Caffeine and Me

I have always been super sensitive to caffeine.

I have suffered the slings and arrows of caffeine consumption to one degree or another for years.  [Disclaimer: for those of you sensitive to “female” topics, just skip down a few paragraphs at this point].  I noticed during the pre-menopause years that my fibrocystic breast pain would spike minutes after consuming a simple glass of tea.  I also would suffer increased PMS symptoms.  During the menopause process – 5 VERY long years – caffeine would increase my  hot flashes exponentially, sometimes for several days.  I also have a stress related irregular heartbeat that is exacerbated with caffeine.  And of course, there is the insomnia with caffeine too late in the day – anything past 5 p.m. 

But now that I’m post-menopausal [keep going], the symptoms had greatly decreased – or so I thought.  I have let myself enjoy a daily glass of tea at lunch and days like yesterday – 3!  In other words, I have become slowly and subtly addicted like I have NEVER been before.  I have always greatly restricted my caffeine consumption because the side effects were quick and very noticeable.  But now  I am discovering a whole new world of consequences.  I have discovered that I cannot lose ANY weight at all when I consume caffeine on a daily basis.  Evidently, caffeine stimulates insulin production which stimulates the production of Cortisol which increases belly fat.  [TMI!  Sorry for the disturbing mental image].  And – well, let’s just say – digestive difficulties.  I’ll let you use your imagination.  It also increases sinus/allergy stuff and my mild TMJ which makes my ears hurt.  BUT, the most recent and by far the most disturbing side effect of daily caffeine consumption for me is what is called “tip of the tongue syndrome.”   I know, it sounds ridiculous, but evidently its a real side effect of caffeine addiction.  I have noticed frequently lately that I am unable to remember the correct word for something or remember a person’s name that I have worked in the same building with for several years.  It is always “on the tip of my tongue” and a few minutes later it will come to mind.  It has been kinda scary and in fact, I went on-line today to look at the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s – really.   Thankfully, I don’t seem to have that, so I Googled “caffeine and forgetfulness” and sure enough, a side effect of caffeine consumption is not being able to readily remember the correct word for something – tip of the tongue syndrome.  There is lots of information on what caffeine actually does to the brain and I’ve copied an interesting article below from The Vegan Lifestyle blog.

The harmful effects of caffeine are many. Among the harmful effects of caffeine are forgetfulness, nervousness, and addiction.

Caffeine is a psychoactive substance naturally found in coffee, tea, kola nuts,  and in lesser amount, in cocoa. It is also found in beans, leaves, and fruits of some plants that acts as a natural pesticide to ward off insects.

Caffeine is a common ingredient in soft drinks, such as cola which was originally prepared from kola nuts. Soft drinks usually  contain about 10 to 50 milligrams, and energy drinks, 80 milligrams of caffeine per servings. Guarana, a prime ingredient of energy drinks, contains large amounts of caffeine with small amounts of theobromine and theophylline. It is also found in tea, and in chocolates, in the form of cocoa, in small amount.

Caffeine is an excitotoxin that harms the brain. It stimulates the body in similar manner as cocaine and heroin, and its addiction is gradual and subtle. Like most excitotoxins, caffeine causes brain malfunctions. This substance, like alcohol and nicotine, can easily penetrate the blood-brain barrier and can over excite the brain neurons to death.

Busy people  who want to extend their working hours drink more coffee in order to stay awake all day. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in the central nervous system of our brain, and brings a temporary feeling of alertness and wakefulness. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in the control of the sleep-wake cycle. It promotes drowsiness and sleep after long hours of work or mental activity.

Caffeine molecule is structurally similar to adenosine. It easily binds to adenosine  receptors on the cell surface without activating them, thus blocking and inhibiting their functions. Cells that are normally slowed down by adenosine are speeded up by caffeine. Sensing that the cells are not slowed down, and suspecting that an emergency has happened, the hypothalamus reacts by releasing a neuro-hormone called dopamine into the bloodstream which triggers the adrenal glands to start pumping. Dopamine  increases heart rate and blood pressure, thus the feeling of wakefulness and alertness when drinking coffee.

