Life is busy, stressful and there never seems to be enough time in the day. Aside from vacation or summer break, for those non-adulting spiritual beings, it would seem impossible to get through the day without a little help. The beatles said it best; “I get by with a little help from my friends”. Our little friend is found everywhere….
Caffeine is a power tool, life saver or drug….whatever you want to call it. It is found in a ton of stuff; some of which you might not be aware of. For most people coffee is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of caffeine. It’s true there is plenty of caffeine in coffee that isn’t the only place you’ll find it. Things like soda, tea, guarana (the stuff found in energy drinks) and for the buzz kill our beloved chocolate.
Caffeine, theobromine, paraxanthine and theophylline are all part of the ‘methylxanthine family’ of compounds. These compounds are also known as ‘psychoactive stimulants’ or substances that temporary improve brain function. That doesn’t sound so bad does it? Nope! However there is a downside to these stimulants; while all four are found in varying amounts in the wonderful things listed above too much can cause problems.
Caffeine breaks down in the body (metabolizes) as paraxanthine, theophylline and theobromine which are pesticides that the plant produces to fight off bugs. Yay plants! They are so cool but then again pesticides aren’t the best thing for us. So what does this mean for the humans consuming them? Depending on your personal sensitivity to these pesticides they can cause some health issues. Most people are unaware that these agents are doing anything to their body in the first place. Also certain substances (chocolate, coffee, tea, soda and guarana) contain different methylxanthines compounds. You still with me?
Let’s try an example. So coffee contains caffeine and theophylline but not theobromine; and if your body can’t break it down properly, too much caffeine can cause irritability, nervousness, panic attacks, phobias, muscle twitching, insomnia, headaches, heart palpitations, peptic ulcers, acid reflux, OCD and our lovely anxiety. Tea actually contains more caffeine but is usually brewed for less time making it weaker but it contains theobromine which can have more of an effect on the central nervous system and stimulates the heart to a greater degree than caffeine. Plus even though it is not as addictive as caffeine some suggest that it can cause an addiction to chocolate. Theophylline can cause nausea, diarrhea, headaches, insomnia, irritability dizziness and lightheadedness plus some other problems related to the heart. Yikes! Paraxanthine is not produced by plants but it is produced by the body to breakdown caffeine and it has been shown to cause similar problems like the ones listed above.
There is an upside to all of this information I promise. Everyone is completely different and may only be sensitive to one of these substance not all which is good news. The bad news is you’ll have to figure it out.
Signs and symptoms of Methylxanthine Toxicity Syndrome:
To start you could get tested by your doctor to see if you are experiencing MTS or you could try eliminating those substances from your diet for a while. Usually you don’t need to stay away from these substances forever, once the toxicity has cleared you can generally add them back with moderation on occasion. In some cases however you have to say goodbye and find substitutes that help fill your craving. If you need help kicking a craving or an addiction see my article on cravings.
A special thanks to Dr. Martin Orimenko at Live Well Holistic Health Ardmore Pa for providing me with such wonderful information.