Caffeine Can Shake Up Former Smokers

Vince Faust, Special to The Informer from NNPA | 4/17/2013, 9 p.m.
Cigarette smokers metabolize caffeine more rapidly than nonsmokers. This means that smokers have to drink more coffee to get the ...

I just stopped smoking and I feel great. My problem is caffeine, I'm drinking more coffee every day. Will this new habit be as bad as smoking? -- Judy, Tampa, Fla.

Cigarette smokers metabolize caffeine more rapidly than nonsmokers. This means that smokers have to drink more coffee to get the same level of caffeine in their blood. It's this difference that can cause problems for those who have just quit smoking.

Researchers in San Francisco found that when ex-smokers drank their usual amount of coffee, the levels of caffeine in their blood rose 250 percent over previous levels because they were metabolizing it more slowly. These high levels could cause some ex-smokers to start smoking again. The higher levels of caffeine can make a person jittery, causing an ex-smoker to use a cigarette to calm his nerves.

Here are some tips that will help to quit smoking and stay off the caffeine: 1. Keep a positive attitude. Believe that you can quit; 2. Get rid of all cigarettes and matches and have your teeth cleaned; 3. Change your habits. After a meal go for a walk. When you want to go out, go to places that prohibit smoking; 4. When the urge hits do something else. Plan several activities that you can do every time you get the urge; 5. Tell others that you've quit. They'll be glad to remind you that you want to stop smoking; and 6. Get more information about the hazards of smoking. The more you know, the better prepared you'll be to deal with not smoking.

Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant. It will increase alertness, decrease fatigue, give euphoria and elevate your mood. The bad effects of caffeine can include sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety and depression. A person can suffer the bad affects from one or two cups of coffee a day.

If you drink more than 250 mg of caffeine a day, which is about two and a half cups, you can suffer from caffeine intoxication. The symptoms include restlessness, nervousness, excitement, excessive urination, insomnia, heartburn, muscle twitching and rambling thought and speech.

There are some withdrawal symptoms when you try to break the caffeine habit. They can include depression, constipation, runny nose, nausea, headaches and a craving for caffeine. To quit it's best to gradually reduce your caffeine intake. Try to reduce your daily intake of caffeine by 100 mg each week. That is about one cup of coffee. Continue decreasing your consumption until you're down to a safe level, which is about one cup a day. Your plan should also include relaxation, stress reduction, good nutrition and exercise.

Best Fast Foods

I know fast foods are not the best thing for a person trying to get in shape, but there I times when I have no choice. What should I avoid when I indulge in a fast-food meal on the run? -- Dorothy, Willow Grove

The main culprits you want to stay away from are the high-fat, high-sodium foods. This means in many cases you'll have to have it your way instead of the usual way. For breakfast skip the breakfast meats and sandwiches; they're high in fat and sodium. Instead have hotcakes or an English muffin with just a little butter.