There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books which discuss the wide-range of views concerning the mass use of caffeine in our culture.
From my own research, it does not seem to be much of a debate- nutritionists and scientists have repeatedly shown, in a myriad of ways, that the caffeine chemical is not very healthy for the human body.
In his book Caffeine Blues Stephen Cherniske, M.S goes so far to propose that if caffeine were introduced today as a new food additive, the FDA would never approve it.
He explains that any substance that causes such extreme reactions—heart palpitations, anxiety, panic, insomnia, and even birth defects—would be treated as a new drug and denied status as a food additive.
This is an interesting perspective, and if you are a big coffee drinker I urge you to consider the sentiment. The purpose of this article is to expound on Mr. Cherniske’s insights and explore some unique and interesting characteristics of caffeine that you may not have known.
Before I get to these points, let me say that although I will paint a pretty negative picture of coffee and caffeine, my goal is NOT to scold you and suggest that you stop drinking coffee immediately.
I hope some of the things I explain opens your eyes to the elemental effects of caffeine, but I also understand, and believe, there is a very real enjoyment for many people in a nice, hot cup of Java (for me too, sometimes)!
With that said, here are a few interesting things I bet you didn’t know about coffee and caffeine:
Its a Pesticide
By definition, caffeine is a naturally occurring compound found in the beans, leaves, and fruit of over 60 plants where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants. If you drink a lot of coffee and caffeinated drinks, I urge you to read that sentence again and start seeing caffeine in this light—as a substance produced with the sole purpose to harm creatures that ingest it.
Its Highly Acidic
To date, over 700 volatile substances have been found in coffee, including more than 200 acids and an incredible array of alcohols, aromatic compounds and carbonyl compounds.
It Erodes Your Ability to Metabolize Blood Sugar
Caffeine stimulates the fight or flight stress response in humans and plays a major role in hypoglycemia (a condition where blood sugar levels fall below normal). As part of this response, the liver rapidly raises blood sugar levels. This is felt as a “lift” to the person consuming caffeine, but the body must then deal with the metabolic emergency of hyperglycemia, or elevated blood sugar.
This is accomplished by the pancreas, which secretes insulin, driving the blood sugar down. Over time, this “wear and tear” of our blood sugar metabolism causes the system to become ineffective and can result in hypoglycemia and even diabetes.
There is NO Positive Science
According to Mr. Cherniske: “No scientific study has ever shown that coffee is good for you. The discussion only concerns the degree to which it will harm you”. Interesting.
It Causes Chronic Digestive Problems
Caffeine lowers the stress threshold of our bodies so that the events we would normally handle suddenly become insurmountable. Because of this, coffee consumption is a major contributor to bloating, pain and gas that roughly 50% of Americans adults experience after they eat.
It Leads to “Caffeinism” Which Is Very Serious
In large amounts, and especially over extended periods of time, caffeine can lead to a condition known as caffeinism. Caffeinism is defined on Wikipedia as: “combining caffeine dependency with a wide range of unpleasant physical and mental conditions including nervousness, irritability, anxiety, tremulousness, muscle twitching, insomnia, headaches, respiratory alkalosis and heart palpitations”.
Furthermore, because caffeine increases the production of stomach acid, high usage over time can lead to peptic ulcers, erosive esophagitis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
With all this said, nearly 100 million American adults drink three or more cups of coffee a day. But does that make it right? Consider that sometimes we make decisions in our lives based NOT upon what is real, but upon habit, or upon what other people want us to think.
“If five million people do a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing” –Ancient Chinese Proverb
Here are a few more myths about caffeine, effectively debunked:
Caffeine Gives You Energy
- Caffeine does not provide energy, only chemical stimulation. The perceived “energy” comes from the body’s struggle to adapt to increased blood levels to stress hormones.
Caffeine Gives You a Lift
- Using coffee for mood enhancement is a short-term blessing and a long-term curse. While the initial adrenal stimulation may provide a transient antifatigue “lift”, caffeine’s ultimate mood effect is a letdown, either subtle or profound.
Caffeine Sharpens Your Mind
- While caffeine users may feel more alert, the experience is simply one of increased sensory and motor activity (dilated pupils, increased heart rate, and higher blood pressure). The quality of thought and recall is improved no more than the quality of music is improved when played at a higher volume or speed!
In all, caffeine is substance that purports to give you energy by stimulating your nervous system. But it really isn’t giving you anything, and is in fact harming you! That’s because caffeine creates tension, and the ultimate result of tension is always fatigue.
So how can you start “getting off” caffeine? There are a million and one ways to do this, and I plan on writing a follow-up article on this subject within the next week. Here are
some basic suggestions you can start with right away:
- Brew your coffee with 50% decaf
- Switch to an herbal tea, herbal coffee or another caffeine alternative
- Get a smaller coffee mug
- Spill half of your favorite Starbucks concoction out, before you start drinking it
- Make your coffee weaker by adding more milk
- If you must drink coffee, have it after eating a big meal (preferably after lunch)
- Start eating foods high in minerals
- Try Gingko Biloba
- Drink more water
- Do not drink coffee first thing in the morning
- Do not drink coffee before you go to bed
- Try coffee substitutes
- Drink less potent caffeinated drink
I hope this article was informative, and opened your eyes to some of the very real dangers of continuous caffeine consumption. Look for a second article next week which goes into some more detail about how to weed yourself off caffeine, or better yet, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment field below!
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