Artwork by Ella Benitone
Here’s the tea on tea and your relationship with your morning cup o’ joe.
Caffeine intake is deeply personal. For some, it’s utilitarian – staying up to finish that essay with the help of a piping hot dark roast. For others, it’s about the enjoyment of the flavor of a latte or cup of tea. Even sodas and chocolate contain caffeine. Regardless of where it comes from, caffeine has real effects on our bodies and health – and they’re not always positive.
At its core, caffeine is a stimulant. That’s how it keeps us awake or gives us an afternoon pick-me-up. Though, its effect runs deeper; caffeine acts on the body’s entire central nervous system. Possible effects of caffeine are myriad, from increasing heart rate and blood pressure to blurred vision and difficulty breathing. However, used in moderation, caffeine does not produce severe or long-term effects. The FDA recommends 400 milligrams a day — 4 to 5 cups of joe — as safe caffeine usage, but each person’s threshold is different based on medications she takes and her health, including how quickly her body is able to break down the caffeine.
The most common signs that you need to put down the coffee are interruptions of your sleep patterns — caffeine will keep you awake, but it does not take the place of sleep itself — jitters, anxiety, nausea, headaches and a faster heart rate.
The World Health Organization classifies caffeine as an addictive substance, so quitting cold turkey can pose its own uncomfortable symptoms — temporary side effects of withdrawal for those who consume caffeine frequently and in high volumes. However, there are many alternatives to consider switching to instead of that sixth cup of coffee or can of Coke. Decaffeinated teas and coffees contain significantly less caffeine than the fully-leaded stuff, while herbal teas often contain none at all. Consider switching out that Coke or Pepsi for ginger ale, Sprite or tonic water.
The experts have weighed in: caffeine is a safe study tool when used in moderation, but you should stay in touch with your own body. Most importantly, it’s impossible to replace sleep with an espresso, however tempting that may seem when term paper and AP chem start piling up. All in all, here’s to a more informed cup o’ joe.
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