Wednesday, June 14, 2006


A few years ago, i developed arthritis in my shoulders. Call it bursitis. I could not raise my right arm higher than level. Cured, but now years later, i still reach for high shelf items with my left arm.

I was cured by stopping my intake of caffeine. I used to drink nearly a half gallon of Mt. Dew a day, though not on weekends. As my symptoms got worse, i noticed that it wasn't as bad on Sunday night as the rest of the week. As an experiment, i switched to Sprite and things improved. A month later, i had a cup of coffee, and it hurt for four days. No doubt about it. Caffeine. After ten months of abstinence, my symptoms rapidly vanished. Caffeine is a very stable chemical.

I asked around, and even doctors told me that there was no connection. Feh. Eventually i learned that caffeine can interfere with the body's intake of calcium. Now, the joints are affected first. Then the bones. So, i wondered if caffeine was big in osteoporosis.

It International Osteoporosis Foundation recently held a big congress (convention). Lots of risk factors for osteoporosis were enumerated. Their web site has a page on prevention. Caffeine is mentioned once, along with salt. You could easily miss it. At least it's mentioned.

The thing is, when i've talked to people at risk for osteoporosis, like older women, they can't imagine giving up caffeine. They say that they drink decaf, but they have no idea how much caffeine is in it. And, it can vary by a factor of ten. And, products with caffeine don't have to say how much is in it. And, i'm pretty smart, but i have no idea how to perform a test to find out. I got through high school chemistry (with an A), but haven't had much since.

Caffeine is addictive. It's subtle. It won't let go of you, even after years of abstinence. The effects appear to be cumulative.

So i had this problem with my right foot. I thought my shoes were causing discomfort. I thought it was the way i was walking. But now i know that it is just taking longer to heal than other parts of my body. It's arthritis.


Epsilon Given said...

I'm a Latter-day Saint, who was pretty much ambivalent towards caffeine, but avoided it for the most part.

About a decade ago, I learned that caffeine, combined with ibuprofen, was useful for helping to treat migraines. Thus, I started to take caffeine pills to treat migraine headaches. Heck, if I had non-migraine headaches during the day, I'd take caffeine as a part of treating it!

Meanwhile, my Dad had a stroke. He's always had high blood pressure, and it simply just caught up with him.

As my use of caffeine increased, I noticed that my blood pressure started to rise...and I suspected the caffeine. I stopped using it, and over time, my blood pressure dropped.

As I've thought about all this, and the fact that my Dad liked to drink a lot of Mountain Dew, I wonder if his high blood pressure was caused, in part, by his high caffeine intake. Perhaps it wasn't, but even so, it's enough for me to avoid caffeine. (I'll still resort to it for emergencies--long trips where I need to stay awake, or a migraine that starts just before my wife goes into the operating room for the birth of a child, for example...)

Stephen said...

I see that the Osteoporosis prevention page has moved. No mention of caffeine. The main site is still there, and there's a new prevention page link on it.