Should You Decaffeinate?

The amount of caffeine consumed by the average American is 200 mg a day. That’s about two 8-ounce cups of coffee, four 8-ounce cups of tea or three cans of caffeinated soda. We also get caffeine, in lesser amounts, in over-the-counter and prescription medications and in foods like chocolate.

If so many of us take in caffeine, can it be that bad? The answer is not clear. Studies throughout the years have looked at:

High blood pressure

Heart disease

Osteoporosis

Birth defects

Cancer

Ulcers and heartburn

No one can say that caffeine is directly related to any of these conditions. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute says healthy adults can continue to consume caffeine in moderate amounts – that is, the equivalent of two cups of coffee per day.

High amounts of caffeine every day may increase your risk for heart disease, including abnormal heart rhythms. If you have a heart condition, talk to your doctor. You may be told not to have any caffeine.

Caffeine has only a very small effect on calcium absorption. Caffeine does increase the amount of calcium eliminated from your body (through urine, sweat, etc.) and slightly decreases the body’s ability to absorb calcium. However, it’s estimated that just one cup of coffee causes a loss of just 2 mg to 3 mg of calcium. That is the amount in less than one teaspoon of milk. So, it’s not much to be concerned about.

How do you know if you’re getting too much caffeine? Pay attention to how you feel.

Signs include:

Anxiety

Excitability

Restlessness

Dizziness

Irritability

Problems concentrating

Stomachaches

Headaches

Trouble sleeping

Make no mistake. Caffeine is addictive. It is a drug, after all.

Caffeine affects the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical in the brain that affects your ability to feel pleasure. This may help fuel your addiction to caffeine. Caffeine also blocks a chemical that helps promote sleep in the body.

As caffeine wears off, you start feeling tired. To get yourself feeling good again, you need more caffeine. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Caffeine does not build up in your bloodstream or remain in your body. It may take your body five to seven hours to process caffeine and flush it out through your urine.

If you want to kick the caffeine habit, you should do so gradually. You are likely to start feeling withdrawal as soon as 12 hours after your last caffeinated beverage, and it usually peaks at 20 hoursĀ to 48 hours. The more caffeine you normally consume, the more severe withdrawal can be. Withdrawal symptoms can include:

Depressed mood

Headache

Trouble sleeping

Nervousness

Trouble concentrating

You can wean yourself by replacing half of your cup of coffee or tea or half of your glass of soda with decaffeinated versions. You can also try consuming a little less caffeine every day. By gradually reducing your caffeine intake, you can avoid withdrawal symptoms.