Is there anything coffee can’t do?
Looks like… water?!
Can’t imagine the day without your morning cup of coffee? You won’t have to give it up altogether, but you may have to change some of your coffee habits now that you’re pregnant.
What are the risks?
Small doses of caffeine are considered safe in pregnancy. However, excessive consumption has been linked to increased risk of miscarriage. Too much caffeine also impacts your fetus growth and may result in lower birth weight, which can cause health problems when the baby is born.
How much is too much?
Current recommended limit in Australia is a maximum of 200 mg of caffeine a day. According to NSW Health, this limit can be obtained from 1 cup of strong espresso style coffee, 3 cups of instant coffee, 4 cups of medium strength tea, 4 cups of cocoa or hot chocolate or 4 cans of cola. Keep in mind that this is an estimation only. Caffeine content in drinks vary widely and it’s always better to err on the side of caution.
Something else to consider is when you have your drink. Caffeine makes it more difficult for your body to absorb iron and calcium. You need your iron and calcium more than ever when you’re pregnant, so it’s best to have your meals and your coffee separately.
Why do you crave caffeine?
This is a good question to ask when you’re making changes to your coffee routine. Do you need your coffee to wake you up? In that case, you’re probably not getting enough rest or you lack important nutrients. Instead of reaching for your cup, carve out time for more sleep, drink plenty of water and choose healthy energy boosting foods like nuts, cooked eggs or spinach.
Do you love the taste of coffee? Make it decaf. It’ll only give you a fraction of the caffeine that regular coffee has and you’ll still give your taste buds a treat.
Sometimes, you’d crave a caffeine drink (not necessarily coffee) because it makes you feel better. For me, black tea was an effective relief for morning sickness. If you find yourself drinking cup after cup just so that you can get through the day, look for a decaffeinated option. In my experience, decaffeinated black tea was just as effective as the real thing. Clearly, it wasn’t the caffeine that was making me feel good.
As you can see, there’s no need to panic that you’ll have to do without coffee for the next 9 months. You can still enjoy your favourite drink and meet your needs, while keeping your baby safe.
Image by Bellezza87 via pixabay.com
When people think of addicts they don’t picture a person sitting in a cafe drinking coffee. Instead, they imagine the strung-out druggie looking for the next high. Yet I’ll put my hand up and admit I’m definitely an addict. My drug of choice is coffee. That luscious aroma gets me every time. When I say it like that it sounds pretty pitiful, doesn’t it? However, that’s the reality for plenty of coffee consumers.
Now, I know I’m not alone and there are plenty of us out there. So how do you know if you’re an addict or a consumer? Well that’s pretty easy. Take a mental note of how many of these questions you answer YES to and read on for the results.
Are you a coffee addict?
1. Do you wake up in the morning and “need” a coffee?
2. Are you cranky and impatient when you haven’t had your morning fix?
3. Do you regularly top up your beloved travel mug before commuting?
4. Do you get frequent headaches or feel tired/lack energy?
5. Does coffee make you feel “normal”?
6. Do you think you’ve developed some sort of tolerance toward coffee?
7. Do you drink or eat caffeine substitutes regularly? eg: tea, cola drinks, iced coffee, energy drinks, chocolate, etc.
8. Do you drink more coffee than plain water each day?
9. Do you fear or think you’d experience withdrawals if you don’t have at least one coffee per day?
10. Do you drink more than 3-4 small cups of coffees per day? (500mg of caffeine)
If you answered YES to most of these questions, you’re likely an addict. The only way to know for sure is to eliminate coffee and caffeine substitutes from your diet – IF you dare! Just like any other drug dependence ceasing consumption of coffee or caffeine will come with side-effects and withdrawal symptoms. These include experiencing the jitters or shakes, headaches, mood swings, irritability, fatigue, flu-like symptoms and nausea.
These symptoms are common for other types of substance withdrawals, including alcohol and illicit drugs. From this perspective, coffee isn’t the harmless beverage many of us consume cup-after-cup each day. It is, in fact, a legalized drug which could be doing more harm than good. This includes the following in order of how coffee can adversely effect us:
- Restlessness and nervousness
- Increased heartbeat
- Heart palpitations (cardiac arrhythmia)
- Cardiac arrest
There have been cases of overdose, plus some people who have consumed far too much caffeine have died as a result.
Benefits of reducing coffee consumption
As you can gather it’s in your best interest to reduce your coffee consumption to a level where your health will benefit. That’s around 300-500mg per day or 4 small cups (or about 2 mugs). Half that is advised for pregnant women. Lucky for us addicts, coffee is good for us but not the socially accepted copious amounts many of us have grown accustomed to.
When we reduce the consumption to a safe and healthy level coffee will continue to be the largest quantity of antioxidant many of us consume. It also contains nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, niacin and choline. If you add milk there’s added benefits of vitamin D and calcium.
Additionally it’s an excellent preventative for liver, colon, prostate, ovarian and oral cancers, stroke, basal cell carcinoma and heart disease. It’s also been linked to prevention of Parkinson and Alzheimer diseases plus Type 2 diabetes. There’s even been evidence of it reducing retinal degeneration.
