Addicted To Coffee? By Dr. Troy Miles

One of the best things about moving back to Melbourne a few years ago was the selection of great coffee shops our city has to offer. Living in Melbourne, we are spoiled for choice with single origins, great baristas and food to go with it. It only takes a quick amble through the CBD on any weekday morning to see how much Melbournians love their coffee. But what effects does this love affair have on our health?

Coffee is well known for its caffeine content. Caffeine is the most consumed drug in the world and like other drugs, can be addictive. We consume caffeine in chocolate, cola drinks and tea, but most commonly, coffee. Caffeine affects everyone to different extents. Some of us are able to consume more than others without ‘feeling the effects’. Whether we realise it or not, caffeine has the same effects on our bodies.coffee addict

Increased dopamine – the chemical in our brain that makes us feel good.

Increased adrenaline and cortisol release from adrenal glands, and therefore increased heart rate, body temperature, alertness, sweating, blood flow to muscles and frequent trips to the toilet.

The addictive element of caffeine is one of the main reasons coffee is seen to be detrimental to our health. However, there are actually a number of health benefits to be had from moderate consumption of coffee. Apart from being a naturally occurring source of food, coffee beans are rich in antioxidants. This gorgeous bean is linked to the following health benefits.

positive effects of coffee

Reduced risk of Alzheimers, Dementia and Parkinson’s diseases.

Less risk of gallstones and gallbladder disease.

Reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Reduced risk of some forms of cancer.

Improved bowel function. (Increased urination can be a good thing sometimes)

Improved heart health = may reduce rate of heart disease and heart attacks.

Reduced effects of asthma.

Less risk of having gout.

Improved cognition – better memory and reaction time.

While I’m sure all the coffee addicts reading this are now feeling quite good about their daily fix, there are some points to consider on the ‘coffee con‘ side. The greatest one being coffees addictive nature. Like all things we consume, moderation is essential. Lots of coffee drinkers need their coffee kick to get started in the morning, or need at least a coffee per day. These consumers feel as though they may not function properly without the artificial ‘pick-me-up’, and often don’t give themselves a regular break from their coffee habit. When they do have a day off, they suffer from headaches and feel downright crappy as their body screams for caffeine.

negative effects of coffee

Decreased absorption of nutrients from food.Increased acidity.Unwanted increase of urination and bowel movement.Increased adrenalin and cortisol release (stress hormone).

Likelihood of adrenal fatigue.Increased sympathetic nervous system response- high heart rate, sweating and shaky hands.Decreased iron and calcium uptake (particularly in women)Disturbed rest and sleep patterns.

Coffee and other sources of caffeine are not recommended for expectant mums. This is due to caffeine’s ability to easily cross the placenta into the developing baby’s blood stream. As an unborn bub is unable to process caffeine, it may last in their little system for up to ten times as long as an adults. (about 8 hours in adults – do the math!)

If you’re a typical Melbournian and you love your coffee, there are some simple things you can do to minimise negative effects of caffeine on your health.

Have regular breaks from caffeine: a week or longer at a time every 3-6 months. This will reduce your dependency on coffee and give your body a chance to eliminate any build-up of toxins.Exclude other addictive foods such as sugar and alcohol while you’re detoxing from coffee.

Try drinking tea as an alternative. Tea is the second most consumed beverage consumed (besides water) in the world, and it contains about half the amount of caffeine than coffee. Tea is higher in antioxidants , supports your immune system and may help prevent some forms of cancer and heart disease. The general consensus is that green tea has greater health benefits than black.

Avoid caffeinated drinks after about 2pm as the effects can last for up to 8 hours. Consider your sleeping patterns when drinking coffee, and allow it time to wear off so as not to affect your rest.

The next time (probably tomorrow..? you order your cafe latte, long black or macchiato, you’ll have a far better understanding of how it may impact your health. If you feel that you may be addicted to caffeine, or have not had a day without a coffee recently it might be time to give yourself a break. Maybe try a black, green or even herbal tea.

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