Coffee, enough said!

Posted By irvinechiro / Date Posted: 2015-09-17

Got your morning (or afternoon) Coffee in hand? For many out there, this would be a yes. Even if you said no, it might just be because you have just finished one. While in society today a mug on the table is about as Aussie as a piece of Vegemite toast for brekky, many are still hesitant to try this warm cup of goodness. Taste is undoubtedly a big drawcard but for many of us it all boils down to that rousing, invigorating, motivating little substance: caffeine.

When it comes to caffeine, there’s a lot of dissent among those who drink it and those who don’t. Much of this comes back to Caffeine being known as a stimulant and health experts telling us in the past to avoid its intake in excess.

Should we “can” caffeine?

We should first get the antioxidant issue on the table. Tea, coffee and cocoa, indeed, sport some lovely little flavonoids, but a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can offer the same. The issue is caffeine, the stimulant, itself.

As a stimulant, caffeine offers the temporary benefits of improved concentration, enhanced memory and an extra bit of energy.However, this “heightened” state has some unappealing physical effects as well. Obviously, there are the proverbial caffeine jitters and, for a few people who are either caffeine sensitive or who regularly overindulge, even abnormal heart rhythms. But there’s more. Recent caffeine consumption can reduce blood flow to the heart during exercise.

And, apparently, some of us are “slow caffeine metabolizers”, how about that. Being part of this crowd and partaking of caffeine, some research shows, puts us at increased risk for non-fatal heart attacks. Caffeine has been shown to also raise blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, caffeine induces heartburn in many people. Given that prescriptions targeting acid reflux are so common these days, I often wonder how much caffeine plays into many people’s symptoms. At a certain point for certain people, caffeine probably isn’t worth it just from that standpoint alone.

And then there’s the question of why we reach for the mug in the morning (and perhaps the afternoon). Is it really just a pick-me-up, or is it a band-aid for a larger problem like sleep deprivation, hormonal imbalance, lack of physical activity, lack of adequate sunlight, you name it. Are we really taking care of ourselves?

And is caffeine the only answer? Would heading out for a morning walk offer the same benefit? If you’re falling asleep at your desk come 2:30 p.m., would working out over the lunch hour make a difference? We’d argue that scrutinizing caffeine consumption is about the why, how much, and what else, more than a resounding yes or absolute no.

For some of us, in the end, a small amount of caffeine can be a true (and, arguably, truly needed) leg up. It’s a compromise we make in the context of our real, harried modern lives: business trips with inevitable jet lag, heavy workloads with last minute deadlines, teething toddlers we’re up with half the night, etc. We make a commitment to truly take care of ourselves day to day, but the caffeine option is there to help get us over the hump. It’s a moderate dose of concession in the midst of a busy and otherwise healthy lifestyle.

And maybe that can bring us back to the convenient antioxidant justification. If it should count as an indulgence, why not make it one with a few health benefits on the side?

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