Monday, January 12, 2009

Kate: 1, Caffeine: 0

No, this isn't turning into a caffeine bashing blog. I fully support other peoples' need, want, desire, and obsession for caffeine. Well, I did until I started reading this crazy book, Caffeine Blues.

Stephen Cherniske's book is practically ancient at this point--it's ten years old. It might as well be fifty years old in terms of medical research. Nevertheless, I think the info is still relevant. I'll say this: it gave me the heebie jeebies.

I've been avoiding this book for about ten years. I'd see it, perched ominously on my bookshelf, and I'd tip toe past, trying not to make eye contact, like you might a rabid dog. I knew what awaited me within its pages. I didn't want to hear it.

I'm not about to turn into one of those self-righteous ex-coffee drinkers. Coffee and I were reunited briefly over the Christmas break. But then I quickly returned to tea, especially after spending a few hours thumbing through Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Hidden Dangers of America's #1 Drug. Yeah, there are some big words in that title.

Some folks can enjoy the occasional cup of coffee and live a normal life. But most of us abuse it. If you're not sure whether coffee is actually effecting your health above and beyond the occasional headache, Cherniske has a fun little quiz for you. And I do mean fun. Here it is, recreated just for you:

Do you experience any of the following on a recurrent or frequent basis?

  • Energy swings or periods of fatigue during the day
  • Mood swings or periods of depression during the day
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal distress; cramping, diarrhea
  • Constipation and/or dependence on caffeine for bowel movement
  • Tension or stiff in your neck, shoulders, jaw, hands, legs, or stomach
  • Premenstrual syndrome; menstrual irregularity, cramps, sore breasts
  • Painful/sensitive lumps in the breast
  • Insomnia
  • Clenching the jaw or grinding teeth during sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability, including inappropriate 'fits' of anger
  • Involuntary movement in the leg (restless leg syndrome)
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Light-headedness/dizziness
  • Wake up feeling tired
  • Generalized pain (back pain, stomach pain, muscle aches)
  • High blood pressure
  • Ulcers
  • Anemia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or memory loss
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Coldness in the extremities, especially fingertips
  • Hand tremor

Yeah, it's a heck of a long list, isn't it. I'd tell you how many of these things hit home for me, but I'd be a bit embarrassed. A lot, I'll tell you that. Here's what Cherniske says about your quiz results:

"If you have 12 or more 'yes' answers, your caffeine intake represents a critical health risk that may actually decrease your life expectancy."

Wha?? That's right, he thinks that excessive caffeine intake can actually shorten your life!! Crazy.

At one point, I would have thought, "Who would want to live longer withOUT coffee?" I figured life's short enough as it is. So here's to coffee-less month number three!


Elle said...

Yikes - I've literally just tweeted: I am actually craving the taste of a nice cup of tea right now. Addicted? I think so.

And now I've seen this and checked the symptoms ... well, I already know I have a bit of a caffiene addiciton. :s Oh dear!

Congrats on surviving without the coffee!!

Kate said...

I know, it's crazy isn't it? That is a GREAT book.