The Over-Use of Caffeine and Energy Drinks

Fatigue is a growing problem in this country. It is probably the number one complaint I see in my office other than the desire to lose weight. But the continual use of stimulants to get us through the day can have far reaching negative effects on our energy level, metabolism, blood sugar, cardiovascular, hormonal and immune system.

Stimulants such as caffeine and energy drinks are flooding the market. You can't walk through a grocery store without seeing the growing number of energy drinks being sold. We're talking billions of dollars in this industry. Add that to the number of coffee shops popping up and you can easily see how we are over-stimulating ourselves.

The most common stimulants are caffeine, ma huang, ephedra, guarana, kola nut, and bitter oranges (Citrus aurantium). You can find these ingredients in almost all these drinks, as well as, nutritional supplements. Bitter orange contains synephrine, the cousin to ephedra, and is the newest herb to hit the market, once ephedra was taken off the market.

Stimulants have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. They do have a place in the healing arts. But the daily use of them is the problem. Just as I believe the good Lord didn't make a bad hormone (cortisol, insulin) these stimulants, are NOT the problem. Rather it is the overuse of them that throws our body out of balance.

Stimulants squeeze or stimulate our adrenal glands to produce additional adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol, our stress hormones, to give us that boost of energy. Unfortunately this continual squeeze on our adrenals can eventually exhaust and burn them out. The continual over-stimulation of our adrenal glands lead to adrenal fatigue and exhaustion. This is becoming a common and underlying problem for many of the health challenges we face today.

Our adrenal glands play a critical part to our survival. Yes they make our stress hormone cortisol, which is catching a lot of attention because of their association with weight loss. But they are also intimately involved in stabilizing our blood sugar. This is critical because the number of people suffering from Metabolic Syndrome, Insulin Resistance and diabetes is increasing and a lot of that has to do with the over-stimulation of our adrenal glands.

The adrenals make our sex hormones and this is critical for both women and men because if the body constantly has to make our stress hormones, they will steal progesterone and affect the balance of estrogen and testosterone, respectfully. And how many people are suffering from hot flashes, PMS, loss of libido and depression?

Let's not forget the number of people taking high blood pressure medications. The over-stimulation of your adrenals causes an increase in norepinephrine, which causes your arteries to constrict. This will cause your blood pressure to go up. Keep in mind, one function of the adrenal glands is to balance the fluids in the body and what do most blood pressure med's do? They manipulate the fluids in your body.

I am not against a good cup of coffee or the occasional use of an energy drink, but it comes back to balance and how you use it. A good cup of coffee in a relaxed state has a completely different effect on your body as opposed to having a cup of coffee or an energy drink because you need it to finish the day. Many of these so-called "cortisol lowering" products that are being marketed to help with weight loss are loaded with stimulants. Talk about deceptive or simply NOT knowing how the body functions, if stress is the problem, the last thing you want to be taking our stimulants. Read their labels.

If you suspect your adrenals are exhausted due to stress and the over stimulation of your adrenal glands due to caffeine and other herbal stimulants … take our "on-line health quizzes" to see if adrenal burnout is at the root of your health problem.

Dr. Len Lopez is the author of "To Burn or Not to Burn, Fat is the Question" and hosts the radio show "Action Steps for Health. He is a nutrition and fitness expert and speaks extensively on how to "treat the cause – not the symptoms. To learn more about health and healing take the "online health quizzes" or sign up to receive his weekly health journal Health Tips with Dr. Len.