What’s the Problem with Energy Drinks?
We all want more energy – but what’s the best way to get it? We know that it’s important to eat healthy foods, including as much fresh, raw, organic food as possible while avoiding processed, “white” foods and the SAD diet. Still, many people find themselves with not enough wick in their candle at the end of the day.
In recent years, energy drinks have flooded the market in an attempt to solve this energy crisis. Modern life demands that we take on superhuman roles, managing the demands of excessive workloads as well as family responsibilities. It seems like a simple solution: take this shot or drink this beverage and you will have everything you need to get through the day, but at what cost?
In the past year, the Food and Drug Administration has investigated at least 13 deaths and over 92 reports of hospitalizations and illnesses related to one popular energy shot alone and dozens of these kinds of beverages are on the market.
Two main ingredients in these drinks are the most problematic. First, the amount of caffeine per serving is usually much greater than what you would normally consume in a regular cup of coffee. Consider also the rate of absorption. Coffee takes time to be brewed, and because it is usually hot, it is difficult to drink a large volume quickly. Energy drinks on the other hand, are convenient, usually served cold, often come in small shots, and are easy to drink quickly, so you may be getting twice the caffeine twice as fast, which quadruples the effect. For adolescents and younger people who may have less body weight, that amount of caffeine can be especially toxic.
In addition to the caffeine, there are other stimulants such as guarana that are added to the drinks which are unregulated and potentially dangerous.
Synthetic Vitamins and Minerals
Some energy drinks are souped up to include vitamins and minerals to make them seem healthier, but the vitamins and minerals found in most of these drinks are cheap chemicals, synthetically made in a laboratory, and are included in only small quantities. A lot of these vitamins such as B-vitamins and vitamin C are water-soluble and dissolve quickly in liquid; therefore, the benefits are minimal.
Refined sugar is stripped of the nutrients that are needed by the body to safely process the sugar. When these original nutrients are missing, the body has trouble metabolizing sugar. This can result in the formation of toxic metabolites which can damage cells by interfering with their respiration process.
Sucralose (aka Splenda) is an artificial sweetener that is derived from refined sugar but is more toxic to the body. When regular sugar is subject to a process of chlorination, it becomes sucralose, which is over 100 times sweeter than sugar. Through the manufacturing process, sucralose usually becomes contaminated with chlorine. Its chemical structure has been compared to that of a pesticide, and it has recently been downgraded from “generally regarded as safe” to “use with caution” by the FDA because of health concerns reported as a result of consumption.
Caffeine and other compounds commonly found in energy drinks have negative side-effects. They boost heart rate and blood pressure, and may cause tremors, dehydration, blood sugar spikes and energy crashes. Caffeine may also cause heart cells to release calcium, potentially affecting affect heartbeat, and leading to arrhythmia. The drinks may also disrupt the normal balance of salts in the body, which has been linked to irregular heartbeat as well.
Other side-effects of too much caffeine include headaches, anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, nausea, and seizures. A 2006 study of over 1,000 pregnant women found that women who consumed more than 200 mg of caffeine per day (from caffeinated beverages) were about twice as likely to have a miscarriage as pregnant women who did not drink any caffeine.
There is some evidence that too much caffeine can impair cognitive function. A small study from 2010 found that drinking high amounts — equivalent to the levels found in one energy drink — worsened performance on reaction tests.
In the long term, a person will need more caffeine to get to the same wired reaction they got initially. Over time the dynamic changes from wanting to use caffeine as a pick-me-up to needing caffeine just to be able to function normally. Trying to quit brings on symptoms of withdrawal such as headaches, stomach aches, and irritability.
With sales over $9 billion per year, energy drinks are big business. Half of the sales are to adolescents and young people under the age of 25. While energy drinks are theoretically targeted at adults, it’s not a surprise that a big chunk of the market is adolescents who consume these beverages on a regular basis.
If used regularly, in time these ingredients can cause damage to the kidneys, liver and heart (including heart attacks). Young people may not understand the long-term consequences of such a choice when what is desired in the moment is that momentary jolt of energy. This high dose of caffeine presents an added danger to young people and those who do not typically ingest large quantities of caffeine on a regular basis.
Alcohol Increases the Danger
Studies have shown that combining energy drinks with alcohol can be dangerous. Although caffeine is a stimulant, physiologically it does not counteract the sedating effects of alcohol. The stimulants in energy drinks may keep people awake for a longer period of time, offering an opportunity to consume more alcohol than would ordinarily happen.
A survey of almost 500 college students revealed that 51 percent consumed energy drinks on a regular basis and 54 percent of those students combined the drink with alcohol.
Combining energy drinks with alcohol can increase the risks even more, since this combination makes you feel more alert and less drunk than you actually are, increasing your likelihood of dehydration and risky behavior.
The Three Treasures
People who consume energy drinks regularly will eventually feel negative side effects. In the short-run, most people may not notice much, however in the long-term this choice can lead to serious chronic diseases and overall loss of vital energy otherwise known as “Jing”.
In the 5,000 year-old Chinese tradition, the "Three Treasures" are the essential energies which sustain human life. Jing is the first of the Three Treasures of classical Chinese Medicine: Jing, Qi and Shen.
According to Chinese tradition, Jing is the primal essence that is stored in the kidneys. We tap into our Jing, our deep energy reserve, when we exhaust our daily Qi energy. Chronic stress leads to a drain of Jing energy. Once Jing is depleted, life ceases to exist. We are born with only a limited amount of Jing, so it is important to nourish and preserve it as much as possible in order to support longevity.
The second treasure, Qi, is the day-to-day energy that comes from the food we eat and the air we breathe. Qi is often translated as "life force". Qi is the flow of energy around and through the body.
Shen, the third treasure, is a more rarified spiritual energy that is supported and fed by both Jing and Qi.
Many people choose to consume energy drinks because their daily Qi (or Chi) is depleted. Because Qi is generated by the food we eat and the air we breathe, eating processed foods in artificial environments, and being subject to many types of environmental toxins causes us to run low on our day-to-day energy.
When we do not have enough Qi to get through the day, the body automatically starts using its backup energy reserve, Jing. Over time, this drains the body of its deep energy reserve, leading to adrenal fatigue and similar conditions. Without understanding the dynamics of these energy systems, an individual who reaches for that quick shot of energy to get through the day unknowingly adds more stress to the body, even further depleting Jing and giving the body an additional toxic burden to manage, with ever-decreasing resources. The longer this goes on, the harder it is to recover.
Replenish Energy with Chinese Herbs
There is another choice. Many people are not aware that it is possible to replenish Jing energy through food, herbs, and various exercises.
Rather than relying on potentially dangerous energy drinks, there are some simple steps that can be taken to reverse this destructive cycle. One of the most important things to do to regain energy is to get enough sleep. Next, take a look at your diet and exercise routine and consider incorporating Chinese tonic herbs into your daily routine. Tonic herbs are adaptogenic and support the body when dealing with stress. Specific herbs are known to actually replenish post-natal Jing when it has been depleted. It takes time to rebuild this vitality, but a serious commitment to health through some simple changes can reap big benefits in the long term.
Easy & Delicious Herbal Energy Power
Say goodbye to sugar-filled, chemical-laden sodas and create your own healthy soft drinks with Jing Soda herbal flavor concentrates! Take these delicious and nutritious tinctures anywhere you go to supply healthy energy AND a boost to your immune system. The great news? You can drink as much of these sodas as you want, and they will only make you MORE healthy.
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