“Is caffeine really bad for you?” – Perks And Quirks
Caffeine is a really hot topic, PAQ. In this country, coffee is something most people require just to get moving in the morning – just look at the Starbucks on every corner. But we hear some contradictory arguments about it, don’t we? Some say coffee and caffeine are horrible for you and some say it’s got lots of health benefits. Let’s look at the pros and cons you may not have been aware of.
- It can help prevent diabetes. Frank Hu, M.D., one of the authors of The Harvard Study, theorizes it may be because caffeine stimulates muscles to burn fat and sugar more efficiently.
- It contains antioxidants. Antioxidants in caffeine help to stabilize free radicals and stop them from doing damage. If a free radical is formed in a cell and it is not neutralized, it can damage the DNA of the cell.
- It might help prevent disease. Caffeine keeps dopamine molecules active, preventing diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Harvard researchers have found that men who drink four cups of caffeinated coffee a day are half as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as those who refrain from consuming caffeinated beverages.
- It gives you a longer workout. Some sources note that caffeine allows athletes to exercise for longer durations without hitting exhaustion. Although the mechanism is not yet known, caffeine affects the utilization of glycogen during workouts. Glycogen is the main fuel for muscles. Once depleted, exhaustion occurs. Caffeine decreases the use of glycogen stores during workouts up to 50 percent – allowing for longer workouts.
- It stresses us out. Caffeine consumption in the early morning affects the body until bedtime, amplifying stress levels throughout the day. Caffeine increases stress hormones and elevates one’s perception of stress. Decreasing coffee and caffeinated beverages will help to lower often exaggerated stress-reactions. If you find yourself easily agitated throughout your workday, you might want to scale back on the caffeine.
- It gives us mood swings. When more than 2g of caffeine enters the body, the heart becomes stimulated and blood vessels dilate. Shortly after, blood pressure increases, causing bronchial relaxation in the lungs and increased breathing. These physiological reactions tend to cause irritability, restlessness, insomnia, and agitation.
- It can upset our digestion. Because it is a stimulant, caffeine can cause increased contractions of stomach muscles – possibly causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, and increased bowel movements. Those who have irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or colitis may want to be extra cautious before ordering an espresso. While many who are prone to constipation rely on caffeine to help them have regular bowel movements, this is detrimental in the long haul: the lining of our intestines is designed to be naturally stimulated by our system’s reflexes. When we use caffeine to stimulate, those receptors become desensitized, making it harder for our intestines to do what they’re supposed to unless we continue to give them caffeine.
- It can make female reproductive problems worse. Fibrocystic breast disease, PMS, infertility problems, miscarriage, low birth weight and menopausal problems such as hot flashes are all exacerbated by caffeine consumption. Women on birth control pills are particularly at risk since they tend to have a decreased ability to detoxify caffeine.
- It exhausts our adrenals. Caffeine is a stimulant which binds to adenosine receptors in the brain. This leads to a range of complex reactions which causes an increase of stimulation at the adrenal glands. This can increase vulnerability to a variety of health disorders related to inflammation and fatigue. That rush you feel when you drink coffee is actually your body being stimulated into a fight-or-flight response, which our bodies are not built to handle regularly and long-term.
So, what now?
When I work with my clients, one of the red flags I look for is high caffeine consumption. Frankly, if there’s anything you need each day just to get up or keep going, something’s out of balance in your life. When our lives are in balance (we get enough sleep, prioritize and manage our time well, have careers that are stimulating and enjoyable, feed ourselves well, have positive and nurturing relationships, and exercise) we’re less likely to need a stimulant to get through the day. In addition, having existing health conditions and/or deficiencies in our body due to poor diet or plain ol’ genetics can also have an impact on your energy levels. See a doctor if you suspect something’s wrong. So if you find yourself leaning on that coffee every day, ask yourself: why do I need it? If you think something may be out of balance for you, let me know – I can show you an entirely different way of living without the need for stimulants!
But for now, if you do need a stimulant to get you through the day, I highly recommend maca. This plant powder has many excellent health benefits. It will definitely give you energy, but unlike caffeine, it doesn’t leave you crashing. As an added bonus, it can even enhance your sex drive! You can find it online or at any natural food store.
And hey, if you still want the occasional cup-o-joe, that’s okay too! All things in moderation, my friends. As much as I love my herbal tea, I still love a cup of delicious decaf coffee with coconut milk creamer!
What are your own experiences with caffeine? Have you tried maca? Let me know in the comments!