One tip for reducing your intake is by substitute excessive consumption with decaffeinated coffee instead. If you prefer a mug to a small cup have your 2 real coffees in the morning and substitute the rest. It won’t taste the same but after a while you’ll feel the health benefits and be very glad you made the switch.
We know you love your morning coffee and that you really don’t need an excuse to drink it, but it’s great to give good news where it’s due, isn’t it? Just to justify that large double shot soy latte that you pick up every morning, caffeine has a huge range of benefits that you may not have even known you were sipping on.
It wakes you up
Which we already knew, hence the coffee in hand when you walk into the office every morning. Caffeine blocks the receptors in the brain that tells you you’re tired and keeps you more alert when sleepy. It’s great for those early mornings at work and those late night reports to keep your brain going when you are struggling.
It helps burn fat
The answer to our prayers: Caffeine is a proven fat burner! It increases the amount of fat burned by the body and it increases the metabolism, which helps you to keep the weight off – as long as you don’t add those sugars into your beverage of choice. This really has to be up there as one of the best benefits of caffeine.
It makes you a better athlete
Caffeine may help you on the track or in the gym, especially if you will be participating in an endurance event. You see, caffeine increases the amount of fatty acids being released into the blood stream. The muscles then burn these and use them for fuel, storing carbohydrates for later on, when that marathon gets tough.
It helps protect your liver
Good news for those who indulge in a coffee break and happy hour! Caffeine may help to protect the liver from alcohol consumption and other related diseases such as liver cirrhosis and fatty liver. Well, that obviously calls for cocktails at 5pm and coffee the next morning!
Caffeine lowers your risk of certain diseases
Diseases like Parkinson’s, skin cancer (for women), type 2 diabetes, dementia and strokes are reported to have lowered risks if you regularly consume caffeine.
Image via hearnkirkwood.com
Is our café society culture and subsequent caffeine dependency “sucking the life” out of us? How much coffee is too much? I’m terribly sorry to put you off your morning espresso with these contentious questions, but the issue of caffeine addiction is a reoccurring one – such as recent talk from TV’s Dr. Oz about how too much caffeine can make us hyperstimulated.
“Is your caffeine overload sucking the life out of you?!” he bellowed, all grave concern.
As a mum and journalist, I can’t imagine a world without coffee, indeed I think it gives me life, rather than detracting from my health like some sort of hidden, menacing black hole. But a recent bout of gastro, whereby I had no choice but to give up coffee for four whole days while I recovered, had me questioning whether I was overdoing it on the caffeine front. Was I actually addicted?
Here’s the skinny on coffee and caffeine, my fellow rocket fuel lovers:
How does caffeine work?
Caffeine is a stimulant drug that makes you feel more energized because it acts on the brain and nervous system. You know that happy, buzzed feeling that helps you feel more alert, refreshed and able to meet that deadline? Love it – thank you, beloved coffee.
What foods contain caffeine?
It occurs naturally in foods such as coffee, tea and cocoa and has a long history of safe use as a mild stimulant. Other surprising and “hidden” sources of caffeine include cola-type soft drinks; energy drinks, shots and bars; pain relievers and some over-the-counter medications like cough syrup and slimming tablets; chocolate; ice-cream and even decaf coffee, which still can have up to 32mg of caffeine.
How much coffee is safe?
Generally speaking, 400 mg per day or less is said to be an acceptable dose of caffeine. A general guide is instant coffee contains 60-100mg, drip or percolated coffee contains 100-150 mg and espressos or latte contain 90-200mg.
Is caffeine harmful to anyone?
Pregnant and breastfeeding women, athletes and children should limit their intake of caffeine. Or, if you know you’re super-sensitive to caffeine, easy tiger. Your susceptibility to caffeine depends on your body mass, state of health, metabolism, and whether or not your body is used to getting regular doses of caffeine.
What does caffeine addiction look like?
I once worked with a very senior journalist who drank up to 16 coffees a day. He was always very irritable and moody, with trembling hands. In short, not someone you wanted to spend a lot of time with. In large doses, caffeine can also make you feel anxious and cause you to have difficulty sleeping. Some other signs and symptoms of excessive amounts of caffeine include: a rise in body temperature, frequent urination and dehydration, dizziness and headaches and more. Withdrawal symptoms can include tiredness, crankiness, a persistent headache, and sweating and muscle pain. Medical experts say the easiest way to break caffeine dependence is to cut down gradually, giving your nervous system time to adapt to functioning without the drug.
The good news about caffeine
Don’t despair, coffee lover, it ain’t all bad – coffee can be beneficial to your health and help combat diabetes. In addition to its high antioxidant levels, coffee also contains magnesium and chromium, which help the body use insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the body loses its ability to use insulin and regulate blood sugar levels. Drinking more than one cup of coffee per day has also been found to lower the risk of stroke by up to 25 per cent. One recent study found coffee can help keep the blood-brain barrier intact, which protects the brain from unwanted materials and damaging elements, while another study found coffee may even improve short-term memory. In short: enjoy your coffee, but don’t overdo it. Bottom’s up!