Coffee & Sodium Depletion

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated 2010 United States coffee consumption at about 1.15 million tons, accounting for just over 16 percent of the global consumption. Along with its effects on the nervous system, coffee can affect other systems of the body including the cardiovascular and urinary systems. Its impact on the latter can help explain its effect on sodium levels. In extreme cases, can cause a severe sodium imbalance. However, moderate coffee is not likely to significant impact your sodium levels.

Diuretic Properties

The caffeine contained in coffee has diuretic properties that can affect levels of chemicals such as sodium. A 5-ounce cup of coffee can contain anywhere between 60 to 150 milligrams of caffeine. The more caffeine it contains, the greater the diuretic effects. Consuming coffee will lead to an increase in urine production. While mainly water, urine also contains sodium, potassium, and other compounds that can be depleted from the body. The degree of the effect of coffee will vary with the individual. Your lifestyle will also play a role in coffee's effects.

Effects of Caffeine

Drinking caffeinated coffee may help improve your athletic performance due to its effects on the nervous system. A complex series of chemical reactions leads to an increase in epinephrine or adrenaline release. In effect, drinking coffee puts your body into a fight-or-flight state with an increase in heart rate and blood flow. Caffeine combined with increased physical activity can lead to additional losses of sodium from perspiration. In extreme cases, caffeine depletes your body's electrolytes and causes a serious imbalance. One study, published in "Acta Anaesthetiologica Scandanavica" in 2010, reports one case of severe caffeine toxicity that caused hyponatremia, as well as depleted potassium levels and cardiovascular dysfunction.

Symptoms of Low Sodium Levels

The symptoms of a sodium deficiency include headache and fatigue. Curiously, these are similar symptoms to caffeine withdrawal in individuals that regularly consume caffeinated coffee. Sodium plays a role in the most basic of life functions. A depletion therefore, can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening health consequences such as swelling of the brain, seizures and coma.

Tips for Safe Caffeine Consumption

Drinking coffee in moderation prevents negative effects of excessive caffeine intake. Drink other fluids, especially water, to maintain your body's fluid balance. The fluids in your body will in turn affect the concentration of chemicals like sodium for healthy body function. Limit your caffeine intake to 2 to 3 cups of coffee daily, and watch out for caffeine in other foods, including tea and chocolate.