Coffee : A dangerous love affair?

Many of us drink our morning coffee every day without realising what it actually does to our bodies. 

There are many arguments for and against coffee. In small doses, caffeine can have a stimulating and energising effect. There are also studies of how caffeine can help with certain health issues or reduce risks. 

But over the long term in large doses, caffeine can have negative consequences to our health. 

I once had a coffee habit of 3+ shots per day. Needless to say, I was jittery, scattered and not sleeping properly. This created an unhealthy cycle of poor quality sleep which I then tried to make up with even more coffee. It just didn't work and led to health issues. 

How caffeine negatively affects the body: 

  • Stimulates the stress hormones in the body which creates the 'fight or flight' response.
  • Sleep - the ability to fall asleep and sleep quality can be poor.
  • Digestive system - caffeine can affect acid levels and irritates the gastrointestinal tract. It can also stimulate the digestive system to empty too quickly, affecting proper digestion.
  • Mineral deficiency - caffeine can especially affect magnesium absorption. 
  • Addiction and anxiety - caffeine can be addictive and can increase anxiety levels. 
  • Tolerance - the body gets used to the caffeine level over time. This can lead to consuming more and more caffeine to feel the initial 'buzz'.

Whilst stopping cold turkey may be difficult, there are benefits to reducing the amount of caffeine you are consuming. 

A good place to start is to assess how much caffeine you are consuming per day, and find gentle ways to cut down. Whilst this article focuses on ways to cut down on coffee, be aware that caffeine can also be found in some teas, soft drinks and chocolate. 

Steps you can take to reduce your coffee intake: 

  • Reduce your coffee to 1 shot. A large coffee usually has 2 shots of caffeine. Try a small or regular sized coffee instead - or a piccolo or macchiato. This can also help reduce calorie intake. 
  • Rather than reaching for a coffee first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, eat breakfast first. This will help to reduce acid issues and give your digestive system time to wake up. 
  • Replace some of your coffees with healthier options. Teas, herbal or green teas, water, bone broth or chai lattes can all be healthier substitutions. Be mindful though that some teas and other drinks also have caffeine. 
  • Sip it slowly. Enjoy your coffee and the time taken to prepare it, instead of gulping it down. Savour it as a treat. 
  • Listen to your body. How does coffee make you feel? Not all coffee is the same and some coffee can make you feel worse than others. 
  • Keep it for the AM. Drinking caffeine within several hours before bedtime can affect sleep and sleep quality. 
  • Take a break. Try a week off caffeine to detox and reset your body. 

Cutting down on caffeine can cause withdrawal effects, such as headaches, tiredness and muscle pain. Cutting down slowly and drinking lots of water will help minimise these symptoms. Over time your body will adjust to the new caffeine level. 

I still enjoy my morning coffee - but I have found that following the above tips have helped me to have a much healthier relationship with coffee. Taking positive action towards your coffee habits will make you feel better and healthier too!



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