Caffeine is a natural chemical that activates the central nervous system, which means that it revs up nerves and thought processes. Regular caffeine consumption, from coffee and/or tea, has been shown to increase short-term focus and alertness, as well as long-term memory. Although most people enjoy caffeine’s “revved up” effect, some people are caffeine-sensitive and are left feeling jittery or ill after ingesting a dose. If you fall into the second group, you’ll want to eliminate caffeinated beverages or adjust your intake to match your personal tolerance. Those with sleeping problems or insomnia may need to stop drinking caffeinated beverages up to eight hours before bedtime (or omit entirely).
Additionally, caffeinated beverages can sometimes trigger migraine headaches in people who are sensitive. And IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS become symptomatic after ingesting caffeinated coffee or tea.
Caffeine may also have some adverse effects on women just before their menstrual cycles. Some research suggests that the effects of caffeine become magnified for women when they are premenstrual. Caffeine may exacerbate PMS symptoms and cause greater breast tenderness, nervousness, and irritability. If this is true for you, switch to herbal teas or decaffeinated beverages at this time in your cycle.
Black and Green Tea
Green and black teas contain anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are good for preventing and managing arthritis, memory problems, and cataracts. Tea (it’s best to drink unsweetened to avoid the harmful sugar) is also helpful for keeping skin healthy and hydrated. On the other hand, regular green and black teas contain caffeine, which can exacerbate IBS or insomnia, and they also contain tannins, a common trigger for migraine headaches.
Coffee has an undeserved bad reputation when it comes to its impact on health. In fact, caffeinated coffee has been shown to help prevent memory loss and decrease the risk of certain cancers. However, caffeine can exacerbate IBS and interfere with sleep, so it is best to stick to decaffeinated coffee if you’re stomach-sensitive or you suffer from insomnia. If you have high blood pressure, speak with your physician about your coffee habits. If you have high cholesterol drink filtered coffee — unfiltered coffee (like French press, espresso, and cappuccino) may increase LDL ("bad") cholesterol. And don't let your cup of joe be a calorie trap — watch how much milk and sugar you add!
Decaf or Herbal Tea
Drinking unsweetened herbal or decaf tea can often help soothe an upset stomach and alleviate constipation and other IBS symptoms, as well as aid in preventing dehydration, a common migraine trigger. Chamomile tea, a particularly soothing herbal tea, is a great choice for women who suffer from PMS.
Espresso is stronger and more concentrated than brewed coffee. It is often the base of lattes, cappuccinos, and many other coffee drinks. Ounce for ounce, espresso has more caffeine than regular coffee, although it's served in smaller sizes. For comparison, a single shot of espresso (about an ounce) has 40 to 75 mg caffeine, while an ounce of coffee has only 12 to 25 mg caffeine. But most people drink at least an eight-ounce cup of coffee, which then provides a total of 100 to 200 mg caffeine. Caffeine may exacerbate IBS, insomnia, and PMS symptoms and is a common trigger for migraine headaches. Espresso is unfiltered and may increase LDL ("bad") cholesterol so it is best to enjoy in moderation if you have high cholesterol. Many of the coffee drinks made with espresso are high in calories and fat due to the addition of flavored syrups, whole milk, and whipped cream. Stick to lattes and cappuccinos made with skim or one percent low-fat milk and take it easy on the added sugar.
Common sources of caffeine include coffee, espresso, skim latte, skim cappuccino, skim café au lait, green tea, black tea, and herbal tea. Add sweeteners and dairy sparingly!