Welcome back! I hope you have enjoyed the first two parts of this three part series so far. This is part three on, “Coffee, Morning Comfort or Addictive Crap.” Yes, I am going to give you more science based evidence, to consider when You choose to maintain a relationship with this dark, taste-bud tantalizing, seductress, coffee. If losing your teeth and introducing neurotoxins into your body weren’t discouraging enough, here’s more “drink” for thought.
Did you know caffeine is an addictive stimulant that directly affects your brain chemistry?
YES. . . Coffee, which contains caffeine is a stimulant. It is believed that some 3 out of 4 regular caffeine users are “addicted” to the substance. Consuming as little as 200 mg of caffeine a day (an average of 10-12 ounces of coffee) can lead to addiction and altered chemistry in the brain.
Caffeine’s main effect on the body is an increased temporary sense of wakefulness and alertness, but it can also cause, the shakes, difficulty sleeping or interrupted sleep, increased heartbeat, high blood pressure, headaches, nervousness, dependency and a variety of other symptoms.
Even the FDA (Food and Drug Administration or Federal Death Association) recommends not exceeding the amount of 400mg daily. However, they leave that to the responsibility of the consumer.
Death Wish Coffee – contains 651mg in 12 ounces and Starbucks Venti – contains 415 in 20 ounces.
No big deal, you’re a responsible coffee drinker and never resort to anything crazy! Right?
Let’s look at the basics of how your body physically reacts once caffeine is in the blood stream.
Upon consumption, caffeine reaches peak levels in the blood stream as quickly as 15 minutes, but within one hour and remains there for, four to six hours. At which time we often have a need for that second cup of whatever it is your drinking (or a nap) due to a feeling of lethargy.
Believe it or not, most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night in order to have optimal brain function the following day. Caffeine can interfere with the sleep cycle; it decreases the quantity of sleep and the temporal lobe’s organization of slowed and REM sleep. Sleep loss is cumulative, and even small nightly decreases can add up and disturb daytime alertness and performance. If only-ALL employers knew this, they would eliminate the coffee pot at work!
My grandmother would wake at 4am to have a cup of coffee in order to go back to sleep. Weird, huh? I bet not something you are unfamiliar with? Maybe you are nodding your head in agreement, that coffee actually puts you to sleep also?
Caffeine (no matter the source, energy drinks, coffee, black tea, etc.) is known to stimulate the central nervous system increasing heart rate, respiration, psychotropic (mood-altering) properties and acts as a mild diuretic. To a nerve cell, caffeine looks like adenosine, and begins docking in the adenosine receptor sites of the cell. Alone, adenosine is a neuromodulator, believed to play a role in promoting sleep and suppressing arousal. It plays a major role in the regulation of blood flow to various organs through vasodilation. However, when combined with phosphates, adenosine becomes a necessary component of the material that energizes each cell of your body, ATP, ADP and cAMP.
Caffeine strongly affects the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis influences the body’s ability to manage and deal with stress, both at rest and during activity.
With caffeine now blocking the uptake of adenosine from the cell (picture it like a skeleton key broke off in a lock) the blood vessels of the brain constrict and there is an increase in the firing of neurons in the brain. The light bulb goes on, and another one turns on and another one and another one, creating a sense of hyperactivity.
The pituitary gland observes the increased activity (light bulbs turning on) and perceives it as an emergency, so it releases hormones that tell the adrenal glands to produce cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine).
When the adenosine receptors are blocked because these caffeine molecules took their place of uptake, dopamine (the feel good chemical) works more efficiently. The excess adenosine then signals the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, which further perpetuates the so called feeling of alertness.
Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone that had numerous benefits in the time of creation, ie, running from a lion, tiger or bear OR fighting off another caveman to keep your cavelady all to yourself. Yet, today, we don’t really need to encourage the added release of this or cortisol, better known as the stress-hormone. We create enough stress from the simple day-to-day activities of parenting and/or working. With each cup of coffee, stimulation of adrenaline follows, a variety of possible effects on your body may occur: your pupils may dilate, heart may race, blood pressure may rise, muscles may constrict but blood flow to stomach decreases impairing digestion while acidity in your stomach rises leading to heartburn, acid indigestion, ulcers and gut dysbiosis and glucose is released from the liver for extra energy causing insulin resistance because the body cannot effectively deliver glucose into the cells because they are less receptive.
