For many people, mornings aren’t complete without a cup of coffee – or two or three. This time of year, you might be tempted to have another cup in order to cope with the recent time change and the loss of that hour of sleep as we all “spring forward.”
While it might make for a productive start to the day, too much coffee means too much caffeine – a stimulant, which can negatively affect your health by increasing heart and breathing rates, and cause anxiety, insomnia, irritability, stomach aches and headaches.
How much coffee is OK?
Experts say up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is safe and healthy for adults, but with about 95 to 165 milligrams of caffeine in one 8-ounce cup of coffee, drinking more than two cups might put you over the limit.
Keep in mind that coffee might not be your only source of caffeine. Tea, sodas, energy drinks and anything with chocolate will also contribute to your caffeine intake.
Pregnant or nursing women should limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day, as a higher intake increases the risk of miscarriage and premature birth, and caffeine transmitted through breast milk could make your baby extra fussy or sleep less.
Despite these concerns, coffee can offer some nutritional benefits, as the beverage contains potassium, magnesium and niacin, all of which improve body function. Drinking coffee daily might also lower a person’s risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, aid in weight loss and fight neurological defects and some types of cancer.
But these perks apply only to coffee that’s served black or with some milk and consumed in moderation. Extras – such as whipped cream, sweeteners and syrups – quickly add calories, fat and sugar to your morning beverage.
Bottom line: If you feel jittery or anxious or have trouble sleeping, it might be a sign that it’s time to cut down on your daily joe.
And how can you do that? While it might seem that the answer is as simple as “consume less,” it might be a bit more complicated than that, as many people suffer from caffeine withdrawal at first.
Common symptoms include headache, fatigue, low energy, irritability, anxiety, poor concentration, and a depressed mood. To avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms, cut down your consumption gradually.
Some tips for doing that:
• Water down your coffee and drinks that contain caffeine.
• Try changing from coffee in the morning to tea. (Green tea is particularly healthy.)
• Switch to decaf coffee, or, if you “need” a second cup, drink a decaf instead. (But decaf is not completely caffeine-free, so don’t take it as a free pass to drink all you want.)
• Instead of a large cup, make it a small one, and if you’ve been drinking a dark roast, take it down a notch or two to a lighter roast.
• If you’ve been drinking multiple cups during the day, try alternating one cup of coffee with one cup of herbal tea or decaf or even better, juice or water.
Dr. Brad Kelly is a board-certified family medicine physician with Beaufort Memorial May River Primary Care in Bluffton.