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Stress and Caffeine

Stess and CaffeineStress is all around us — in the home, at the workplace, and in school. There are many ways to deal with stress — some healthy and others not. One way people frequently cope with stress is by reaching for caffeine.

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a common ingredient found in a wide variety of beverages and foods. It has been consumed for centuries because of its effect on alertness and energy. Scientists have debated the safety and benefits of caffeine for years, but it is clear that too much caffeine can be a problem.

It can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms. While a small amount of caffeine can improve alertness and reduce stress, excessive amounts can make stress worse.

What are the benefits of caffeine?

The benefits of caffeine are well known. In moderate amounts, it can:

  • Increase alertness
  • Increase energy
  • Improve concentration

Many people enjoy the taste of beverages and foods that contain caffeine, although it is difficult for people to actually taste the caffeine.

What are the negative side effects of caffeine?

When used in excess, caffeine can result in:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Heart racing
  • Nausea

How much is too much?

This is different for every individual. Some can tolerate a fairly large amount of caffeine, such as 4-5 cups of caffeinated coffee per day. Others are very sensitive to even small amounts of caffeine. In general, 150-300 mg of caffeine per day or less (e.g.1- 2 cups of caffeinated coffee) is recommended.

How much caffeine is in common foods and drinks?

Here is a table of common caffeine-containing foods, provided by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

How does caffeine affect the body's stress response?

Caffeine usually exerts its effects on the body within minutes of being consumed. The effects can last for hours. Caffeine affects a wide variety of hormones and other substances in the body related to stress. Some of these interactions can result in short-term benefits such as increased concentration and alertness, which can help you deal with stress. However, some of the interactions can result in negative consequences such as fatigue, exhaustion and depression, which can greatly add to your stress.

How do you know if you've had too much caffeine?

When too much caffeine has been consumed, people feel edgy, jittery, shaky, and irritable. They may notice heart racing or nausea.

How can you cut down on your caffeine intake?

  • Don't stop abruptly — this can result in headaches and other withdrawal symptoms
  • Set goals and timetables
  • Calculate current total daily caffeine intake. Reduce by 10-20% every 2-3 days. For example, 6 cups of coffee/day X 60 mg caffeine/cup = 360 mg of caffeine daily. The first day, you'll want to eliminate 1-2 cups of coffee. After that, continue to decrease by 1-2 cups every 2-3 days.
  • Alternate between caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages and /or dilute caffeinated beverages with similar tasting decaffeinated beverages.
  • Increase other non-caffeinated fluid intake.

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