The Good and the Bad of Caffeine for Your Teen

November 24, 2021

It can be easy to forget that caffeine is a drug. It is specifically a stimulant. Just like other more dangerous stimulants — methamphetamine, cocaine, amphetamine, nicotine — it can be highly addictive.

That caffeine jolt is why some people can’t start their day without that first cup of coffee. They need the caffeine to help “get them going.”

People who try to eliminate caffeine from their routine can find themselves going through withdrawal. Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. Now, imagine that in your teen.

Marketing caffeinated sodas to adolescents and teens is common practice. Today there are so many more caffeinated options, including sugary coffees and energy drinks. Those may be fine to enjoy occasionally, but too much of a good thing is still too much.

caffeine blog

What Is the Right Amount?

Numerous factors go into determining the “right” amount of caffeine to consume. Weight and other health conditions are the biggest determinants. Up to 400 milligrams a day — or four cups of brewed coffee — is safe for most healthy adults.

Adolescents aged 12 to 18 should not have more than 100 mg of caffeine a day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That’s a cup of coffee or two to three cans of soda. More than that and you risk:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Hyperactivity
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

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Let’s Talk About Energy Drinks

These have become the go-to source of energy for busy students who are trying to stay on top of their studies while juggling so many different activities. They are branded with names like Amp, Bang, Monster, Venom, and Rockstar.

Some are sold as drinks with 70 to 240 mg of caffeine, and there are the “energy shots,” which can have 113 to 200 mg of caffeine. The drinks can also contain ingredients like sugars taurine, and guarana, which is another source of caffeine.

They can help increase alertness, energy, and attention. But the potential effects on blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing can be dangerous.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, energy drink-related emergency room visits doubled from 2007 to 2011. In 2011, 1 in 10 resulted in hospitalization. That year, 42% of all energy drink-related emergency room visits involved combining energy drinks with alcohol or drugs.

Potential Dangers

Nearly 1,500 kids aged 12 to 17 took a trip to the ER for an energy drink-related emergency in 2011. The dangers include:

  • Dehydration
  • Heart complications
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

The American Academy of Pediatrics says children and teens should avoid energy drinks entirely.

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Other Caffeine Sources

Sodas, coffee, tea, and energy drinks are the big sources of caffeine. But it also shows up in other foods and even some personal-care products. They include:

  • Chocolate
  • Coffee-flavored foods
  • Snack foods, like energy bars
  • Lip balms
  • Skincare products like some eye creams, scrubs, and moisturizers
  • Weight-loss supplements

Find Alternatives

The best source of energy for adolescents and teens is sleep. Getting enough sleep is vital for the healthy development of young minds and bodies. Consuming caffeine only inhibits getting enough sleep.

Having a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help maintain a steady stream of energy without the peaks and crashes that come from consuming too much caffeine.

Having a relationship with your AltaMed pediatrician is a good first step in raising a healthy and energetic child. We also have a host of wellness programs to get the entire family on a path to physical fitness and healthy food choices. 

Call AltaMed at (877) 462-2582 to get stared with us today.

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Cutting Back on Added Sugar Brings Some Sweet Health Benefits

September 20, 2021

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m not a big fan of dessert,” and wondered what’s wrong with that person? Who doesn’t like a scoop of ice cream, a slice of pie, or a piece of cake?

Most people do. The problem is too many of us like to overindulge. Too much added sugar is a contributing factor to more than two-thirds of the people in the United States being overweight.

To make matters worse, sugar is in a lot of places we don’t expect. It’s in ketchup, spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce, oatmeal, snack foods, salad dressings, and canned soups.

Knowing what counts as sugar and opting for foods with low or no added sugars can go a long way toward reducing your risk of developing some serious chronic health conditions.

Woman with Headache

What’s at risk

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, excessive consumption of added sugars can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and other metabolic conditions.

High-sugar foods often have little nutritional value. In addition to the potential health risks already mentioned, consuming added sugar can lead to:

  • Tooth decay
  • Poor mental health
  • Low energy
  • Premature skin aging

Men should not consume more than 36 grams of added sugar a day or 150 calories. Women should limit their intake to 25 grams or 100 calories. Children should not consume more than 12 to 25 grams of sugar a day.

For context:

  • A single serving of “healthy” breakfast cereal for adults contains 13 grams of sugar
  • A breakfast bar made with “real fruit” and “whole grains” contains 15 grams of sugar
  • A small serving of low-fat yogurt contains 22 grams of sugar
  • A 12-ounce can of regular, non-diet soda contains about 39 grams of sugar
  • A single serving of store-bought, bottled apple juice contains 42 grams of sugar

Spoon with Sugar

It’s all sugar

The University of California San Francisco created SugarScience to share information about sugar and its effects on health. One of its resources is a list of 61 different names for sugar that the food industry uses to sweeten products. Some are obvious with names that include the words, “sugar,” “syrup,” “sweetener,” and “cane.” But some aren’t so obvious:

  • Agave nectar
  • Barley malt
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Glucose solids
  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Mannose
  • Muscovado
  • Panocha
  • Saccharose
  • Sucrose
  • Treacle

Fruit on Plate

Tips for cutting back

This may sound counterintuitive but cutting back on added sugar is a lot easier than you may think. It’s presence in nearly everything makes it relatively simple to eliminate a few items from your diet to help reduce your sugar intake.

