How does caffeine affect you?
Our love of coffee is no secret in the western world. These days, many homes have state of the art coffee machines and coffee making has become quite a skill! It’s such a popular thing that there is a cafe on nearly every corner! In fact, many people say they can’t function in the morning unless they have a caffeine boost to start the day. When we catch up with friends, it’s usually the preferred beverage. And if we need to focus or concentrate, coffee or energy drinks can help us keep going when that exam or deadline is looming.
There is so much confusion around what you read about caffeine; some says it’s beneficial for health, and others say it’s just plain harmful! Our society does indeed seem addicted to coffee, and it’s pretty rare these days to find someone who prefers a cup of tea. When we give up coffee for a time, we often experience headaches or upset stomach; so, from a naturopathic perspective, I feel that its a beverage that we can probably live without. Enjoy one cup of coffee per day, but if you are having more than this, read on.
Caffeine is very irritating to the digestive system and liver. It elevates hydrochloric acid in the stomach, so if you have an ulcer or suffer from reflux, coffee should be avoided. Caffeine also has a laxative effect, and can cause diarrhoea in sensitive people. Many people with constipation actually rely on coffee to get their bowels moving, but over time, this weakens the tone of the colon, perpetuating the problem even further. Increasing water intake and raw vegetables can assist regular bowel function and improve nutrition as well.
Nervous system stimulation: People who are predisposed to anxiety or depression can often be quite sensitive when it comes to caffeine, which can result in increased anxiety, headaches, palpitations, irritability and even panic attacks. Better to drink calming herbal teas, such as chamomile or licorice; or try coffee substitutes such as chicory or dandelion coffee for a boost to your liver.
Caffeine has a diuretic effect, which means it increases fluid losses from the body. In addition, caffeine flushes out water soluble vitamins (C, B’s) as well as many minerals (zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron.) So even if you have a healthy diet or take vitamins, chances are you are weeing out all the goodness! Start your day instead with a lemon squeezed in warm water and give your liver some love!
Excessive caffeine consumption can lead to the following deficiencies:
Low calcium leads to decreased bone density, aching joints, brittle nails, eczema and nervousness.
Low zinc lowers immune resilience, poor sense of smell and taste, acne, hair loss, infertility, poor memory, slow wound healing
Iron deficiency leads to fatigue, shortness of breath, heavy periods, dizziness, pale skin, brittle hair, poor focus.
Magnesium: restless legs, irritability, insomnia, depression, muscle twitching, anxiety, decreased pH levels (higher acidity).
Caffeine affects the cardiovascular system too. Elevated heart rate, constriction of blood vessels (leading to increased blood pressure), as well as raised cholesterol put the body at increased risk of heart disease.
The adrenal glands are stimulated with caffeine consumption, pushing up cortisol and adrenaline levels, and elevating blood sugar. This pick-me-up effect is short lived, and often creates further fatigue and cravings for sugar or even more caffeine. Have a snack, such as fruit or nuts for a healthy energy boost.
So, there you have it. If you feel that you might be using caffeine to help with fatigue, or that you may be low in nutrients from caffeine consumption, please contact me. I can assess your diet and pinpoint any nutritional excesses or deficiencies you may have. Then we can work on including the foods that you need to get you back to your healthy best!
Yours in health and wellness,