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Coffee time

Feeling a little sluggish? Too many hours between here and home? Time to stop for a cup of mud? Whether you take it black, regular, or double double-a cup of coffee can give you the needed boost you'r...

Feeling a little sluggish? Too many hours between here and home? Time to stop for a cup of mud? Whether you take it black, regular, or double double-a cup of coffee can give you the needed boost you’re looking for. But drink it in moderation-too much can pack a mean punch.

It certainly won’t improve your health. Drinking coffee doesn’t give your body any nutrients (unless you use milk or cream for a little calcium), but its caffeine does give you a temporary energy boost. As a stimulant, caffeine causes a number of physiological and psychological effects on the body. It quickens your breathing, strengthens your pulse, and stimulates your kidneys. Coffee excites the functions of your brain – relieving fatigue and depression. But only temporarily. Drinking a lot of coffee is not a substitute for a break or a good night’s sleep! If you are pushing yourself too hard, coffee is just a band-aid solution that could eventually wreck your heath.

Moderate use of coffee is relatively harmless.

Overuse isn’t. Circulatory and digestive problems are just two of the down sides. The boost of energy and alertness you experience after a few cups may lead to nervousness, headaches, and a racing pulse. Because caffeine increases your blood pressure – continual, excessive coffee drinking can cause chronic high blood pressure, stroke and other related circulatory conditions.

Some digestive problems linked to coffee are: diarrhea, irritation to the stomach lining, and even ulcers.

If you have hyperthyroidism (overproduction of hormones by the thyroid gland), caffeine will make your symptoms worse.

Caffeine speeds up your body processes and makes you use up your nutrients more quickly than usual. When you substitute a coffee and a donut for a balanced meal – you shoot yourself in the foot. You make your body need more nutrients (because of the caffeine) but you feed it a snack with no nutrients.

Because caffeine acts as a diuretic, you shouldn’t drink coffee (or cola) to replace any of the two litres of water per day that you should be drinking. Caffeine or cola should be consumed only in addition to this amount. (Drinking that much you’ll want to know where the rest stops are, that’s for sure.) You can really get dehydrated if you try to quench your thirst with coffee when it’s hot…at this time of year, it won’t be a problem for most of you…unless you’re heading for the sunny south.

It’s funny – you may feel like you can handle the physical part of your job better after a steaming cup? Well, some research has found that caffeine can enhance athletic performance – probably by stimulating fatty acid release, and slowing the use of glycogen. Of course, you can make your work seem easier without a coffee by just warming up with some light activity before you get down to the heavy work. Although the most known, caffeine isn’t the only problem with coffee. It’s also full of tannic acid. This acid stops your body from using whatever iron it’s getting from fruits and vegetables. After reading this far, you may be considering getting rid of caffeine by switching to decaffeinated coffee. Is it safer? Well, to remove caffeine from the coffee beans, manufacturers often use methylene chloride. This process leaves traces of that chemical in the beans. So, you end up drinking it. The FDA estimates that the average cup of coffee treated this way contains about 0.1 parts per million of methylene chloride – which appears to be fairly harmless. With coffee, like with all things-moderation is the key. But, if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms: racing pulse, headache, digestive problems, – cut back. Remember…eat right, and drink coffee – responsibly!

Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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