|Nasty side effects….
Caffeine, one of over 1 000 compounds found in coffee, influences our brain via our CNS by making us more alert and focused. This is the effect that most people who have coffee first thing in the morning rely on and also need. In addition, it affects our circulatory system, increasing blood pressure and heart rate; it affects our digestive system, reducing appetite and it affects our excretory system by increasing urination via its diuretic action. Coffee also stimulates bowel activity, which a lot of people miss when they give up caffeine. Caffeine influences brain function in three main ways:
Caffeine stimulates the production of dopamine, the same neurochemical that is responsible for the high you experience when you have an orgasm or use illicit, stimulating drugs, albeit with varying intensities involved. This is why caffeine is enjoyed by so many people: it stimulates the pleasure parts of our brain. It’s also why it’s so addictive, and unfortunately, over time, becomes less and less effective at producing the same high as the brain gets used to its effect and reaches ‘tolerance’. However, this isn’t the end of caffeine’s march through your CNS, because dopamine, after producing the lovely ‘high’ that allowed you to feel alert and capable, gets converted into adrenaline, which is the ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ neurochemical and is a lot less fun than dopamine. The brain is now on high alert expecting a threat to your physical survival so it shunts glucose to your muscles to allow you to fight or flee. This effect is what helps you to feel so focused and alert – after all, you’d need to be if a tiger was chasing you! However, the CNS has evolved to experience this state of hypervigilance for no longer than about 60 seconds which means that when you expose your brain to caffeine regularly throughout the day, your brain feels ‘threatened’ too often. This is not a natural pattern of neurological functions. In addition, to be able to produce adrenalin, the body needs a variety of important nutrients, the lack of which will impact health in other ways. So, if you are drinking a lot of coffee, you are also using up a lot of nutrients required for other purposes, one of which is producing energy naturally.
The next two steps that occur in the brain when you consume caffeine are related to sleep. The first is related to a neurochemical called adenosine. Caffeine blocks the production of adenosine that normally starts being produced when you awake in the morning. Adenosine levels should naturally rise during the day because they lead to you feeling sleepy towards evening and make sleep top-of-mind. However, with caffeine’s interference this doesn’t happen and the natural buildup of adenosine doesn’t happen so falling asleep and staying asleep become challenging. Caffeine fits into the adenosine receptor site, which is what stops its production, and this also leads to a further increase in adrenaline production.
The next step related to sleep that caffeine interferes with is the production of the hormone melatonin, which is the hormone produced in the pineal gland. This is the part of the brain that is sensitive to light and dark and manages our circadian rhythm. When darkness falls, melatonin tells your brain that it’s time to go to sleep and helps you to stay asleep, allowing for deep, rejuvenating sleep. Some people can have a cup of coffee just before bedtime but they are the exception to the rule.
Coffee raises adrenaline and cortisol, a stress hormone, which is also an inflammatory compound. Research in 2004, where 3 000 participants consumed two cups of coffee per day over an almost two-year period, showed elevated levels of IL6, TNF and CRP, all inflammatory markers found in blood. In fact, they had between 28 and 50 percent higher levels of these three markers than non-coffee drinkers.
For more Freecaf coffee info listen to Dan from Freecaf’s podcast ‘The Well Being Bean’!