4 Ways Caffeine Can Interfere With Your Medicines, Dietitians Say

Caffeine is an essential part of many people’s daily routines. Whether it’s in the form of a morning cup of coffee, an afternoon snack, or a soda with dinner, caffeine is a widely consumed stimulant that can affect your body in a number of ways.

In addition to its energizing qualities, caffeine has a complex relationship with medications that should not be overlooked. Understanding how caffeine interacts with certain medications is critical to effectively managing your health and avoiding potential complications. Here, we cover the impact of caffeine on certain medications, discuss their potential risks and side effects, and provide expert guidance for safe caffeine consumption. Read on to find out more.

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that belongs to a class of compounds called xanthines, and is the most consumed psychoactive drug in the world. It is most commonly found in coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans and kola nuts. Caffeine is also added to many common drinks and supplements, such as energy drinks, sodas, and pre-workout supplements.

Drinking caffeine works on your brain to keep you awake and alert, pushing back the feeling of tiredness. It can help you feel more focused, stay more alert, and even perform better physically, which is why many people turn to it for a quick recovery. However, caffeine should be consumed in moderation, as excess can cause adverse effects such as restlessness, anxiety and insomnia.

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author and founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com, says Eat well, Caffeine is the most widely consumed central nervous system stimulant. It can affect memory, learning and performance by keeping you alert and less tired. Caffeine is most commonly found in coffee, tea, cola and cocoa, as well as guarana and yerba mate.

4 Ways Caffeine Can Affect Your Medicines

Although caffeine is a much-loved stimulant touted for its energizing effects and health benefits, Harris-Pincus cautions that caffeine’s positive qualities can be influenced when combined with certain drugs or medications, stating that caffeine it can increase or decrease the effectiveness of certain medications, depending on how the drugs are metabolized.

1. May increase the risk of bleeding with anticoagulants

Caffeine can interact with blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin) and increase the risk of bleeding, Harris-Pincus warns. Warfarin works by inhibiting the activity of vitamin K, which is crucial for blood clotting. According to research, caffeine can interfere with the metabolism of warfarin, potentially causing blood thinning and increasing the risk of bleeding.

2. It might reduce the absorption of thyroid medication

Harris-Pincus says that caffeine consumption can interfere with the absorption of certain thyroid medications, such as levothyroxine (Synthroid), used to treat hypothyroidism. Caffeine can reduce the absorption of levothyroxine in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to reduced effectiveness, a 2022 study suggests.

3. It can intensify the effects of ADHD medications

Medications such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine (Adderall) are commonly prescribed to help improve focus and concentration in people with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. However, caffeine can interact with these medications and may increase their stimulating effects. ADHD medications, such as Adderall and Ritalin, combined with caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, and potential heart problems, Harris-Pincus says.

4. Could alter estrogen levels with oral contraceptives

According to the National Institutes of Health, caffeine can interact with oral contraceptives and affect the way the body metabolizes estrogen. Some studies suggest that caffeine may increase estrogen levels in women taking oral contraceptives. Harris-Pincus tells us that oral contraceptives can inhibit the enzyme responsible for breaking down caffeine so you may feel longer or more significant effects.

Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Coffee Every Day

Who should avoid caffeine?

Pregnant women should limit caffeine intake, as it can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and other pregnancy complications, according to a 2023 review. If you have anxiety or panic attacks, caffeine can make things worse by making you feel more jittery or jittery. Also, if you have certain heart problems, high blood pressure, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Caffeine could make your symptoms worse.

People with high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, gastroesophageal reflux, migraines, sleep disorders, taking certain medications, or are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their doctor about how much caffeine they should consume, Harris-Pincus says. .

Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Coffee During Your Menstrual Cycle

Side effects of caffeine supplements

Common side effects of caffeine supplements include jitteriness, nervousness, restlessness, and increased heart rate. Some people may also experience gastrointestinal problems such as upset stomach, diarrhea, or acid reflux. In some cases, consuming large amounts of caffeine can lead to caffeine overdose, also known as caffeine toxicity. Symptoms of caffeine overdose include dizziness, fast or irregular heartbeat, anxiety, fever and nausea.

Some people are sensitive to caffeine and may experience unpleasant side effects such as jitteriness, nausea, increased heart rate and blood pressure, trouble sleeping, or anxiety, Harris-Pincus says.

How much caffeine a day is safe?

Although there is no specific recommended daily intake for caffeine, the NIH states that doses up to 400 milligrams per day are considered safe. However, sensitivity to caffeine can vary widely based on factors such as age, sex, and weight. Some people may experience side effects at lower doses, while others can tolerate higher amounts without problems.

The consensus is to limit total caffeine intake to 400 milligrams per day for adults, assuming you’re not sensitive to its stimulating effects. An 8-ounce cup of coffee can contain 95 to 200 milligrams of caffeine, a can of cola has about 40 milligrams, and a cup of tea has 14 to 60 milligrams, Harris-Pincus says.

Related: How much caffeine is too much? Here’s what a dietitian has to say

The bottom line

Caffeine is one of the most consumed and enjoyed dietary compounds in the world. However, caffeine can interact with certain medications. Being aware of these interactions is essential, as they can affect the effectiveness and safety of your medical treatment. Caffeine can affect the absorption, metabolism, or side effects of certain medications, including blood thinners, oral contraceptives, and thyroid and ADHD medications. If you take any medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how caffeine may interact with your medication regimen. If you need to limit your caffeine intake, there are many other drinks and foods you can enjoy, such as herbal teas, decaffeinated coffee, or caffeine-free sodas.

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