Dehydration is the act of removing water from something, whether naturally over time or by force. Caffeine dehydration is a belief that drinking anything with caffeine as an ingredient will cause your body to dehydrate. Over 60 plants like tea leaves, kola nuts, and coffee beans are the sources for the substance.
Caffeine can also be manmade, and it is a stimulant that touches our nervous systems. An estimated 90 percent of Americans have some form of caffeine every day, and about 50 percent of American adults will take in over 300 milligrams a day.
Caffeine can attach to our adenosine receptors, which makes them unavailable to attach to adenosine molecules, which is their primary job. This results in an increase in neuron activity in our brain, which sends our body into a “fight or flight” condition unnecessarily.
The topic of whether caffeine leads to dehydration can go in one of two directions, and numerous studies have been done that can swing the pendulum in either direction. Perhaps this question of “does caffeine cause dehydration?” doesn't even have a clear answer. Let's take a look at additional information to determine if we can come to a definitive solution.
It is possible to overdose with your caffeine intake, and it can be fatal. Researchers believe that about 10,000 milligrams a day will push your body over the edge and result in death. However, to consume that much in one day would be an unusual feat, as that would be the equivalent of about 100 cups of coffee in one day.
Positive impacts of consuming 250 milligrams of caffeine (that is about two cups of coffee) include:
However, a caffeine addiction may lead to anxiety, upset tummy (it impacts gastric juices), dehydration, sleeping challenges, increased blood pressure, body temperature changes, mood changes, and potential pregnancy effects. It’s noteworthy that all our body tissue absorbs caffeine and more serious complications can lead to kidney failure, seizures, and brain swelling.
A brief focus on coffee alone tells us that coffee offers most American adults the most antioxidants than any other consumables. And there is some evidence that coffee ingredients may protect against liver cancer, type two diabetes, reduce blood pressure, and fight depression and dementia.
For many of us, when we think of caffeine, our thoughts automatically go to culprits like coffee, tea, energy drinks, and sodas. And they all have caffeine; however, there are other foods we enjoy daily that have caffeine in them that you may not even realize.
That’s because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require manufacturers to disclose caffeine as an ingredient on nutrition labels. Caffeine is perfectly legal and unregulated. You may be shocked to learn that the following foods can contain caffeine.
- Decaffeinated coffee does have less caffeine, but it still has some
- Root beer, orange, and cream sodas
- Chocolate – dark chocolate have nearly as much as one can of soda
- Ice cream
- Weight loss supplements
- Pain relievers
- Energy water
- Alcoholic energy drinks
- Breath fresheners
- Energized sunflower seeds
- Instant oatmeal
- Perky Jerky
Brands can vary with the levels of caffeine, and some brands may avoid caffeine altogether, but if you're feeling any of the effects of caffeine after eating some of these foods, you may want to take note.
A quick, brief overview of studies performed to answer our questions have yielded varying results, such as:
- Only doses of 360 milligrams or more cause a greater urine volume.
- The level of caffeine tolerance a person has impacts how caffeine will act as a diuretic.
- Caffeine consumed before exercise will negate its diuretic effect.
- Energy drinks yield more urine output.
- Subjects who were not used to consuming caffeine did have a stronger diuretic impact.
There are so many variants that could create these confusing results. Things like caffeine tolerance levels, health conditions in the test subjects, medications in the subject bodies, time of year (winter vs summer), and time of day all need consideration.
In addition, the body condition when the study started (whether it was already partially or wholly dehydrated), the amount of caffeine consumed, in what form (pills, drinks, or food), and other variables. Different bodies can react in diverse ways to caffeine intake. While all our research thus far has given us interesting and informative facts, we remain unclear on the answer to the original question.
Signs and Symptoms of Caffeine Dehydration
Dehydration can become a serious problem, and it's good to know what signs that may alert you to the fact that your body is essentially screaming for water. Note that caffeine dehydration in older adults will probably yield more severe impacts.
- You feel thirsty, your mouth is dry and has a sticky feeling. Being thirsty alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dehydrated so be alert to other signs.
