’s metabolism, including stimulation of the central nervous system. It can make one feel more alert and provide a boost of energy.

For most people, the amount of caffeine in two to four cups of coffee a day (200 to 400 mg) is not harmful. However, too much of it can make one feel restless, anxious and irritable. It may also prevent a good night’s sleep and cause headaches and abnormal heart rhythms. Furthermore, if heavy caffeine use stops, it can cause withdrawal symptoms.

How Much is Too Much?

Certain circumstances call for reducing the amount of caffeine you consume. If any of these situations apply, you should cut back:

  • You consume unhealthy amounts, more than 500 to 600 mg a day

  • You have caffeine sensitivity. People with smaller body masses, those who do not usually consume caffeine, and those who are overly stressed will feel the effects of caffeine consumption sooner.

  • You are not sleeping well. Caffeine interferes with the ability to get a good night’s sleep.

  • You are taking certain medications. Some medications and supplements negatively interact with caffeine. This includes antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin and norfloxacin, bronchodilators such as theophylline and the dietary supplement ephedra (ma-huang). Ephedra is especially risky when combined with caffeine because it increases the chance of heart attack, stroke, seizure and even death.

How to Curb Consumption

Caffeine can be habit-forming, so any attempts to stop or lessen the amount you consume can be challenging. A sudden decrease can cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches, fatigue, irritability and nervousness.

  • Know how much caffeine is in the foods and beverages you consume. You are likely taking in more than you realize.

  • Gradually reduce the amount of caffeine you take in.

  • Replace caffeinated coffee, tea and soda with their decaffeinated counterparts.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For further information, please consult a medical professional.

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