How revved up are your kids?
I was shocked to find out from a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics that about 75 percent of children are consuming caffeine daily. When I grew up, soda and coffee were off limits to my brother and me. These days, children are loading up on soda and other caffeinated products to the point that it is exacerbating their anxiety and ruining their chance of a good night’s sleep.
How Caffeine Affects Our Body
Caffeine is a stimulant–and known to be the most popular and easily accessible drug in the world. It affects the central nervous system by counteracting adenosine in our brain. This chemical is responsible for calming down neural activity.
Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine, causing a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Once in the body, caffeine can last for several hours. It takes about six hours for just half of the caffeine to be eliminated. Imagine its affect on a young child’s small body?
How Caffeine Worsens Anxiety
I gave up caffeine a long time ago because it made me feel so nervous and jittery. The number one change anyone dealing with stress and anxiety should make to their diet is nixing caffeine.
The boost our body gets from caffeine is caused by an increase in our heart and breathing rate. These are the same feelings we get during a stressful event when the fight or flight response kicks in. Consuming caffeine when you are already hyped up from stress only adds fuel to the fire, making it so much harder for the body to calm down and get back to a balanced state.
Too Much Of A Bad Thing
Caffeine can also act as a poison. The American Association of Poison Control Centers receives about 4,000 calls each year about exposure to caffeine in children. Around 1,200 of those are for children aged six and under. The main complaints are headaches, dizziness, irritability, nervousness, rapid heartbeat, nausea or trouble sleeping. Contact your pediatrician or the poison control hotline if your child exhibits these worrisome symptoms after consuming caffeine.
Caffeine Does Not Belong In A Child’s Diet
The first step to raising a happy, calm child is to keep them away from caffeine. In addition to its stimulating effects, caffeine is addictive and has no nutritional value. Why would you want that part of your child’s diet?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, caffeine is not recommended for children. It impacts a child’s sleep and may negatively affect a child’s nutrition by replacing nutrient-rich foods such as milk. A child may also eat less because caffeine suppresses one’s appetite.
The challenge for parents today is the huge increase of hidden caffeine in products like energy drinks. Some bottles of energy drinks can have more than 500 mg of caffeine, which is the same amount found in 14 cans of soda! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, energy drinks pose potential health risks and should never be consumed by children or adolescents.
What Can You Do?
- Avoid serving your children caffeinated beverages–soda, coffee, tea, energy drinks, and caffeinated water.
- Watch out for chocolate. Cookies, candy, ice cream, and other desserts with chocolate contain caffeine that can affect your child.
- Carefully read labels since some products surprisingly contain caffeine.
- If your child does consume some caffeine (like chocolate), make sure it is earlier in the day and not near bedtime to avoid sleep issues.
- Get your child to love water! You can be creative by adding natural fruit or veggies like cucumber or lemon to the water. Carbonated water with no caffeine or sugar is also a great option as they get older.
What will you do to cut caffeine from your child’s diet?