Caffeine is a naturally occurring alkaloid that is found in the coffee plant, as well as in more than sixth other plants found worldwide. It is odorless, but it has a bitter taste.

After coffee is consumed, a gentle jolt can be felt as its stimulating effects come into play. Even a small amount of caffeine wakes up the brain cells, which helps reduce feelings of drowsiness, weariness, and fatigue. In addition, the heart responds to caffeine by beating a bit faster, which causes the blood to circulate with greater speed. For a short time, blood pressure may also increase. Thats why some doctors advise patients with low blood pressure to drink a cup of caffeinated coffee in the morning upon rising.

In the stomach, small amounts of caffeine act to increase the production of stomach acids, which, in turn, help the digestive process. The kidneys react to caffeine by increasing the production of urine, which makes it an effective

Researchers have also found that caffeine has the ability to boost the effectiveness of certain other drugs. Pharmacists call caffeine a potentiator, which means that it increases the effects of the substance with which its mated. For this reason, youll find caffeine in some weight-control pills, diuretics, stimulants, pain relievers, and cold and allergy remedies. Because of its stimulating effects, caffeine is also used to counteract the drowsiness that certain drugs cause. Be aware, however, that caffeine is known to interfere with the actions of some prescription drugs.

Are all the effects of caffeine good ? Well, no. Adverse symptoms caused by too much caffeine include rapid heartbeat, excessive urination, stomach and bowel distress, restlessness, and insomnia. Excessive caffeine consumption can also cause vitamins and minerals, including iron, to be excreted by the body before they are utilized.

Depending on the roast and how it was brewed, an eight-ounce cup of coffee ( regular, not decaffeinated ) contains 65 to 120 milligrams of caffeine. Strong coffee can contain as much as 200 milligrams in six ounces.

It is a documented fact that caffeine works fast. About five minutes after you drink your morning coffee, caffeine is present in the tissues of the body and the brain. It reaches peak blood levels in twenty to thirty minutes, and then begins to decline. After three to six hours, about half the caffeine has been used up. After another three to six hours, only a quarter of the caffeine is still present. Only one present of caffeine is not metabolized. That tiny bit is excreted naturally.

How much caffeine is too much ? You are your own best judge. If you have trouble sleeping after a cup of after-dinner coffee, next time, make it decaf. If several cups of coffee make you feel jittery and nervous, back off. If you find yourself replying on cup after cup of strong coffee to keep you going throughout a long day and into the night when working on some project, beware. Authorities say that a heavy intake of caffeine-such as the 1,000 milligrams contained in five to ten cups of coffee, depending on the strength of the brew can cause nasty symptoms, including a feeling of restlessness, trembling of the limbs, insomnia, diarrhea, and even heart palpitations. But unless you have a sensitivity to caffeine, you can easily drink up to three cups of coffee per day and enjoy its beneficial effects, such as pleasant stimulation, increased mental acuity, and lessened fatigue.

Ref. Antol, Marie Nadine. 2002, Confessions of a Coffee Bean. United States of America.

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