08 December 2007

Spinning 'Round

I woke up at 5:30 am this morning with a horrible case of light-headedness. This was not entirely a surprise, as I now know exactly what causes these spells, but it was also unpleasant. A further half-hour of sleep, some food, and a decongestant took care of 99% of it, or I wouldn't have gone to taiji. A bit of history on this below the fold.

The first time this happened, I was still a grad student and went to the student health clinic. They gave me a prescription strength combo of decongestant and expectorant, which helped, and decided it was probably caused by some sort of mild cold. As the decongestant combo worked on it, I figured they had it right. But, no. The next winter, I would experience milder versions of the dizziness with some mild nausea most evenings if I tried to concentrate on anything. It wasn't debilitating then, just unpleasant.

The next severe case hit...sometime near when Grandma started getting so sick. I woke up around 1:30 am or 2:00 am, and I was dizzy, nauseous, disoriented, overheated... The disorientation freaked me out and I called my mom. She took me to the emergency room. The doctor there decided I had a case of the flu coming on. I remember it being flu season, so this seemed reasonable. He gave me a medicine to alleviate the dizziness, which helped, and gave me a list of things to do, like eat clear broths, only I never developed a single other symptom of flu after that. Except for the dizziness I was fine.

Sometime the spring after that, there was an evening where I didn't get the mild nausea and dizziness. I wracked my brain trying to figure out what was different...and realized that I hadn't had any tea that morning. I cut out tea for a while, and the dizziness went away. Neither doctor had even come close to figuring it out. Btw, this is a big part of why I don't trust doctors to figure out what's wrong with me. I try to figure out what's wrong before I go in, so that I know exactly what to tell them.

At any rate, limiting my consumption of tea has, for the most part eliminated the dizzy spells. Every so often I push it a bit too far. Yesterday, I had Yerba maté tea in the morning, a cup of dragonwell tea at College Market around noon, and a Thai iced tea with dinner. I knew I was going to pay for it, and, hey, I got confirmation that it was overconsumption of tea that had caused all those dizzy spells, just like I figured. Incidentally, it's not solely the caffeine. Yerba maté has just as much, if not more, caffeine as tea from the Camellia sinensis plant, but has much less effect on me, dizziness wise. It's something else specific to the classical "tea plant" that seems to do it. I have learned that zinc supplements help, but I still have to be careful how much classical tea I drink. The two doses yesterday, plus the caffeine from the Yerba maté were too much.

Incidentally, you will encounter the claim that Yerba maté does not contain caffeine, that it contains a stereoisomer of caffeine called mateine. This is incorrect. There is no stereoisomer of caffeine. It does seem to me that the other compounds in Yerba maté mitigate the effects of the caffeine somewhat, but that's about it.

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