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Constantly craving a cuppa? While caffeine can have some great health benefits, overconsuming caffeine could be doing more harm than good. But exactly how much is too much?! We’re here to spill the beans.

Heavy caffeine use can cause unpleasant side effects. And caffeine may not be a good choice for people who are highly sensitive to its effects or who take certain medications.

Read on to see if you may need to curb your caffeine routine.

You drink more than 4 cups of coffee a day

You may want to cut back if you’re drinking more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee a day (or the equivalent) and you have side effects such as:

  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Frequent urination or inability to control urination
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors

You feel anxious…

Mondayitis or a bad night’s sleep can fuel your desire to grab a comforting cup of your favourite caffeinated beverage. Yet, the National Institute of Mental Health recommends that people who suffer from anxiety avoid caffeine. Why? Too much coffee can actually worsen the effects of anxiety, either by robbing you of proper sleep or triggering your flight or fight response.

Your heart is racing…

The feeling that your heart is beating too fast can be worrying. It may feel like your heart is trying to escape from your ribcage. These heart palpitations can be caused by the consumption of too much coffee and caffeine, nicotine, and even alcohol. In some cases, a racing heart can lead to dizziness and even fainting spells. According to a 2017 study in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, 94 percent of doctors recommend patients experiencing the fluttering heart beats stop consuming caffeine.

You’re racing to the loo… a lot…

While anything you drink is eventually going to need to be eliminated, it’s the caffeine in coffee that, um, speeds up the process.

Caffeine is a diuretic, which means that your kidneys may be pulling more fluid from your system than you’ve just consumed, without hydrating you at all. So, if you feel like you’re peeing more than you just drank, you’re probably right. And you need to get some plain old water into your system, stat.

You can’t catch the zzz’s…

Caffeine, even in the afternoon, can interfere with your sleep. Even small amounts of sleep loss can add up and disturb your daytime alertness and performance.

Using caffeine to mask sleep deprivation can create an unwelcome sleep cycle. For example, you may drink caffeinated beverages because you have trouble staying awake during the day. But the caffeine keeps you from falling asleep at night, shortening the length of time you sleep. It’s like being stuck on a hamster wheel.

You’ve got the jitters…

Jitters from caffeine is not uncommon. Caffeine boosts adrenaline levels which simulates the body into “fight or flight” mode, and that produces high blood pressure, sweatiness, jittery sensations, and other symptoms associated with drinking too much coffee.

Curbing your caffeine habit

Whether it’s for one of the reasons above or because you want to trim your spending on coffee drinks, cutting back on caffeine can be DIFFICULT (trust us, we’ve tried). An abrupt decrease in caffeine may cause withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, irritability and difficulty focusing on tasks. Fortunately, these symptoms are usually mild and get better after a few days.

To change your caffeine habit, try these tips:

Keep count. Start paying attention to how much caffeine you’re getting from foods and beverages, including energy drinks. Read labels carefully. But remember that your estimate may be a little low because some foods or drinks that contain caffeine don’t list it.

Cut back gradually. For example, drink one fewer can of soda or drink a smaller cup of coffee each day. Or avoid drinking caffeinated beverages after lunch. This will help your body get used to the lower levels of caffeine and lessen potential withdrawal effects.

Go decaf. Most decaffeinated beverages look and taste much the same as their caffeinated counterparts.

Shorten the brew time or go herbal. When making tea, brew it for less time. This cuts down on its caffeine content. Or choose herbal teas that don’t have caffeine.

Check the bottle. Some over-the-counter pain relievers contain caffeine. Look for caffeine-free pain relievers instead.

The bottom line

If you’re like most adults, caffeine is a part of your daily routine. Usually, it won’t pose a health problem. But be mindful of caffeine’s possible side effects and be ready to cut back if necessary.