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Ok, I know this article won’t be popular. Most of us are so addicted to caffeine that we don’t want to know about it. I’m writing this because when “Caffeine Blues” by Stephen Cherniske MS came out, I knew I had to read it. Several years ago I began to realize that coffee was much worse than we had been told, because I noticed that I felt an arthritic pain in my wrist within ten to twenty minutes of a cappuccino!
This book didn’t just tell me how bad coffee was – it told me how GOOD I would feel going completely caffeine free for two months. Somehow, this book sold me I gave it a try. And it was right! For example, I no longer have the drained feeling that I sometimes had in the mornings.
This is one of the best health books I have ever read. It is written by Stephen Cherniske who is a Clinical Nutritionist. “Caffeine Blues” is incredibly easy to read and compelling. After reading it I realized that caffeine does NOT give us energy. In fact, it is a major CAUSE of LACK of energy. However, he explains that this drug is so powerful that one needs to go three weeks to two months without caffeine before noticing a difference. And how many of us have ever done that? Hardly anyone.
As Cherniske sifted through the tons of information about caffeine, he began to see that consciously or unconsciously almost every researcher starts from the assumption that caffeine is okay. Why; Probably because they were addicted to caffeine themselves.
Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, colas, chupa-chaps, many soft drinks, some medications, most “energy” drinks, and guarana.
A 6 oz cup of:
Permeable coffee has about 120 mg of caffeine
Black tea has about 70 mg of caffeine
Green tea about 35 mg of caffeine
Top Cola 45mg Caffeine
Mountain Dew 54 mg caffeine
Prepared decaf has 5 mg of caffeine
Milk chocolate has 6 mg per ounce
Baking chocolate has 35 mg per ounce.
Caffeine is produced by more than eighty types of plants. The reason may well be survival. As it turns out, caffeine is a biological poison used by plants as a pesticide.
Caffeine is considered harmless simply because it is so widely used.
There is a leaflet available in hospitals and other medical settings: ‘What you need to know about caffeine’ published by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) in Washington DC. After several phone calls, Cherniske finally got a list of IFIC “supporters.” The list included Pepsi, Coca-Cola, M&M’s, Nutrasweet, Nestle and Hershey – all of which have caffeine in their drinks and foods. IFIC’s “partners” included groups such as the National Association of Pediatric Nurses and the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Better Business Bureau Inc. Council. This leaflet says that “Caffeine is normally excreted within several hours after consumption”. In fact, only 1% is excreted. The remaining 99% must be detoxified by the liver.
It can take up to 12 hours to detoxify a single cup of coffee.
Many studies on coffee and high blood pressure have been flawed because the test studies only went off coffee for a week or two. It takes many more weeks than that for the body’s stress hormone levels to return to normal.
The “half-life” of a drug is the time it takes for the body to remove half of the dose. Caffeine is a drug. The half-life of a single dose of caffeine ranges from three to TWELVE hours.
Caffeine puts your body under stress. A single dose of 250 milligrams of caffeine (equivalent to about 2.5 cups of coffee) has been shown to increase levels of the stress hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) by over 200%.
Caffeine triggers a classic fight or flight response. The fight or flight response was designed for events that happened only occasionally (like a lion chasing you). Now, we put our bodies on fight-or-flight every day with caffeine!!! Since we are in society, we do not respond in a fight or flight manner. Instead, other things can happen. For example, sugar and fat are discarded unused in the bloodstream. Sugar creates more stress. Fat clogs arteries. The digestive system slows down or shuts down.
Not only is caffeine addictive, it encourages other substance addictions such as nicotine.
Caffeine doesn’t give you energy. It stimulates your nervous system and adrenal glands. That’s not energy, that’s stress. Imagine going to a bank for a loan. The loan officer approves your loan. But as you leave the bank you notice the fine print – the loan must be repaid with 75% interest! The “energy” you think you get from caffeine is actually just a loan from your adrenals and liver, and the interest you have to pay is very high.
Stress is a major factor in disorders such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis, headache, hypoglycemia, asthma, herpes, hypertension, and heart disease. And yet hospitals provide coffee and tea, which put your body under stress!!!
DHEA is our vitality hormone. Decreased DHEA levels are a cause of aging. Caffeine consumption leads to DHEA deficiency.
Caffeine lowers almost everyone’s stress threshold. That is, if you had caffeine, it will be easier for you to suffer from emotional stress. (So when research is done designed to show how safe caffeine is, any subject under significant stress is removed from the study.)
Caffeine is involved in ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome: GABA is produced in the intestinal tract, where it calms anxiety and stress. Caffeine disrupts the normal metabolism of GABA.
Caffeine disrupts sleep. Deep sleep is critical to good health. When there is caffeine in your blood, you are unlikely to experience deep sleep!
Caffeine ANYTIME of the day can cause sleep problems, especially if you’re under stress.
Malnutrition is one of the most well-established effects of habitual caffeine intake.
A single cup of coffee can reduce iron absorption from a meal by up to 75%.
People do not develop a tolerance to the anxiety-inducing effects of caffeine. Instead, people simply get used to the feelings of stress, irritability, and aggression that the drug causes.
Caffeine contributes to depression in well-defined ways. This is particularly due to the withdrawal effect, which can cause headache, depression and fatigue even in light users (p. 111). Cherniske reported that 90% of people who came to him suffering from depression and stopped caffeine completely for 2 months reported that their depression disappeared!
If you drink coffee (or tea or cola), you might be thinking, “Well, I drink coffee and I’m not depressed.” It is necessary to state that everyone is different, and also that depression can be subtle. Throughout the book, Cherniske suggests that you’ll never know the full effect the drug has on you until you experience what life is like without caffeine (which takes two months to do). Over the years, Cherniske has heard similar responses from hundreds of clients: “Wow, I never realized caffeine made me so (pick one: anxious, depressed, irritable).”
Students around the world use caffeine not only to stay awake, but also believe that the drug will improve their performance in exams. Solid research, however, shows that as little as 100 milligrams of caffeine (one cup of coffee, two cups of cola) can cause a significant DECREASE in recall and reasoning.
When people are relaxed and given caffeine, the caffeine does not significantly increase blood pressure. But how many are relaxed? When people are stressed and given caffeine, blood pressure rises significantly.
Women who consumed more than 24 ounces of coffee (6 medium cups) per day had nearly twice the risk of heart attack compared to non-coffee drinkers. Moderate coffee drinkers with high cholesterol had more than seven times the risk of heart attack, while heavy coffee drinkers had eighteen times the risk of non-coffee drinkers!
Caffeine depletes your stores of thiamin and other B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc.
Caffeine increases calcium loss and the risk of osteoporosis.
In one large study, the risk of hip fracture for those women who consumed the most caffeine was 300% greater than for the group who consumed little or no caffeine.
Accept the challenge! Most people have no idea what life would be like without the background of caffeine and stress hormones coursing through their veins. Even if you only drink a few cups of coffee, chances are your personality is being affected in ways that may be too subtle to associate with caffeine. I want to encourage you to do a caffeine-free trial. You owe it to yourself.
Don’t go “cold turkey”. To avoid headaches etc. when giving up caffeine, Cherniske recommends taking up to six weeks to wean it off. Drink the same NUMBER of cups, but each week reduce the strength or amount in each cup.
There is much more information in this very readable and extremely interesting book. 440 pages. Read this book and you won’t have to spend so much on supplements!
Copyright ©: Stephanie Relfe – 2001
Permission is granted to use this article in whole or in part if you acknowledge the author and credit and link to www.relfe.com.
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