We all love caffeine, and, in a world where there’s a Starbucks on just about every corner, it’s awfully hard to avoid it. Truth is, though, it’s doing our bodies more harm than good, and there are healthier alternatives.
While it’s true that caffeine does have some positive effects — like increasing focus, lowering risk of heart disease and increasing energy — it’s important to note the negative effects, too. After all, caffeine is a drug, and it is addictive. Any chemical that your body becomes dependent on should be taken seriously. Caffeine also affects different types of people in different ways. For example, those who work nights or have trouble sleeping are more at risk to the negative effects of caffeine. Here, we’ll take a closer look at what exactly caffeine is doing to our bodies, plus provide some healthier alternatives.
Caffeine is a short-term fix
People drink caffeine to help their memory and keep them more alert, right? Well, new studies show that the only reason caffeine increases alertness is because caffeine drinkers are actually just experiencing a withdrawal from the substance (Johns Hopkins Medical School research). In other words, if you never drank caffeine, you would avoid the ups and downs, and your mood and memory would increase. Those who regularly drink caffeine simply need it to feel “normal” again.
Negative short and long-term effects
Caffeine has both short and long-term effects on your body.
The short-term effects include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased urination
- Increased blood pressure
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Breast tenderness
The long-term effects include:
- Panic attacks
- Stomach problems
- Irregular heartbeat
- Can impair long-term memory
What to replace caffeine with
While it may be hard to completely give up caffeine, it’s definitely possible to start reducing your intake. If you typically consume 3-5 cups of coffee per day, consider cutting back to two. If you drink a large Diet Coke with lunch and dinner, switch to a small and only have it with lunch or dinner, not both. Drink decaf coffee or soda in the afternoon instead of the caffeinated counterpart. Challenge yourself to do this for one month and take note of how you feel. Hopefully, you’ll want to continue cutting back until you’re eventually caffeine-free. Luckily, though, there are some replacements for caffeine that are much healthier for your body. These include:
- Ginseng. Ginseng helps boost stamina levels and gives you more energy. It’s a natural herb used in teas that reduce stress levels, help control weight and can ease menstrual cramps.
- Vitamin B12. If you lack vitamin B12, you probably feel tired and fatigued. Benefits include increased energy, reduced stress levels, healthy skin and nails and reduced risk of depression. Take it as a supplement or load up on meat, eggs, milk and cheese.
- Exercise. Start going for a jog or a brisk walk each morning. Exercise increases endorphins, which make you physically and mentally more alert. It keeps you awake and will provide you with lasting energy all day long.
Do you drink caffeine? Have you noticed any of the negative effects? Share in the comments below!