Finding Hidden Sources of Caffeine

Toni Hurst Health Guide
  • In my last post, I wrote about the good and the bad concerning caffeine. For better or worse, I can't--no--make that won't--give it up, at least not yet. But I am definitely cutting back, because I found out that there is an amazing amount of caffeine in places I would have never suspected and the evidence is that more than a little bit can trigger some of menopause's worst symptoms like hot flashes and headaches. And I don't need more of those.


    I'm not proud of this but my typical day includes two cups of coffee, followed mid-day by a Starbucks Frappuccino®, then a Coke and some chocolate at 3, and (and this is the bad part) maybe an energy drink after I leave work and before I go to class (I am taking a nursing class on Monday and Wednesday evenings). Sometimes at night when I'm studying I'll have a little bit of ice cream smothered in chocolate sauce, my version of comfort food because I used to have that as a kid growing up in Indiana. And if I have a headache before bed, I'll take a couple of pain relievers.

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    I never stopped to add it all up.


    Believe it or not, the energy drink, the extra cup of coffee, and the headache medicine put me over the edge. Energy drinks can range in the amount of caffeine they contain, but can have up to 160 milligrams. Some of the over-the-counter meds have 200 milligrams of caffeine.


    One cup of strong coffee has about 125 to 150 milligrams of caffeine. My Coke has about 36 milligrams. My energy drink, depending on which one I get, can have 250 milligrams. My headache meds cost me another 200 milligrams. My chocolate fix is perhaps my healthiest snack, as it contains only about 4 milligrams per ounce. Let's say I have an 8 ounce candy bar-that's 32 ounces of caffeine. But if you add it all up, I may be consuming up to 900 milligrams of caffeine in a day.


    According to health experts, I shouldn't be consuming more than 200 to 300 milligrams a day. Whoa.


    No wonder I get headaches--I get them because I consume too much caffeine! Caffeine is a stimulant, I knew that. It also can cause dehydration, which I think is also causing the headaches. But I also get them whenever I try to wean myself off of caffeine! So I'm in a Catch-22 situation. But I've got to do it. No more Frappuccinos, and no more energy drinks. Even if I replace them with my beloved Cokes, I'll be in better shape! If I can get rid of the headaches, I won't need the caffeine-laden headache meds either.


    Do me a favor. Count up the amount of caffeine you're consuming. Then think about what that's doing to you. The science says if you cut back, it may help lessen the number and severity of hot flashes, and may reduce headaches, and certainly may help you sleep better. None of us need anything else to keep us up at night, do we?  

Published On: October 02, 2008