Coffee. I drink it and I love it. But is it for everyone?

By Amy Crawford

There are so many schools of thought on caffeine and as far as I can see the pros and cons seem to balance each other out. I will make my thoughts clear at the very outset. I LOVE coffee. I have one piccolo (a strong, half latte - like an espresso just with milk) every mid morning that I am able (that is, able to get to a cafe). But I should make it clear that I am not addicted to coffee anymore, nor do I need it to get me moving in the mornings. I recall those days oh so well. A strong long black on route to work which was typically followed by a soy latte mid morning and probably another not long after lunch when the dreaded mid afternoon slump kicked in. Back in 'those' days (those adrenalin-addiction days), I 'needed' that caffeine and if I couldn't get it the headaches would scream at me until I made it happen. I recall one morning in my 20's being out on an ex's yacht on Sydney Harbour (we are talking tiny little almost-end-of-it's-days sailing boat...just making it clear that I'm not talking myself up here). I'd been running late and couldn't get my caffeine fix on route. An hour into the sail my head started pounding, migrane-worthy pounding. I was desperate. I'm not proud of this but hey, that was then. I found half a bottle of coke under a bench (it was my ex's boat/his old coke...so not as bad as it sounds) and I drank a few mouthfuls. Within minutes my headache disappeared. That spoke volumes about an addiction that needed to be dealt with.

Addictions are never are a good thing. When we have an addiction, regardless of whether it's caffeine, chocolate or a lover, we do not have control over that behaviour and this can become harmful - one thing can very quickly lead to another. But what I have here in my sweet little daily picolo is a habit which is an activity done by choice and one in which I could stop tomorrow if really necessary. So that makes me feel okay about my minor coffee consumption.

Here are some pros and cons for caffeine care of a recent lecture from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition:

Pros

  • It is an excellent antioxidant (these little beauties stop free radicals in their tracks and prevent them from doing ongoing damage
  • It can be beneficial for people with asthma
  • It contains minerals and antioxidants which can help prevent diabetes
  • It can assist with endurance during exercise
  • Some report an improvement in happiness, alertness and general wellbeing
  • It is known to improve concentration

Cons

  • Caffeine can amplify stress levels increasing stress hormones an elevating our perception of stress 
  • It can cause blood sugar swings
  • It is known to inhibit the absorption of nutrients
  • Given it is a stimulant it can increase stimulation of the adrenal glands which for many can lead to fatigue and other health disorders.
  • Research show that men can reduce their risk of prostate problems by eliminating caffeine from their diet.

I will say that I went cold turkey on my coffee intake at my CFS diagnosis for a good year. It was absolutely not my friend. I suffered adrenal fatigue, gut issues, digestive issues and a severely compromised immune system - coffee did not make this situation any easier. I did not cope at all with the extra stimulation it created. At my diagnosis I removed every single stimulant - coffee, sugar, alcohol. I was told that when my body was well enough I could choose just one of those (bar sugar!) to introduce back into my diet very, very gently (like one glass or cup a week). At the time I remember saying "Oh that's easy, I'll be having a glass of bubbly!" But no, the one 'vice' I missed was my daily coffee and it was the very first vice to return.

I love my daily 'habit' for a few different reasons:

  • It gets me out of the house meeting people - cafe owners, staff, locals. I love that. I work from home and am often alone. I would otherwise be socially starved.
  • I believe in mixing things up and leaving myself open to opportunity - so my coffee habit is a means by which I can spread myself around by trying out different cafes in different locations, intentionally not treading the same beaten path and waiting to see what evolves.
  • It makes me feel great - it definitely gives me a sense of heightened concentration, alterness and sociability.

I feel it really important that I say I believe coffee is a very personal choice. I don't recommend it or discourage it (I would however most definitely discourage it for someone with health issues negatively affected by caffeine). Many can't cope with it at all in their system. I do believe that if there is an addiction, it can become destructive. Addictions are never, ever good. So all I do recommend is that you try it out for size and listen to your body, feel how it responds. If it's not responding positively you know the answer!

Bottoms up people!

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Published:

January 31 2013

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