I really enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning!
A recent study by CAIDE (Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging, and Incidence of Dementia) found drinking 3-5 cups of coffee per day midlife is associated with a decreased risk of dementia by about 65%. However, it is common knowledge that coffee also has certain negative effects on our health - especially anxiety.I have tried relentlessly to give up coffee but after torturing myself with a few days of withdrawal symptoms, I always find myself going back to my morning cup of Joe. I quickly realised I was going about this the wrong way, so I had better tackle my coffee habit from another angle.
I wanted to grasp a deeper understanding of the negative impact coffee was having on my body, particularly regarding my mental health. I learned that the body naturally produces a steroid hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is vital for our health; it regulates important processes such as metabolism and the immune system but one of the most significant roles cortisol has on our mental health is the way it helps our body respond to stress. This is because cortisol is produced by the adrenaline gland which contributes to the human’s natural survival instinct – Fight or flight.This instinct has allowed humans to survive for thousands of years during our historic existence but during these modern times, life is more civilised and the fight or flight syndrome can sometimes be a hindrance.
We still have our primitive instincts in a civilised society!
The level of cortisol in our body is at its highest during the first few hours of the day. Couple this together with tiredness caused by a restless night’s sleep, the constant thought of demanding tasks and other daily commitments, it’s no wonder the morning can sometimes be the most stressful part of a working day.
No wonder I’m not a morning person
My regular early morning routine always included the consumption of coffee. I even bought a coffee machine with a timer to ensure my coffee was ready as soon as I woke up. I must admit, the smell of freshly made coffee as I walked into my kitchen was heavenly. The trouble is coffee contains caffeine which elevates the body’s natural cortisol level. Too much cortisol can lead to rapid weight gain, muscle weakness, diabetes and of course increased stress and anxiety levels.
Breaking the routine
After I researched the effects of caffeine, I found that it wasn’t necessarily the consumption of coffee that was the issue, but the actual time I was consuming the coffee when my cortisol level was already naturally high. I began to change my routine, when I woke up I drank at least a pint of water with my breakfast before I left for work. I didn’t have my first coffee of the day until at least 2 hours after I had woken up when my cortisol level had reduced. This was a complete gamechanger for me, I didn’t experience any withdrawal symptoms because I was still getting my coffee fix but not experiencing the adverse anxiety effects.
Timing is key
I must admit it was trial and error, but I soon learned to completely avoid late afternoon cups. Coffee takes approximately 45 minutes to take its effect as a stimulate but this stimulate can last for around 3-5 hours. In fact, research suggests that coffee can take up to 10 hours to completely clear out of our system. Fantastic when you have lots of tasks to complete, not so good for when you want to relax in the evening to prepare for a good night’s sleep.
I found timing is definitely the key when it comes to drinking coffee!
After all this talk about coffee - I’m going to put the kettle on!