Coffee is a great way to start the day and give you a boost of energy, but for people that drink an excessive number of cups of coffee, that boost can come with mild to nasty side effects.
Caffeine, the drug found in coffee that provides that extra bit of energy, functions by stimulating the central nervous system. This stimulation causes the consumer to become more alert, often helping them to focus on whatever task may be at hand. Caffeine can also be found in energy drinks, soft drinks tea, chocolate, and other food and drink items. A cup of home brewed regular coffee, on average, contains about 100 mg of caffeine, though a medium cup of regular brewed coffee at coffee house chains can contain as much as 300 mg or more. Espresso drinks tend to have less caffeine, usually around 100 mg per cup for a latte or cappuccino.
When the caffeine in coffee begins to take effect on the central nervous system, it raises the heart rate (and blood pressure!) of the consumer, and increases mental alertness. In those people who are more sensitive to the drug, or for those who have consumed excess amounts of it, additional side effects may occur. For those that have exceeded a normal daily dosage of caffeine (upwards of five hundred or so mgs per day, though some more sensitive people can be similarly affected by as little as three hundred mgs), they may experience a condition called caffeinism. Caffeinism causes the same types of side effects for regular people as one might see in a caffeine sensitive individual at much lower doses. Personally, I have found that I, being a caffeine sensitive person, can be affected by as little as about thirty mgs of caffeine, or the equivalent of two or three cups of home brewed decaf coffee from my Bunn Velocity Brew coffee maker.
These side effects that can be caused by caffeinism or caffeine sensitivity may include a rise in temperature, increased anxiety and irritability, and diarrhea. Coffee, being a diuretic, also causes the consumer to increase their urine output, which can potentially lead to dehydration. One of the most worrying and unpleasant potential side effects of coffee and caffeine is tachycardia (a resting heart rate which exceeds one hundred beats per minute), and palpitations (an irregular pattern of heart beats).
These side effects can be extremely unpleasant, as I can tell you from personal experience, and such reactions often run in families. After experiencing my first coffee induced palpitations at the age of twenty seven, I shared the experience with family members, several of whom explained that they also experienced an irregular heart beat some or often times after having consumed coffee. Some of them, myself included, ultimately decided that the wonderful taste of coffee and the benefits of its consumption were, unfortunately, not worth the unpleasantness of its side effects. Some of them simply decided that they would be more judicious in their consumption of caffeine, and work their way through the unpleasant side effects.
On occasion, I and my family members are able to enjoy a cup or two of decaffeinated coffee. Another tricky side effect of caffeine, especially in coffee, is that it can build up in the body, and even regular consumption of decaf coffee can cause side effects as the caffeine grows to larger amounts. Like most drugs, the consumer can also develop a tolerance to the caffeine. This means that the consumer needs more and more of the drug to experience its effects in the same way that they first tried the drug. This, especially combined with possibility of caffeine buildup in the body, can again cause those same nasty side effects, though generally not quite as badly as with regularly caffeinated coffee.
Aside from the immediate effects, coffee can also have longer lasting and slower acting effects on consumers’ health. For example, coffee drinking has been found to be associated with certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, bone loss, anxiety, and even auditory hallucinations! High blood pressure can, in turn, cause a person to be more susceptible to more serious health problems, particularly strokes.
On the other hand, coffee does have a number of proven health benefits! The first of these is, oddly enough, a lesser likelihood to develop certain kinds of cancers (clearly, these cancers are different types than those which coffee has been shown to exacerbate). Coffee has also been shown to be helpful for patients with fatty liver disease, as well as in avoiding development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and of diseases associated with cognitive decline caused by aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Coffee is also a great source of antioxidants, and is used in a number of migraine medications to speed up the effectiveness of the pain medication.
In the end, it’s up to each individual whether or not the great taste of coffee is worth the potential short and long term side effects its consumption may cause. Some people do not experience any of the short term negative side effects, and thus find the temporary boost in alertness to be extremely helpful and pleasant in their everyday lives. If that’s you, be sure to check out our coffee maker list. Others find that the alertness effects last longer than wanted, causing insomnia, a lack of sleep, and ultimately, exactly the opposite of the intended benefits of the early morning cup of joe. Still others find that drinking even just one cup or two of coffee causes them a great deal of discomfort, both physical and mental, and the taste is just not worth it. Does coffee effect you in a positive or negative way? Let us know by leaving a comment below.