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Section: general-health

Dear Ann Landers,
Thank you for alerting careless waitresses and waiters to the fact that caffeine can be harmful to some people. In your list of conditions that make coffee a threat, you missed one. I have Meniere's disease, and my doctor is firm about no caffeine. It promotes dizziness. I get around the problem by using coffee substitutes. A small plastic bottle of instant decaf is practically weightless, and I carry one in my purse. If I don't feel like herbal tea, I can order hot water and make my own coffee. Then, I know I'm safe. -- Dizzy Dame in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Dear Dizzy,
I had no idea that caffeine could be such a nemesis for some people. Read on for more: West Caldwell, N.J.: Thank you for calling attention to the problem of caffeine. Not only is it a big headache for some coffee drinkers; it also aggravates a serious condition suffered by many women -- cystic breast disease. During my last year as a regular coffee drinker, I had to have seven breast cysts aspirated or drained. Women who have had this procedure will testify that it can be excruciatingly painful. I decided the rush from caffeine wasn't worth it. Now that I have been caffeine-free for several years, I have not had a single cyst problem. I can tell within 15 minutes if I am served caffeine by careless or lazy waitpersons because I develop a severe headache and suffer from mild nausea. Reedley, Calif.: May I add to the comments from "Caffeine-Free in Indianapolis"? I was a waitress for nearly 30 years and often witnessed the mixing of decaf and regular coffee when the pots ran low. There are so many health problems that are made worse by caffeine. I know because I suffer from interstitial cystitis. Those of us with this bladder problem should refrain from ingesting caffeine. Although it is not life-threatening, caffeine can irritate the lining of the bladder, which results in pain and the constant urge to urinate. Please, waiters and waitresses, take note. A little caffeine CAN hurt -- a lot. Chicago: Please tell your readers that coffee isn't the only substance that contains caffeine. Some soft drinks, chocolate, tea and pain relievers also have caffeine in them. People should always check the ingredients. Omaha, Neb.: One thing you didn't mention about coffee is that caffeine also affects glaucoma patients. I have eye trouble and can tell immediately when I am not served decaf, as requested. I hope those people who work in restaurants and coffee shops will have mercy on us and take the time to prevent us from having unnecessary pain and suffering. New Bedford, Mass.: I'd rather have a problem with caffeine than alcohol. "Let's have a cup of coffee" is a lot more sensible than "Let's meet for a drink." It's also a lot less hazardous. If you have "one too many" and the beverage is coffee, you may wind up in the bathroom more often than you'd like, but you will not end up in the morgue. Gem of the Day (sent in by Constant Reader of the Estevan Mercury in Saskatchewan, Canada): This fellow who was sitting next to me, eating his soup, leans over and says, "Hey, Mac, do you need any help?" I asked, "What kind of help are you talking about?" He replied, "From the slurping sounds you were making, I thought maybe you wanted to be dragged ashore."

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"Nobody ever drowned in his own sweat."
-Ann Landers