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I didn't understand the caffeine load in tea
Having felt uncharacteristically sick for more than a week, I saw my doctor this morning. He ruled out everything except something upsetting my gastrointestinal tract, and he took notice when I said I'm drinking a lot more tea.
I'd never thought about tea and caffeine and any side-effects. I knew that it had caffeine, but I associate coffee with excess caffeine - I even wrote a post about it not so long ago.
The benefits of drinking tea attracted me
About a month ago, I upped my consumption of tea from very little to 5 or 6 cups a day. I'd read research about the benefits of black tea (of which I'd been entirely unaware) and written a post about that as well.
"Both black tea and green tea are rich in the same micronutrients, especially polyphenols. What's different about the black tea polyphenols (BTP) is that they are heavier molecules and can resist breakdown in our stomach.
Black tea polyphenols pass through to our colon. Our colon microflora bioconvert the BTP to make them available to other parts of our metabolism. Concurrently this breakdown improves gut microbial diversity."
Not only didn't I add up the daily caffeine hit, I also added extra strong black tea to the mix, and long brewing times. Black tea leaves are oxidised. Oxidisation increases the extent to which caffeine from the leaves infuses hot water. Extra strong black tea is more oxidised. Long brewing times can add up to 3-times the caffeine of regular brewing times.
In addition, in three of my five daily doses I drank the tea leaves as well. Why? I figured that the fibre would probably be useful for my gut. That means that my gut was extracting the last remnants of caffeine.
Here's my daily tea-drinking routine
Starting four or five weeks ago I added five cups of tea to my daily food. Here's how it runs across the day.
Dark Black Tea - 3 Times Daily
I have a protein shake in the morning, and one after I run each day (I run daily). I break a dark black teabag into the shake container the night before and steep the tea overnight. It turns out that this long steeping can more than double the caffeine content.
For the shake after running, I just add the tea leaves with a short steeping - so less caffeine.
For breakfast, I have oats with other grains which I prepare myself and heat and cool to make them resistant starches. Resistant starches improve the gut biome, as does black tea.
I pour hot water over tea leaves in the bowl at night, add oats, microwave the lot just to the boil, and let stand overnight. That's a long steep, which means maximum caffeine extraction (and I eat the tea leaves mixed into the oats).
White Tea - 2 Times Daily
About an hour before bed, I break a white tea bag into a 300ml glass, and let it steep with hot water. A one hour steep will potentially triple the caffeine.
When I drink that glass later, I make another one and let it steep overnight. I drink this one first thing when I get up in the morning.
Other - Green Tea
From time to time I would also drink a glass 300ml glass of green tea, steeped for 5 or 10 minutes.
My tea-drinking doubled my caffeine
The total caffeine works out as follows:
The total caffeine is 290mg from the tea.
Also, I was drinking my usual four or five cups of coffee each day. Therefore the caffeine load from the coffee totaled about 400mg.
Taken together my daily caffeine intake now totaled about 690mg daily.
Caffeine toxicity causes headache, dizziness and vomiting
Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) define a safe caffeine intake as up to 400 mg per day.
Consuming more than 400 mg of caffeine per day may cause caffeine toxicity. Caffeine toxicity is typically characterised by headache, nausea, vomiting, chills, palpitations, and flushing.
Consuming more than 300 mg of caffeine per day is associated with poorer sleep quality and may cause insomnia, irritability, depression, anger, and anxiety.
I had a mixture of those types of symptoms, mainly nausea and pains the stomach, which would wake me up at night. Because this started about 2 weeks after I added tea to my daily diet - and nearly doubled my caffeine dose - I think it's connected.
Time will tell. I've cut back to one cup of white tea daily for now.
If you're drinking tea and coffee you might want to tally the caffeine load, just to be safe.
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