And I get a little sparkle in my eye when I admit it. My lips will curl up slightly and my voice deepens, betraying my deep appreciation (or addiction, if you insist upon labeling it that way).
Coffee, however, does not do well in my system. I began drinking espresso when I was 15. Mom always used to tell me it would stunt my growth, but I had largely stopped growing a few years beforehand so I didn’t hold much credence to it. Coffee was the media through which I connected with friends in high school andÂ my father when he would come and pick me up from school. It was a warm creamy beverage that took the Alaskan chill out of my bones. My mother ordered fancy flavored coffees through the mail and had that creepy artificial creamer that came in fancy flavors as well.
By time I hit college, I peaked with 32 ounces of drip coffee in the morning to get me through the double whammy of biology and chemistry back to back beginning at 7:30 or 8am. Then I rotated between 24 ounces of drip and a double shot in the afternoon. Or a quadshot if I was working back-to-back shifts and studying. My body began complaining a lot. I had PMS, random panic attacks, and any additional stressors would cause me to hit stationary objects with my vehicle. (not intentionally!) I began having stomach problems; it was receiving so much acid it realized it didn’t need to make its own anymore!
I did not connect these incidences to coffee. I suspected the PMS was caused by myÂ overconsumption of tofu (I was an ardentÂ vegetarian at the time). Everything else was chalked up to a failing marriage and college stresses.Â When student Naturopaths informed me it was my beloved bitter brew, I had almost wished they had confirmed my soy suspicion.
In an effort to cease the discomfort, I cut coffee out cold turkey. Fortunately, I was not crippled with headaches; however, I could not concentrate on lectures or studies, stay attentive enough to maintain a conversation, or even stay awake for that matter! I began cat-napping in my car between classes and struggled for about 10 days until it became time to study for midterms.Â Then, I headed to Starbucks.
Yet in just ten days of abstinence I had cleared my body enough that my premenstrual symptoms were gone. It was AMAZING. I was convinced of this beverage’s power to cause both beneficial and prohibitive effects on the body and began experimenting with how much or little I could “get away with”. As years went on, I discovered my body’s unique response to coffee, what stimuli induced a java-response and observed my body change in its reaction to receiving coffee. I’ve also been able to utilize my experience to work with clients in discovering how coffee affects them.
This is not to say coffee is without its benefits. Anyone pushing a deadline will attest to its ability to speeding up thought processes and increasing the ability to focus. Exercisers often use a jolt to boost their workout. What caffeine does is allow you to work at a higher intensity without really feeling like you are pushing yourself that much harder. These benefits are the fight-or-flight response in action. Caffeine causes the fight-or-flight hormones to be released into the bloodstream, causing the body to respond as it would in a high-intensity emergency situation. Blood is pumped more rapidly through the body as heart rate quickens and the body is ready to go-go-go! We think more quickly, move faster, feel less pain and discomfort, and time itself seems to go by a little quicker. This happens regardless of whether you are running a race or sitting at your desk.
As can be expected, chronic emergencies over long periods of time wear the body down. It is important to realize that your body cannot physiologically distinguish the difference between nearly getting in a car accident and having a latte.
Over several years, stress-related illnesses begin to arise and we see such symptoms as high blood pressure, blood sugar and digestive disturbances, heart disease, poor moods, difficulty losing weight, decreased performance and tolerance to higher and higher doses of caffeine to function (or finding that non-functioning occurs if it is not consumed). While studies are in conflict regarding coffee’s direct role in heart disease, cancer and other health problems, there is no doubt that stress is a contributor to these diseases and that coffee stimulates the stress response in the body.
If some of these symptoms are present in your life, you may need to address the role that caffeine and other stimulants play in your day.Â Begin by observing your habits and making efforts to decrease the amount of caffeine you are consuming. I find that coffee is the gasoline that brightens my flame when oxygen (Primary Food) is a little low. I reach for it when I am feeling lonely or disconnected from others because of its strong ties to old memories and its psychological boost. I also crave it when I am not taking care of myself in other ways – like getting enough sleep or incorporating enough play into my life.
These days, I remain largely symptom-free because of my understanding of how caffeine affects me. I now engage in what I refer to as “medicinal doses” of coffee as needed. When I am pushing a deadline, have a short stint of busyness or am feeling a little homesick I’ve been known to have some coffee for a time to get me through. I recognize this as a short-term solution that needs a more creative long-term response and act appropriately.
How does coffee affect you – boost positively and negatively?
Have you struggled to cut back or quit coffee, sodas, or energy drinks?
For those of who who successfully abstain, what have you noticed?
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