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10 Symptoms Of Drinking Too Much Caffeine & How To Fix It

August 7, 2020

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages worldwide, and tea isn't too far behind. Many people rely on caffeinated beverages to get the day started and to finish the day strong. But when do we need to consider whether we are crossing the line and taking in too much caffeine? 

Many of us enjoy our caffeinated beverages because of their stimulating effects. There is also evidence that caffeine could help with improving energy, cognition, and exercise performance. Some sources of caffeine such as coffee and tea have also been studied for their positive effects on inflammation, cardiovascular disease1, obesity, autoimmunity, fatty liver, neurological diseases, and diabetes. That said, while we often talk about the benefits of caffeine, we don't always talk about the potential downsides. 

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How to know if you drink too much caffeine.

It is first important to note that everyone may have a different threshold for how much is too much for them. We each metabolize caffeine differently. Some people are fast metabolizers, and others are slow metabolizers, so this will affect how much you are likely able to tolerate.

The general rule of thumb is to stick to 200 mg of caffeine if you are a slow metabolizer (that's 2 cups of coffee) and consider taking up to 400 mg of caffeine if you are a fast metabolizer (equivalent to about 4 cups of coffee).

If you aren't counting your doses of caffeine, here are a few side effects2 that you might experience if you cross the line:

  • Fast heart rate (tachycardia or palpitations)
  • Jitteriness 
  • Anxiety 
  • High blood pressure
  • Sodium and water retention
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Dehydration
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues (such as frequent bowel movements, indigestion, acid reflux)
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Consider what you're drinking, too.

Oftentimes, excessive levels of caffeine can come from drinking energy drinks, which may have high levels of caffeine and other unhealthy substances.

It's also important to consider the effects of other substances present in your favorite caffeinated beverage. While that café mocha might be a delicious treat, you should know that there could be upward of 35 grams of sugar in one medium-size drink.

So, what do we do?

I think the first thing to do is look at the quality of the caffeine you are drinking, and what else is present in your beverage.

The next thing: You may want to consider getting a genetic test, to see if you are a rapid metabolizer or a slow metabolizer of caffeine. This might help you understand your limits.

Then, one of the most important steps is to understand how much caffeine you need to ingest—and over what period of time—in order to reap the benefits without the negative consequences. For example, while you may prefer espresso, do you really need to drink three shots over an hour in order to concentrate on your big presentation at work? Probably not. We actually know that our performance on various tasks may improve if we take small doses of caffeine over a longer interval of time. This is the concept of caffeine microdosing, and it can help you get just the right amount for your body.

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Bottom line.

Everyone is different, and everyone will have different set points regarding how much caffeine they can tolerate and should drink. But it is important to keep an eye out for any signs of too much caffeine, in order to take care of your health. There are definitely strategies to consider that can help you accomplish your goals without crossing the line of your body's limits.

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Marvin Singh, M.D.
Marvin Singh, M.D.
Integrative Gastroenterologist

Marvin Singh, M.D is an Integrative Gastroenterologist in San Diego, California, and a Member of the Board and Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Medicine. He is also trained and board certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology/Hepatology. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Singh completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Health System followed by fellowship training in Gastroenterology at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines. Singh was trained by Andrew Weil, M.D., a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, at the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine.

Singh is currently the Director of Integrative Gastroenterology at the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute at UC Irvine. He is also currently a voluntary Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSD in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health; prior to this, he has been a Clinical Assistant Professor at UCLA and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. Singh is a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and many other societies. He is actively involved in the American Gastroenterological Association. He is one of the editors of the textbook of Integrative Gastroenterology, 2nd edition (a Weil Series text) and has written several book chapters and articles.

He is dedicated to guiding his clients toward optimal wellness every step of the way, using the most cutting edge technologies to design highly personalized precision based protocols. Towards this end, he founded Precisione Clinic and wrote the book Rescue Your Health to bring the best in preventive medicine to his clients.