It’s kind of like the boy who cried . . .WOLF! The body treats itself just like the village treated the boy. It say’s where is the emergency? Oh there is no emergency? Well then . . . how do we know when you are telling the truth? We can’t keep up with all the “fake” emergencies you are creating.
Studies in humans have shown that regular consumption of caffeine increases cortisol and adrenaline even when the person consuming is at rest, and that levels of cortisol after caffeine consumption are similar to those experienced during an acute stress. Drinking coffee, in other words, re-creates unhealthy stress conditions for the body.
Rat studies have shown that caffeine consumption during a state of chronic stress increased their cortisol levels, blood pressure, and had various other negative hormonal events. Chronically stressed rats who consumed caffeine ended up sicker (due to be immuno-compromised from the chronic release of stress hormones, shutting down the immune system), and died sooner, than rats experiencing chronic stress without caffeine consumption.
Coffee (Caffeine) + Calm = Stress in the Body
Coffee (Caffeine) + Stress = Complete Disharmony in the Body as a Whole
In addition to that, caffeine inhibits the absorption and assimilation of iron, which is a key mineral involved with the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine. Additionally, we need the activated form of vitamin B6, pyridoxal-5-phosphate, to synthesize serotonin, dopamine and GABA. Coffee consumption can decrease amounts of circulating B-vitamins, which could affect neurotransmitter synthesis in a variety of ways.
Now, when a person misses or decides to quit their usual morning caffeine fix, the brain is then flooded with adenosine, and in turn dopamine levels drop drastically causing the brain’s chemistry to be out of balance. If you are now beginning to understand just how easily your cup o’ joe can affect your entire body, please wean yourself slowly, over the course of several weeks, or better yet, even months. Cutting cold turkey can put you into a state of with-drawl, confusion and resentment, realistically, sending you back to your addictive liquid seductress to engage in your love affair once again.
Try to decrease the amount of coffee you drink by half for 21 days. Then repeat and repeat again until it is out of your life. Or consider cutting it 50/50 with Dandy Blend or Tecchino, two herbal coffee substitutes.
I am well aware of how it feels to NEED to have something in order to survive the day. I understand the difficulty in eliminating an addiction. Organic, fair-trade, shade grown, bird friendly coffee or caffeine in moderation (2-3 cups a week) might not be an issue for the average person. Indeed, it may actually have health benefits. Yet again, the majority of coffee drinkers are addicted and drink it habitually daily, multiple times a day combined with sedentary lifestyles, poor diets, and chronically elevated levels of stress.
If you drink more than 5 cups a week and you think coffee doesn’t play a role in ravaging your health, I encourage you to think again. Science says otherwise.
If you are a pregnant or nursing mama who consumes coffee more than 5x a week, note that you are feeding your fetus/baby an addictive drug that they will have trouble weaning from postpartum. It will affect their sleep habits and mood. It will affect their adrenal glands and brain chemistry.
Your body can only benefit from kicking the habit. I would be happy to support you in this process of elimination and assist you in building a Natural Health program to strengthen your overall health.
This blog is dedicated to my Sita, the most loving, kind, unselfish, heart- warming, humble person I ever knew. She was perhaps the most influential Lady in my life. Her famous last words, “Love Heals ALL Things.”
Heather Dexter, C.D., Holistic Doula, CBE, Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor, Certified Usui Reiki Master/Practitioner and a mother of three. Heather enjoys assisting and supporting clients in finding their truth, through pregnancy, birth, and the parenting experience by making encouraging well-researched decisions.
“I work with clients in a one on one setting to walk them through a completely natural program that will assist them in regaining balance in their whole body (including physical, mental, and emotional) in order to eliminate ailments they may have. I love seeing clients heal themselves with natural remedies.”