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updated: 2/28/2013 8:13 PM

Barrington doctor on effects of caffeine and energy drinks

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Dr. Mark Thompson, MD

Are you someone that tends to rely on caffeine to get through your day? Do you get headaches on days you go without? This can be due to dependency of caffeine products in a daily routine. With busy work weeks and stressful schedules, many people find it is typical to be tired much of the time. It becomes extremely easy to grab quick sources of caffeine such as energy drinks, energy shots, and coffee drinks. Although we may feel more energized at the time, the amounts of caffeine and sugar entering our body could pose much higher risks.

More than half of all American adults consume more than 300 milligrams of caffeine every day. Caffeine works by stimulating the Central Nervous System which includes the heart, muscles, and centers that control blood pressure.

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Energy drinks could be one of the worst ways to get energy. The unnaturally high amounts of caffeine and sugar have many side effects. Large amounts of caffeine can lead to tremors, shaking, restlessness, agitation, chest pain, dizziness, insomnia, respiratory distress and headaches. Also, the high amounts of sugar are linked to the obesity epidemic and the increase of type 2 diabetes. The high amount of sugar is also usually the cause for the "crash" after drinking energy drinks.

If you find yourself tired often, there are other natural ways to help get a deeper sleep at night and stay awake during the day. Making sure you exercise regularly and eating a balanced diet can help ensure your body is functioning properly. Working out will also help you get a better night's sleep and can in turn allow you to feel more awake and focused the next day. It has also been shown that drinking more water throughout the day can help keep people focused and alert. If you have a job where you find yourself sitting most of the day, it is important to get up and stretch at least once every hour.

The next time you feel like reaching for that coffee or energy drink think about your health first and try a few simple steps to ensure you can wake up the natural way. As mentioned before, caffeine does have some withdrawal symptoms so it may be best to slowly lower your caffeine intake each day. This will ensure you have a smoother transformation.

Dr. Mark Thompson, MD, is board certified and specializes in emergency medicine at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, IL. He graduated from University of Illinois-Chicago School of Medicine.

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