Caffeine has been linked to hormone-negative breast cancer, including triple negative. And it can lurk unseen in your diet.

I have been having heart palpitations, so I immediately decided that either 1) the chemo had caused heart failure or 2) I have lung cancer, putting pressure on my heart. After an X-ray showed both lungs and heart normal, I decided to get a clue and start looking at my diet to see what I was doing to cause the palpitations. If I could not find an answer, I would go to the doctor, but I suspected I could take care of this by finding culprits in my diet.

I did.

I discovered caffeine all over the place, which is bad news, because I have been avoiding caffeine, as I noted in an earlier post. Caffeine has been linked to increased risk of hormone-negative breast cancer, including triple negative.

What I learned from honestly assessing my diet:

• I had been adding green tea to my morning smoothie, thinking I was adding a jolt of health. I was, but it also came with a jolt of caffeine. I often link green tea to herbal teas and assume it is caffeine-free. In fact, it has less caffeine than black tea and much less than coffee, but it still has caffeine. Thumpety.

• I had been making some nice, strong decaf coffee daily in my French press. That’s OK, right? Wrong. Decaf has less caffeine, but it is not caffeine free. Researchers at the University of Florida compared caffeine in decaf coffee and found that different brands had from 8.6 mg to 13.9 mg, compared to an average of 85 mg for caffeinated coffee. So, the super-strong stuff I was making—and I was making a good 16 ounces of it—no doubt had the caffeine of one or two cups of regular. Add that to the green tea caffeine and I was getting quite a start to my day. Thumpety thump.

• My beloved Diet Coke still hooks me, and when I fall off the wagon, I do a great job. Restaurants give you free refills, right? Sometimes I embarrass myself with the number of times my glass is refilled. There’s about 47 mg, of caffeine in an 12-ounce serving of Diet Coke. Heaven only knows how many I have at a simple lunch. Thumpety thump thump.

• Dark chocolate is considered by some a cancer fighter because of its high levels of antioxidants and phytochemicals. And it has plenty of caffeine: 31 mg in a 1.45 oz, bar. I used to have a tiny square as a treat after a meal. That gradually expanded to 3,4,5 squares. Thumpety thump thump thump.

So, I reminded myself that I am not a bonehead, that I am supposed to be eating healthy, and that I am supposed to know these things. I cut the hidden caffeine from my diet for three days and, guess, what? No palpitations.

I am frankly a bit embarrassed about this, but I am fairly sure I am not the only person who gets caught in the unhealthy caffeine trap. My heart told me to stop. That is way better than a cancer recurrence.

And searching my own diet was far cheaper, easier, and more successful than going in for heart tests.

4 thoughts on “Hidden Sources of Caffeine

  1. Anonymous says:

    Caffeine-free Diet Coke is actually…duh… caffeine free and I think it tastes just fine, so that would be an OK choice for you during pregnancy. Coke has other nasties in it, though, so for now you’d be better off reducing the amount of Coke until the little guy is here. And congrats on the pregnancy! That is exciting. My daughter is pregnant and we are so looking forward to meeting the little guy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Terrific post! I’ve eliminated caffeine since getting pregnant, and am also finding it is EVERYWHERE–and you reminded me of a couple more. And I can relate– I miss the gallons of Diet Coke, especially with Mexican food!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Tea research is all over the place, but in general the overall message is that it is a cancer-fighter. Caffeinated is slightly better than decaf, though. So, if you don’t overdo it the way I did, you should be fine. I think coffee and Diet Coke are the real evils in my like. Like you, I think the chocolate needs to stay. Thanks for writing.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Interesting. I had not heard of the link between caffeine and triple negative breast cancer. I have been drinking 2-3 cups of green tea a day and a square of dark chocolate every night. I’ve heard that de-caffeinated green tea has the same cancer-fighting effects of the caffeinated kind. Maybe I will try that. Not ready to give up my one square of good dark chocolate though… Thanks for this post.

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