Issues

Is Caffeine Your Friend or Your Frenemy?

Have you ever considered your caffeine intake? What about the potential side effects that you may experience?

           It’s 7:00 AM on a Monday morning, the curtains are closed, you have a blanket over your head and you’re in a deep trance of sleep. You are having the most beautiful dream ever and-

Boom!

The annoying beep sound rings in your ears. What’s that sound?  It’s your alarm telling you to wake up and prepare yourself for the day that awaits you. You throw a pillow at the alarm clock hoping it will hit the snooze button, Victory! You fall back asleep but within the five minutes that pass, you realize you have an 8:00 class. You argue with yourself saying “Why did I pick this class?” “What was I thinking?” so the main question is: what do you do?

Most people rush to get ready and quickly get to class, but for some they have to have a meeting with their best friend before doing anything else. “Good Morning Best Friend,” says the monster energy drink in the refrigerator. “Buenos Dias!” exclaims the coffee maker sitting on the counter. That’s right, I am talking about caffeine. Just saying the word caffeine is satisfying. Our bodies may respond well tocaffeine because most of us need to have something that gives us an extra boost of energy. Let’s take a moment to actually observe and consider how devious- and how great- our friend caffeine really is.

Have you ever considered your caffeine intake? What about the potential side effects that you may experience? According to Coffee and Health, caffeine is one of the most well-known drugs used in the world. It is an alkaloid that can be found in at least 60 plant species which include cocoa beans, kola beans, tea leaves, and the main culprit: coffee. Coffee is one of the most common beverages that people consume, it comes in many different forms and various flavors which helps make people crave it.

The main reason, however, why so many people crave caffeine is because of two villains called Adenosine and Dopamine. When Adenosine is active, our level of energy is bound to increase; you can think of it as a sprinter running around a track for a marathon. This allows high levels of sugar to enter the bloodstream. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for feelings of pleasure. When the brain absorbs caffeine, I am quite certain that our brains scream “Hallelujah,” especially those of us who are busy with school, work, and social life.

Whew! Can someone pass me a glass of Dr. Pepper? I know it’s hard to balance all the hurdles that we have to jump over, we all need someone to lean on, right? So, most of us decide to depend on our trusted ally, caffeine to help us make it through the day- or through the night. Some people have so much to do and by the end of the day they are absolutely exhausted, tired achy feet, sore back, and some can barely lift their arms and legs. How do we handle all of the stressful things that come with being an adult or young adult? That’s a question that travels through my head all the time. Next stop “Curiosity town.” I’m sure almost everyone is familiar with energy drinks or energy bars because you have tried one, seen an advertisement about it on tv, or perhaps they are your favorite go-to snack for studying or for physical activity, Aha! I think I just found the answer to my question.

Did you know more than half of the American population consumes 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day? This number is considered to be safe for adults, but more than 400 milligrams is dangerous. Taking a closer look at caffeine consumption could help people understand how much of an impact caffeine has on their health. Caffeine may seem like a harmless companion; however, the side effects are often not. By show of hands how many of you like to sleep a lot, or how many of you feel tired even though you feel like you got enough sleep? I solemnly swear I will not blame sleep disruption entirely on caffeine, but I will confirm that it can disrupt your natural sleep pattern. Sleep is one of the most important things our body needs in order to be able to function properly. If you or someone you know suffers from being sleep deprived you may want to consider the risks and side effects that caffeine can have on your sleep pattern and overall well-being.

According to Mayo Clinic, some of the risks and side effects of above-average caffeine intake include: migraine headaches, insomnia, nervousness, irritability, restlessness, frequent urges to urinate, increased heartbeats, and muscle tremors.  These side effects can be alarming. We have to face facts: almost all of us are guilty for having a little more caffeine than we should from time to time. But don’t feel too bad for enjoying a small amount of caffeine because caffeine has its perks! Of course energy is the biggest benefit because when you feel like you can’t do anything at all, caffeine will always be there for you to say “Soy tu amigo hasta el final.” (I’m your friend to the end).

Here are some tips that you may find helpful for monitoring your caffeine consumption. These tips may sound cliché, but I believe that they can help people change some of their habits.:

  • Look at the labels on products you buy and determine if the level of caffeine is above or under the average regular consumption of caffeine intake.
  •  Instead of having a soda try to drink water so that you can replenish your natural pH balance.
  • Try to limit the amount of coffee you consume per day. Try to have 1-2 cups. I know most people can’t go cold turkey, but relax and move at your own pace.
  • Avoid drinking any caffeine within at least 6 hours before your bedtime because this can affect the Rapid Eye Movement Cycle, also known as REM.
  • Encourage your friends and family to take the initiative to find other options for energy, for example you may like to exercise in order to feel energized or maybe you like to listen to uplifting music.
  • If you are not certain about a particular brand or source of caffeine, pick up your phone, laptop, computer, or whatever electronic device you have and research it or consult your doctor for more information.
  • Always strive to consume things in moderation. Even if you have the urge to binge, allow yourself to make the hard decision now because it can help you in the long run.
  • Reward yourself with a special delicacy, set a goal to cut some caffeine out of your diet.

Caffeine is a part of almost everyone’s diet whether we want to admit it or not. If we look at some of the things in our kitchen you might be surprised about the levels of caffeine that are present in the things we eat and drink. You will discover that caffeine is an active ingredient in almost every beverage or every snack on the market, I guess we can blame the makers of energy drinks, energy bars, and coffee but what’s the point? We have our own values and beliefs, right? It’s up to us to decide whether or not we want to take charge of monitoring what we want to eat or drink. However that is easier to say than actually do because most of us, myself included, ignore what people say about some of our lifestyle choices even if they are a professional or expert. Honestly, it’s completely okay to disagree with everything a person says and it is okay to disagree with everything that I discussed in this article. But one thing we can never argue with is our body or our state of health.

   

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