How Caffeine Can Affect Your Health & Wellbeing

by Isadora Baum, CHC

If you're anything like me, you wake up thinking coffee. What a beautiful word. However, caffeine can affect different people differently, and there are some ways that caffeine can affect our health that can be damaging, both in the short-term and over time, if consumed in excess.

As a certified health coach, I help people understand their bodies and how they react to certain emotions, stressors, and substances. When you are in tune with your body, you can better handle how you behave and adjust to situations where you might feel out of control. Think of a child at a birthday party, amped up on soda and sugary cake. All that caffeine makes them hyper, and this can interfere with the body's ability to quiet down and focus, especially if caffeine is consumed later in the evening and closer to bed. Thus, being mindful of timing of consumption and portion size can make a huge difference between jumping up and down and being mentally alert for work assignments. Here are 11 ways that caffeine can affect our health and well-being, and why it might be a better idea to limit intake and measure the effects after consumption (you can even record in a journal for more accurate readings and data!).

1. It Can Make You Anxious

Over email with Bustle, licensed marriage and family therapist Erika Fay, LMFT, a certified Transformational Life Coach, says that "too much caffeine has actually been linked to anxiety." Fay warns, "You might actually trigger anxiety by ingesting too much! So if you want to stay anxiety-free, or if you are prone to anxiety, you might want to be mindful about the amount of caffeine you consume."

2. It Can Cause Fat Storage

Caffeine in small doses can boost metabolism and reduce fat storage. However, excess caffeine from coffee can cause fat storage. Simon Cheng, a tea expert and the founder and CEO of Pique Tea, tells Bustle over email: "Caffeine is harmful in the wrong dosages. Caffeine from coffee causes spikes in cortisol, which leads to excess fat storage. On the other hand, caffeine in tea is bound to antioxidants called catechins, which take longer to digest. This creates a time release effect of caffeine and no cortisol spikes."

3. It Can Affect Bone Health

Over email with Bustle, Dr. Lisa Ashe, Medical Director of BeWell Medical Group, says that caffeine might damage bone health and strength in excess, as it strips calcium away from the body. Ashe says, "Caffeine may also decrease calcium absorption and increase calcium excretion, which can lead to bone loss." If you have low bone density, easing up might be wise.

4. It Can Lead To Addiction

While there are worse things to be addicted to, caffeine still has addictive qualities, and this can be worrisome and lead to withdrawal symptoms if an addiction sets in, as shown in an Addiction Research Foundation study. In overdose, it can lead to tremors, nausea, rapid heart beat, and other symptoms which can affect health and well-being in the long term. Be wary of chronic use and portion sizes!

5. It Can Affect Your Heart

According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, caffeine can lead to higher blood pressure, which can hurt our heart health over time if found to be a chronic consequence of caffeine absorption. Elevated blood pressure and heart rate can complicate heart health, and it can be especially scary for those who already experience higher levels to begin with.

6. It Can Make You Jittery

According to running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer over email with Bustle, caffeine affects different people differently, but it can make one jittery, and can trigger tremors and involuntary body movements in people who are sensitive or have trouble dealing with anxiety. Lemmer says that she often gets jittery, and so she limits consumption.

7. It Can Interfere With Sleep

Lemmer warns against having caffeine too close to bedtime, as it can interfere with your circadian rhythm and sleep pattern. When we don't get enough sleep (around seven to nine hours nightly, she recommends), it can lower our mental focus, physical health, and productivity, and these effects can add up over time to negatively affect our health and happiness. Cut yourself off by midday.

8. It Can Boost Performance

When taken in moderation, caffeine can actually help physical performance during workouts and boost productivity and mental focus during the day, as explained by Lauren Padula, a Doctor of Physical Therapy, running coach, and RYT-200 yoga teacher, over email with Bustle. She opts for Chameleon Cold-Brew's ready-to-drinks for workouts. "Caffeine is a stimulant that can help boost the function of some body systems and mental performance, and may help you recover faster. Cold brew in particular is more gentle on the stomach and digestive system, as it can be up to 67 percent less acidic than drip coffee, according to some studies," she explains.

9. It Can Boost Metabolism

According to Cheng, having tea before a big work task or exercise class can help rev the metabolism and increase burn throughout the day or session. Due to "high level of amino acids (L-Theanine in particular) and caffeine," they "work together to produce sustained and focused energy, lasting up to six hours." Tea is also full of "catechins, specifically EGCG, which is known for boosting metabolism," Cheng says.

10. It Boosts Brain Health

According to Jamie Hale, M.S. in Psychology Central, caffeine in modest amounts (around 200-300 mg) can boost brain health, particularly in selective attention processing. Meaning that you can decipher important things to note and pay attention to over others. Such discretion can be great for boosting productivity at work and prioritizing daily tasks!

11. It Lowers Risk of Diabetes

In an interview with Psychology Today, Emily Deans, M.D. says that caffeine consumption can lower the risk of diabetes when consumed in modest amounts. Thus, enjoy a cup or two, but don't go overboard, as too much caffeine can negatively affect heart health and blood sugar response.

Having caffeine in lower doses can offer great benefits, while higher doses often have negative effects. However, it's important to remember that caffeine affects everyone differently. Go by how you feel. If you experience any bad symptoms, consider switching to a different beverage.

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