Is caffeine good or bad for you? There is no research that shows that caffeine is hazardous to healthy individuals. It may cause some people to become hyperactive and anxious. However, there is no evidence that caffeine causes cancer or heart disease. Caffeine consumption has many benefits. Caffeine can increase alertness and ability to concentrate and focus. Many painkillers also contain caffeine because it opens up the blood vessels and makes is useful in relieving headaches. It can also be helpful in ending asthma attacks by relaxing constricted bronchial muscles as well.
However, there are some precautions with consuming caffeine. Caffeine can be very addictive, which makes it difficult when trying to cut back. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches & irritability. In order to decrease the effects of withdrawal symptoms, it is recommended to reduce caffeine intake slowly & not to quit cold turkey. For example, make your coffee with have the amount of caffeinated coffee & make the other have decaffeinated.
Caffeine has also been linked to an increased incidence of miscarriage if consumed in the first 3 months of pregnancy. Would it be safer to cut down on the caffeine if you are trying to get pregnant or are in the first trimester of pregnancy? Probably. No specific guidelines are in place for the consumption of caffeine from the 4th month onwards in pregnancy. However, it seems reasonable to limit consumption. Many mothers questions the effects of caffeine consumption while breastfeeding. Does it affect the baby? It may. Because some caffeine is excreted into breast milk, it may cause sleep disturbances & irritability in the baby. However, babies having varying tolerances to caffeine so there is no recommended amount. It depends on the response & sensitivity of your baby. Also, mothers consuming too much caffeine during breastfeeding, may decrease the baby’s ability to absorb iron from breast milk.
People with stomach ulcers, & irritable bowel syndrome should avoid caffeine as it may worsen symptoms. Also, if you are anemic, then limiting caffeine consumption would be wise because it may interfere with the uptake of iron from other foods. Bottom line is if you are a healthy individual, then there is no harm in the consumption of caffeine.
Nada Jawahery is the Registered Dietician at Royal Bahrain Hospital and is a member of, and licensed by, the American Dietetics Association. For more information call 17246832 or email: Nada.Jawahery@royalbhrn.com