Oh for the love of coffee! A Naturopath's perspective.
Why do people love coffee so much?
Have you ever wondered how much coffee is drunk in the world every day? We looked it up, and the answer is approximately 2.25 billion cups. That's 2,250,000,000 cups of coffee. Every single day. It's a wonder we haven't harvested coffee into extinction. It's obviously big business. In fact, coffee is the most popular beverage in the world, second only to water.
We take coffee pretty seriously here in Australia. In some countries (obviously less cultured...) there are only two types of coffee to choose from: black and white. Not here.
When ordering a coffee, one may ask for a short black, a long black, a flat white, a cappuccino, a piccolo, an espresso, a latte, an affogato, a macchiato, a mochaccino, a baby chino, a mugaccino... There's almost no end to it. Boil it, filter it, percolate it, express it, grind it, pod it - you name it. Light roast, medium roast, dark roast, half shot, double shot, decaf - oops, sorry! Didn't mean to blaspheme! And we haven't even got into the different types of coffee beans and flavours. Yikes.
Why is drinking coffee bad for you?
The adverse effects of coffee are related to why so many people get a 'buzz' out of drinking it. The caffeine acts as a stimulant, causing extra adrenalin (epinephrine) to be released from your adrenal glands. This increases your resistance to 'stress'. This stress could come in the form of having to go to work... It increases your alertness, so your cognition improves, which is a fancy way of saying you can concentrate on your work, be more focused, get that spreadsheet finished, etc. The 'stress' could also be physical. If you're feeling tired, the caffeine has the effect of providing a temporary increase in available energy.
But, what goes up, as they say, must come down. One of the effects of this adrenalin boost is also to raise your blood sugar levels. Once they drop down, you'll need to find a way to get them back up again. The solution? Another coffee! Or maybe a sugary snack. Or both. Not a great cycle to get into, rebounding from one coffee to the next. What would life be like without coffee? Probably a bit more stable and consistent, without those peaks and troughs in energy.
A longer-term problem with coffee consumption is adrenal exhaustion. Since it stimulates the adrenal glands, it's basically making them work harder. Push this process for long enough, and you begin to fatigue. The only solution sometimes appears to be stronger coffee! Many of us started by maybe drinking one or two weak coffees occasionally, like when we were studying for an exam. Then, one coffee a day became routine. Then another one after lunch. Then one day we were feeling a bit more tired than usual, so we went for a double shot. This worked pretty well, so we did it again the next day, and that became the new habit. Sound familiar?
We once asked a student how she felt after drinking coffee. Her answer? "Normal."
Hmmm.... not a great sign when we need a stimulant to feel normal! Sounds a bit too much like drug addiction.
Coffee is also a diuretic. So, not only does it make you wee more (a touch inconvenient), but it increases the rate at which you excrete minerals in your urine, leading to conditions such as osteoporosis. Oh, and being dehydrated also gives you bad breath. Not so attractive any more, is it?
Still not convinced? There is even evidence that it can increase your risk of becoming incontinent. So there!
Are there any benefits to drinking coffee?
You mean apart from feeling normal, being able to face going to work, being able to concentrate, and stay awake? Sure! A very handy benefit for some people is the stimulation it provides not just to the brain, but also the bowel. Many people find coffee works wonders in the morning to trigger a bowel movement. Now that we've got that one out of the way...
It's stimulant effect means that it increases your metabolism so that it can assist in weight loss. There is some evidence to show that it can decrease your risk of heart disease, and even Type II diabetes.
Coffee can also stimulate liver metabolism, so it helps you to detox. Isn't that ironic? Many will attempt to cut out coffee when going on a detox diet, but there you go.
Since coffee helps you concentrate, it might not be a surprise that it appears to protect against certain conditions affecting the brain, such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, and depression. The negative here is that it can also aggravate anxiety, not to mention causing insomnia!
So is it okay to drink coffee?
As Paracelsus said, "the poison is in the dose." Having read some of the pros and cons of coffee, you can decide for yourself whether you wish to drink it, and how much. Once you've made that decision, all you then need to decide is whether you want a latte, long black, mochaccino, macchiato....
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