We have good news and bad news for the 30 to 40 percent of you who promote the efficacious movement of the bowels every morning with a big cup or two of coffee. The good news is, coffee and tea help some people move their bowels. The bad news also is that joe can help you go.
How can that be bad? Because you rely on a chemical to make you regular. Some people report constipation if they don’t get their usual dose of coffee. There don’t seem to be any scientific studies on this effect that are indexed on Google, but there are several anecdotal Web pages where people state stopping coffee cold turkey causes constipation at least temporarily.
About 90 percent of American adults take caffeine daily. Half or more of them are subject to caffeine withdrawal symptoms when they don’t get a fix, including headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, depression and irritability.
This may not seem like much of a problem because caffeine and coffee users are like Charlton Heston and his guns: They’ll give up caffeine when someone takes their coffee from their cold, dead hands.
Coffee was so important in wartime America during World War II that the government rationed it briefly so soldiers could get enough. Coffee was one of four staples for Civil War soldiers, along with beans, beef and hardtack. After Boston Tea Partiers dumped that tea in the harbor during the Revolution, coffee drinkers were considered patriotic.
Coffee can give a soldier the alertness he needs in times of prolonged sleep loss or during dangerous combat situations.
When people think of caffeine, they often think of the coffee beverage or coffee beans, which today are indeed the biggest source of the stimulating chemical in the world. But several popular plants worldwide contain caffeine that have been made into delicious food and drinks from antiquity.
Caffeine can boost athletic stamina and speed so much that the International Olympic Committee once limited how much of it Olympic athletes could take. Caffeine was categorized as a performance-enhancing substance.
The regular athlete might not be able to run a marathon in 2:02.57 like Dennis Kimetto, but maybe after an invigorating jolt of java you can one run just a little bit quicker and burn some fat in the process. Caffeine can improve performance by 1.5 to 3 percent, recent studies show. And the amount needed to give the boost is no more than that in an 8-ounce cup of coffee or an energy drink or two.
Caffeine keeps you alert, enhances concentration, alleviates fatigue—so it would only be good to drink copious volumes of caffeinated beverages before an exam in school, right?
Wrong, say experts. In fact, too much caffeine can interfere with memory processes. On a history exam, when you’re juiced on java you may be floundering around trying to remember just who won the Battle of Waterloo (it’s complicated, but allied troops under the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grand Armée, if anyone can be said to win in a war).
Sages and philosophers from various world traditions have counseled “Everything in moderation,” and, stated another way, “Nothing in excess.” These aphorisms apply to caffeine, too, because too much of this otherwise beneficial chemical can cause insomnia, nervousness, muscle tremors and stomach upset.
When people talk about having “a cup of coffee,” they don’t necessarily mean 8 ounces (236 milliliters). For example, many people go for the large size of coffee at McDonald’s restaurants and Starbucks, at 20 ounces (591 milliliters). Or at home, they may have a 12- to 16-ounce mug.
So when you read guides online that say an 8-ounce cup of drip java has about 163 mg of caffeine, you can more than double the amount of the stimulating chemical for a 20-ounce size. Drip coffee is the kind that drips through a filter to produce that cup or mug of the elixir that so many people say they can’t start their day without.
Migraine headaches are so painful and disabling that people who get them are often unable to do little except lie in a quiet, dark room and suffer. So the fact that caffeine, which is in so many delicious products, can help relieve symptoms and boost effectiveness of medications may be of some comfort to them.
Caffeine comes in some favorite comestibles, including coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and some ice cream brands. For those in a world of migraine hurt, a nice cup of hot coffee, a glass of cold tea, a chocolate bar or a bowl of ice cream may provide some pain relief and also some comfort just from the fact of consuming a favorite food or drink.