"Caffeine is one of the most popular drugs in the world and is consumed by up to 90% of the population in one form or another—mostly as coffee."
On the blog, we've previously looked at the way alcohol affects our body. Both alcohol and coffee can be very confusing topics. There are research-backed arguments that support both reduced and increased consumption. Like most things 'hyped-up' by the media, it's good practice to approach what you read with a grain of salt and do some additional research of your own.
I'll be the first to admit that I love coffee. A big part of that is the experience of drinking a coffee, be it sitting down for some time out, people-watching or catching up with a friend. Recently I started to wear a monitor that gave me immediate feedback on how the food I was eating was affecting my blood sugar levels. Sure enough, every time I had a coffee my blood sugar levels would see a huge spike, for me this was the equivalent of consuming simple carbohydrates. Not a great result for the health of my body.
Having this immediate feedback on how my actions were negatively impacting my health prompted me to give up my occasional hot cup of brew and I now no longer drink coffee. It's a habit I no longer wanted as it wasn't serving me or my health.
In this blog, we'll be looking at what happens when you consume coffee, how it affects individual parts of your body and what you can do about it.
What happens when you consume caffeine?
Looking at the benefits first, coffee contains phenolic compounds, antioxidants and polyphenols. Swiss water pressed decaf also contains these benefits with about 1 - 3% of the caffeine content.
Caffeinated coffee is a stimulant and triggers your fight or flight response. This is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to real or perceived stress.
Historically for our ancestors, this may have meant escaping the hungry jaws of a tiger, so to help mobilise us in this time of real, life-endangering stress, our fight or flight response kicks in. Your sympathetic nervous system produces a hormonal cascade including the secretion of insulin, adrenalin and cortisol, as well as the 'feel good' neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
"Real or perceived, your body responds to stress in the same way."
This provides an immediate but temporary source of energy. Our ancestors were under threat from predators or food famine several times a year. Today many of us feel overwhelmed, stressed, tired, over stretched or run down weekly, if not daily. The key issue here is not the occasional cup of coffee but rather the cumulative effect of not giving our bodies the time they need to recover and choosing to instead 'cover up the problem' by continually turning to coffee to stimulate our body and deal with the day to day load of stressors.
"The harder you push your mind and body the more nutrients you need."
Real or perceived, your body responds to stress in the same way. When you consume a caffeinated coffee, your body will produce your stress hormones and, as a result, you will typically notice a perk in focus, energy and mood which will help give you the 'lift' or buzz you need to pump through to your next task.
In a time of stress, your body uses more essential nutrients and places a larger load on our liver which affects our ability to store and absorb nutrients. Prolonged periods of stress can also cause adrenal fatigue. I believe most of us in the western world are living beyond our nutritional limits, evident in the volume of coffee consumed, so it's important to remember the harder you push your mind and body, the more nutrients you need!
How coffee affects various parts of your body
I’m not suggesting you can never drink coffee again. What's more important is understanding HOW coffee interacts with your hormones and bodily systems so you can be aware of these effects and reduce your intake to a healthy level. If you’re consuming more than 1 cup of coffee a day, this is what could be occurring in your body.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant - it can temporarily make you feel more awake and energetic, but it can also leave you feeling wired and tired.
Caffeine is a diuretic - it prompts the body to lose water through urination, leading to dehydration, for which you then need to drink 2 cups of water for every one cup of coffee consumed to replace the hydration lost. This is serious as most people are already dehydrated and one of the symptoms of dehydration is feeling tired, so next time you think you need coffee, try a few glasses of water instead.
4 cups of coffee can raise blood pressure levels for many hours, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
When you consume caffeine, it then initiates uncontrolled neuron firing in your brain, according to Stephen Cherniske in his book, Caffeine Blues. This excess neuron activity triggers your pituitary gland to secrete a hormone that tells your adrenal glands to produce adrenalin.
Caffeine can also cause insomnia making it very difficult to fall asleep, especially since coffee has a half-life of 5.7 hours in healthy adults, meaning if you have a cup of coffee with 200mg at midday you still have 100mg in the body around 5.45pm.
Tired and Wired:
Caffeine can cause you to feel jittery, skittish, restless, excitable or anxious. It can temporarily speed the heart rate. If you’re feeling stressed out then a cup of coffee can exacerbate, rather than help your ability to concentrate.
Long term caffeine consumption can potentially impair the action of insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels) as high blood sugar is extremely dangerous in the body, as little as 2-2.5 cups a day can begin to cause this effect.
Because coffee is a stimulus, caffeine can cause increased contractions of the stomach muscles, causing abdominal pain, diarrhoea and increased bowel movements.
Caffeine inhibits the absorption of some nutrients and causes the excretion of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and trace minerals.
Caffeine increases dopamine levels, which contribute to its addictive quality, that’s why when we stop drinking it we experience withdrawal headaches. The best remedy for caffeine withdrawal headaches is to drink lots of water.
So, what should you do?
Caffeine is one of the most popular drugs in the world and is consumed by up to 90% of the population in one form or another – mostly as coffee. Consuming coffee occasionally is not a problem, but if you rely on coffee to get you through every day then try these tips to help reduce your intake.
"I always say coffee gives you energy, but it’s not for free. It's stealing it from your future and at some point, you're going to have to pay it back."
To support your body with the essential nutrients it needs, I recommend taking the BePure Everyday Health Pack on top of a healthy diet, every day, to support your health. This pack is your baseline nutritional support and includes two month’s supply of BePure One the ultimate everyday multivitamin, and BePure Three, a high strength, sustainably caught fish oil.
The co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is found within every cell in the body and is essential for energy production. It increases the efficiency of the electron transport chain within our cells and in essence supports you in creating 'free energy'. BePure Ten provides the optimal daily dose of naturally fermented co-enzyme Q10.
I always say coffee gives you energy, but it’s not for free It's stealing it from your future and at some point, you're going to have to pay it back. If you are someone that finds themselves stressed on a day-to-day basis, then focusing on balancing your sympathetic system with your parasympathetic system is going to be key to balancing your stress levels. If you find yourself turning to coffee to handle stress, try choosing some of the activities included on the parasympathetic side of the diagram below instead.
How to reduce your dependency on coffee:
- Understand WHY you're drinking coffee in the first place. Is it because of the ritual? Because you're stressed? Because you simply don't have the energy without it? All of the above and more?
- Test out replacing your 'coffee ritual' with another option such as a chai, turmeric latte, matcha or the occasional hot chocolate.
- Focus on your parasympathetic system to balance your stress levels and reduce the impact stress has on your energy levels.
- Changing a habit is always easier than going cold turkey. If, like me, you are a social coffee consumer, try ordering decaf.
- Build up your body's nutrition levels with a quality multivitamin like BePure One and your energy stores with CoQ10 nutritional support such as BePure Ten.
- If you do drink coffee, make sure you eat something before hand to slow the absorption of the caffeine to your system, reducing the blood sugar spike.
- Drink 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of coffee to stay hydrated.
- If you do drink coffee, do try to keep it to one a day and always do so before midday to ensure you don't impact the important quality of your sleep.
- Green tea contains smaller amounts of caffeine and also the very beneficial cachetins, making it a great way to reduce your dependency on caffeine over time. Just be sure to remove your tea bag from the water to prevent your green tea tasting too bitter.