The vast majority of us can't imagine starting off even a single day without our beloved coffee. If gets us revved up, gives the old brain a boost and even jump-starts our AM bowel movement. Most of all, we love it... just because. The smell, the ritual, the taste. But the question is, when does the daily latte intake go from an innocent pick-me-up to a potential health risk? Let's just say that the potential negative effects of this famed beverage go far beyond ruining your white blouse with a splash of dark roast.
Fight or Flight
Let's first take a look at the mechanics of coffee's effect on your body. That initial boost comes when the caffeine hits your central nervous system and fires up your adrenals. These glands produce stress hormones that are generally only meant to be released when you are under extreme pressure, fearing for your life, and you need to "fight or flight" (think sabertooth tiger in the stone ages). These days, we love to put ourselves into that overdrive mode every single day. Unfortunately, our body's aren't build to love it too.
For example; I have a girlfriend who loves to jack herself up on coffee and go through her day at Mach 3 with her hair on fire. She loves the feeling of adrenaline running through her system. Unfortunately, now she is going through adrenal fatigue and her adrenal glands are so tired they are like an almost dead horse. And every cup of coffee stimulates her adrenals and is like whipping that horse and saying, "Get up! Work harder!"
Ever consider why you "crash" in the afternoon? When you continuously stimulate your adrenal glands into high gear without a break, they get worn out. Plus, the constant release of stress hormones puts energy into your muscles and thus, takes energy out of other normal physiological processes. If you're constantly "running from a tiger", your body isn't going to prioritize digesting a large meal or struggle to fight off a cold.
All This for a Little Boost
It is easy to see why the Food and Drug Administration classifies coffee as a drug... it affects your body pretty dramatically. Here are some of the other potential side effects:
- Coffee can make you become jittery, ornery, shaky, nervous, nauseous, restless and dizzy.
- Caffeine increases your heart rate and blood pressure, thus it can potentially disrupt the heart's rhythm or cause palpitations.
- It can contribute to insomnia and anxiety.
- Coffee can cause heartburn, due to the increased release of stomach acid.
- It is severely dehydrating. This is due to coffee's function as a diuretic that causes increased urination and water loss throughout the body.
- In rare cases, hallucinations, nausea, tremors and convulsions can come along for the coffee ride.
Caffeine's penchant for blocking your body's mineral absorption is another factor to consider, and it particularly enjoys preying on calcium, potassium and iron. This can be especially dangerous for older adults who already face an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. Each cup of coffee you drink can lead to a calcium loss of up to 6 mg while two to three cups of coffee can inhibit iron absorption up to 73 percent. That's a heck of a lot of iron. And that's a heck of a lot of issues that can come with regular coffee or caffeine consumption!
Caffeine During Pregnancy
Pregnant women know to avoid alcohol, but they may also want to add excessive amounts of coffee or caffeine to their avoidance list. The jury is still out on coffee's potential to cause miscarriage, low birth weight and fetal retardation, but it has weighed in enough to warn against a large caffeine intake during pregnancy. While it's a good idea for the mommy-to-be to steer clear of caffeine altogether, about one mug's worth a day is the recommended maximum.
How Much is Too Much?
If you are someone who drinks four or more cups per day, you're treading on dangerous grounds (pun not intended). As your body becomes used to the drug, it needs more of it to produce the same stimulating effects. You can become dependent on caffeine and suffer withdrawal symptoms without it. Many of us well know that caffeine withdrawal is not pretty and can include irritability, headaches, drowsiness and fatigue. When you're used to a multi-cup caffeine routine, a lack of joe can leave you feeling low, depressed, and make it tough for you to concentrate. Have you ever tried quitting coffee cold turkey? when you drink that much coffee it can be a nightmare. Even those who consume as little as one cup per day can still suffer from withdrawal if they've been drinking coffee for an extended period of time.
Getting Off the Sauce
Yes, caffeine withdrawal can be a real nuisance. If you do choose to eliminate coffee from your morning routine, go slow. Start using a mix of caffeinated and decaffeinated beans in your brew and gradually work your way "off the sauce" to avoid those raging headaches. Once you're onto fully decaf, try replacing it with a healthy beverage. Lemon water is always a Good Decision, as it boosts your metabolism and works to cleanse your system of toxins.
Always listen to your body. Most people think coffee makes them feel better, but when they really pay attention, they find that coffee actually gives them headaches, makes them feel heavy, nauseous, and even tired afterwards when they hit the dip back down.
Have you ever even taken a break from coffee? Give it a try. After a week, you might just have a new outlook on life! Who knows!