- Tired, angry, or confused feelings
- Dry eyes or blurred vision
- Feeling disoriented or have headaches
- Muscle cramps
- Not sweating (when you should be)
- Dark urine
- Fever (dehydration can lead to hyperthermia)
- Dry skin
Caffeine Dehydration Treatments
There are several treatments for dehydration, based on different levels of severity.
- Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) is a fancy way of saying that you should slowly add electrolytes back into your body via clear liquids like water, broths, and sports drinks.
- If your dehydration was caused by an illness where vomiting or diarrhea were present, treat the disease first to stop those symptoms and then slowly rehydrate.
- Lower your body’s temperature by getting to a shady, cooler location. You can also mist your skin.
- More severe dehydration that requires a medical visit will likely result in intravenous rehydration, which is a saline solution injected directly into a vein, and the amount and length of which would be determined by a medical professional.
- Finally, the best treatment is prevention!
- Combining water, electrolytes, and sodium (like in a sports drink), is the best way to stay hydrated, but water remains an excellent source of hydration.
- Fresh fruits and veggies should be eaten at least five times per day.
- Consume more than the recommended amounts if: it’s hot, you’ve consumed alcohol, you’ve been ill, or you’ve been exercising or working outdoors in heat
- If your activity is limited to about one hour, water is fine. But if more than that, you will want to consider a sports drink for the best replenishment.
- Urine coloring should never be darker than a slightly yellow, and the usual color is a pale yellow.
The recommended amount of water per day for men and women are different. If you've been in the heat, exercising, or participating in other activities that produce perspiration, you need more than the usual recommendation. According to the National Academy of Sciences, women should be drinking a minimum of 2.7 liters of water every day and men should be consuming a minimum of 3.7 liters.
If you are someone who just can’t stand to drink plain old water, you have some other options, but remember plain water is the original water and will always be an excellent choice. Suggested alternatives include tea, fruit juice, broth, vegetable juice, sports drinks, and low-fat milk.
How We Lose Fluids
Our bodies are exposed to water loss every time we take a breath. Inhaling results in our body adding moisture to the air and when exhaling, humidified air is lost to the outside. We lose about 300 to 500 milliliters of fluid a day through breathing. That can also vary depending on humidity levels. Other ways include:
- Using the restroom
- Drinking alcohol
So, what the heck is the answer to our question? Caffeine drinks may act as a mild diuretic and cause you to urinate more; however, the output will not exceed your intake. If you get an overload of caffeine intake, it's diuretic effect will likely increase. Remember that the information provided here is based on adult caffeine consumption only, as we have not shared information on the consequences of caffeine in children.
As a side note, we can share with you that the American Academy of Pediatrics has reported that high caffeine intake is not appropriate for children. Even though the FDA hasn't established any guidelines for caffeine intake in children, the government of Canada has the following information and instructions.
- The maximum amount is 45 milligrams for children between the ages of four to six years. That is about the equivalent of the amount of caffeine in a 12-ounce can of diet soda.
- A lot is going to depend on the child’s weight as well. For example, with a weight of 60 pounds, a child could manage 60 milligrams of caffeine.
- Because caffeine is a stimulant, it has an effect on our brains and the brain of a child is more sensitive than that of an adult.
- Caffeine can cause children to be hyperactive.
- It can make them anxious and create or worsen tummy issues. Not to mention the impact on their sleep: adults require less sleep than children and teenagers.
- If your child has an undiagnosed abnormal heartbeat or arrhythmia, caffeine can exacerbate the condition.
- Caffeine and sodas will not provide a child the right amount of calcium needed for their bodies.
- One can of soda has a lot of sugar, which may encourage obesity and cause tooth decay.
- Energy drinks should not be provided to children.
We also suggest that if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy that you follow your doctor’s advice regarding caffeine intake.
Caffeine Dehydration Final Words
The most important thing is that you listen to your body, as now you know the symptoms and the treatments of dehydration, and you know your body better than anyone. If you're responding in an unusual manner, stop and think about what you've consumed recently. You have all the information you need to come to your conclusion.