If you haven’t heard about the health benefits of tea, it’s probably safe to say you’ve been living under a rock. Tea is one of health food’s MVP’s, so to speak – full of health benefits like:
- Prevention of cancer, heart disease and clogged arteries
- Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and stroke
- Lower cholesterol
- A stronger immune system
- Increased metabolism (green tea is sometimes considered an appetite suppressant)
- Stronger bones
- Stronger teeth (as long as you don’t add sugar)
Not to mention that it’s such a comfort to sip a warm cup of tea.
But be careful – drinking too much tea can have adverse affects.This became all too apparent when my doctor suggested I quit caffeine for anxiety-related symptoms. I am sensitive to caffeine as it is, so this was a decision I’d eventually have come to on my own anyway. Well, I figured, since I’m drinking decaf tea now, I can drink it with abandon! More tea than water, even. Why not? Well, it only took four days of this new habit to realize something wasn’t right. I started feeling a little lightheaded on the second day. The third day my fingers started to tingle. The fourth day, may lips started tingling, too. I was starting to get a little freaked out, so I looked up my symptoms on the Internet.
Drinking tea can cause mineral deficiencies
It’s a common misconception that it’s the caffeine that leaches minerals from your digestive system, when in reality it’s the tannins (polyphenolic compounds found in plants that cause a dry, puckery sensation in the mouth). Black tea has very high levels of tannins, while herbal teas have much lower levels. I’ve been drinking green, which lies somewhere in the middle.
Let’s deal with iron first.
Tannins bind to iron molecules, meaning most of them will pass through your body undigested. It should be noted that this only applies to vegetarian and vegan sources of iron, as the heme iron found in meat is unaffected by tannins. I already knew that drinking tea with meals can make you iron deficient; I’m anemic without my tea habit, but I’ve been supplementing to make up for it (and defiantly blowing off the recommendation to avoid tea with meals). I’m discovering my rebellion needn’t be so harmful, though, as adding lemon or milk to a cup of tea reduces the negative affects. The vitamin C in the lemon juice increases iron absorption from your meal, while the calcium in the milk binds to the tannins in the eta before they can bind to your iron.
Wonder if you are iron deficient? Here are some of the symptoms of anemia:
- Fatigue, low energy
- Unusually rapid heart rate with exercise
- Restless legs syndrome and/or leg cramps
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
Unless you are diagnosed as anemic, don’t supplement with iron pills. There are so many iron-rich foods to choose from, and supplementing when your iron levels are normal is unhealthy.
Calcium is quirky.
Our bodies need both iron and calcium, but when consumed together, the calcium will bind to the iron just like tannins do (which is why you shouldn’t take your calcium and iron supplements together at the same meal). Not only this, but the tannins in tea will prevent calcium absorption, too. My strange tingling sensation from earlier appears to be caused from calcium deficiency; once I ate a few calcium-rich meals and took two calcium supplements (one pill for two consecutive days – half the recommended dose), the feeling went mostly away.
It’s best not to mess around with mineral deficiencies, guys. There can be serious consequences. Immediate symptoms of calcium deficiency include:
- Anxiety (ironic, right?)
- Weak immune system
- Muscle cramps/aches/pains
- Tingling hands/feet/lips
More serious symptoms, that aren’t immediately obvious, include:
- Weak, brittle bones and teeth
- High blood pressure
- Even death, if it’s bad enough
That being said, before supplementing with calcium, learn about the risks of over-supplementation first. It is always best to get your nutrients from food, no matter what you are deficient in.
The moral of this story is: everything in moderation. Many things are healthy in small, or even moderate amounts; but overdoing it can be harmful. What else have you found this to be true for?