  • Off the table — Reduce the table sugar, syrup, and honey you add to tea, coffee, cereal, or pancakes. Cutting back by half is a way to wean yourself.
  • So long soda — Water is always the best choice. Diet drinks can satisfy your sweet tooth but drink them in moderation.
  • Fill up on fruit — Fruit has natural sugars and fiber. You can add berries, bananas, and dried fruit to sweeten your oatmeal, pancakes, or cereal. Frozen, dried, and canned fruits are good snacks. Just make sure canned fruits aren’t packed in heavy syrup.
  • Cut back — Start reducing the amount of sugar called for in recipes next time you bake. You won’t miss it. Extracts like almond, vanilla, orange, and lemon can be good substitutes.

Man Smiling

The benefits

Cutting back on added sugar has lifelong benefits that include:

  • Reduced diabetes risk
  • Reduced belly fat
  • More consistent energy
  • Reduced weight
  • Healthier-looking skin
  • Healthier heart

Keep yourself healthy

Health care isn’t just for when you’re sick — it’s to keep you healthy, too. AltaMed offers members a wide range of programs that can make it easier to live healthy, manage chronic conditions, lose weight, and achieve other important health goals. We use proven techniques to motivate you.

Our programs include dietician consultations, STOMP — family health and fitness program, Healthy Heart Program, and so much more. Call (888) 499-9303 to get started.

Adolescent and Teen Physicals during a Pandemic

March 17, 2021

As parents know all too well, adolescent and teen bodies undergo many changes as they grow into early adulthood. From hormonal shifts that can affect their moods to growth spurts leaving closets full of outgrown clothes, this time in your child’s life can keep parents on their toes. It’s all part of a normal developmental phase and it is important to make sure your child is growing healthy.

As we approach the one-year mark of our fight against COVID-19, many teens and adolescents have gone without their regular pediatrician visits and checkups due to concerns around coronavirus. However, parents should still schedule regular physical examinations, including well-child visits, immunizations, and oral health care appointments. AltaMed is taking necessary COVID-19 precautions to help keep families safe during this time.

Doctor with clipboard
Pediatricians can help with a wide variety of health concerns. When necessary, they can also refer patients to a specialist.

Start with a Pediatrician Visit

Even through the teenage years and into the early twenties, your kids’ bodies and brains are changing. Regular and routine exams can help them grow healthy into adulthood. Our pediatricians will take good care of your kids (up until age 21) by reviewing their available health history, looking for early signs of health risks, and making sure they’re getting age-appropriate care. They can also help monitor all of the things listed below.

Fruite adolescent physicals
A well-balanced diet is an essential part of adolescent health. Doctors can make recommendations about what foods children should eat or avoid. 

Weight and Nutrition 

Even before the pandemic, childhood obesity was a growing problem, and it can have lasting physical and emotional effects. Regular physical examinations give your doctor the chance to monitor weight and BMI (body mass index), and open a dialogue about nutrition and exercise that can help your child develop healthy habits for life.​

Woman pointing adolescent
Ask your doctor what vaccines children should be receiving. As they age, kids will become eligible for a variety of important immunizations.

​Vaccinations 

Despite all the focus on the coronavirus, other viruses and diseases have not taken a break. Teens and adolescents still need their routine, age-appropriate immunizations. This year, it’s more important than ever that every member of your family gets their flu shot. Your teen or adolescent may need other routine vaccines to protect against:

Talk to your doctor to find out about “makeup” Tdap shots to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. 

Woman on couch
​A large number of adolescents struggle mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. If you suspect your child is suffering, don’t wait to speak with a professional.

Mental Health

This is a stressful time for everyone, your teen included. With many of the support systems they’ve come to rely on like sports, the arts, or a worship community drastically changing or no longer available, teens can have a difficult time coping and their mental health may be suffering. Depression and anxiety are common, even pre-pandemic.

Half of all mental health disorders start by age 14 yet many go unrecognized or untreated, and even more concerning, suicide is one of the leading causes of death among teens. 

In this new environment, a routine physical exam is a window of opportunity where a doctor can check in with your teen and ensure they are adapting to stressors and a largely changing environment in a healthy way. 

Taking Control of Their Own Health

As they grow, teens and adolescents have their own questions about their bodies, and the routine physical checkup provides a perfect opportunity for them get answers and start to take ownership for their own health and well-being.

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Letting your child take an active role in their healthcare will help them build good habits for the future.

This is an important life skill that can lead to a healthy, lifelong curiosity and proactivity around their health. 

​As a parent, you know your child’s health needs are constantly growing and evolving, just like they are. Make sure your child is scheduled to have their regular physical examinations and have the peace of mind knowing AltaMed is here to safely monitor their development and nurture a positive relationship between your teen and their ever-changing health needs. 

For more information about services or to schedule your appointment (888) 499-9303.