The temporary sensation of high energy and alertness after drinking coffee, soft drinks, and energy drinks could be due to the the effects of caffeine’s three by-products during its metabolism.   Paraxanthine increases the lipolysis process, which releases glycerol and fatty acids into the blood as a source of fuel for the muscles. Theobromine dilates the blood vessels to increase the amount of oxygen and the flow of nutrients to the brain and muscles. Theophylline relaxes the smooth muscle of the bronchioles;  changes the time of heart rate, and alters the force of  muscle contractions in the heart.

Caffeine is an excitetotoxin that destroys the brain. Its excitatory effects not only weaken the neurons in the brain but can even over excite them to death. Caffeine, by counteracting adenosine, has inhibitory effects on brain activity. It adversely affects the healthy functioning of the brain, and other learning skills.  Long-term consumption of caffeine even in small doses affects learning and memory by inhibiting the creation of neurons in the hippocampus of the brain.

Other harmful effects of caffeine are the following:

  • it causes nervousness, trembling, and abnormal muscle contractions
  • it causes dizziness and headaches
  • it causes indigestion
  • it slows down reaction to auditory and visual stimuli
  • it causes forgetfulness  and tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon
  • it increases the risk of myocardial infarction
  • it increases heart rate
  • it causes heart palpitation
  • it increases the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women
  • it causes lethargy, and irritability
  • it causes confusion and inability to focus
  • it causes visual hallucinations
  • it intensifies and prolongs the effects of psychostimulant drugs such as amphetamine, methamphetamine, and dextroamphetamine
  • it causes increased gastric acid secretion in the cells
  • it decreases broad-range thinking abilities

Some studies showed that caffeine is good for the heart, and increases mental performance related to focused thought. This may be true as in other contradicting results from studies done on the effects of caffeine. But these are all temporary and transitory. When the stimulating effects are gone, the harmful effects of caffeine appear in the form of illnesses and diseases.

Caffeine is a nerve irritant that does not nourish the system in any way. Its temporary effects of high energy, alertness, wakefulness, increased strength, vivid imagination, and mental arousal are only nervous excitements produce before caffeine is ever digested and assimilated by the body. When the effects of this stimulant are gone, these unnatural euphoric conditions disappear, and only results to debility and langor.    

So I REALLY REALLY need to get off the stuff.  I have also noticed that if I go two days without it,  I get extremely irritable and short tempered.  So, I guess I’ll have to suffer for a few days  – as will my husband 🙂 – until I can get past the cravings and hopefully set things straight again.   Its odd how the cravings come along.  I’m usually okay until I get back from lunch and then a glass of cold tea just beckons to me.  It doesn’t help that the cafe here in our building gives it  free to employees.  So, say a prayer for me and

Keep it simple.


5 thoughts on “Caffeine and Me

  1. ´Hi there… Found your blog trough Google.

    Just wanted to say hi and tell you that I enjoy reding your articles / posts.

    I think coffee is a must.. hehe.. especially in the morning. But maybe I should cut down :s

  2. For me caffeine is a much lesser evil. I get cluster headaches (also known as suicide headaches because they are so pain for there is a high rate of suicide with people that have them) and my choices are drugs which have caffeine and a harmful drug or just drink a glass of something with caffeine. While I”m sure the drug will help more the side effects are really bad and I know how caffeine effects me but not how the med would.

    Depends on people too. I’m ADD so caffeine helps me relax and while I have a crazy high heart rate (doctor can’t find a cause) caffeine doesn’t raise it.

    I do believe if you are going to have caffeine drink it in natural forms like tea and coffee and never drink energy drinks!!

  3. “Caffeine and Me,” is an honest and timely testimony. I too have had similar problems and depression to go along with it so quitting is very hard. A good book is “Caffine Blues” by Stephan Chernisky. He suggests an off-the-bean program. Good luck

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