By Dr. Sara Hart
It’s amazing how much caffeine people can consume. The tolerance for eight ounces or three pots can be about the same perceived experience from one individual to the next. Caffeine can make for an incredibly exhilarating sensation with the heart pounding, inspiration rolling, mind sharp as a tack, and fingers drumming along the days work effortlessly.
Yet we all know the experience of over-doing it. Exploiting the clever substance as if to change our personalities to be more energetic, interesting and efficient. With the mountain of daily tasks most people try to accomplish these days, its no wonder caffeine is the #1 addicted substance in America.
Caffeine comes in many forms and is an amazing compound of nature’s pharmacopoeia. As with all things amazing, understanding the pros and cons, as well as the right dosage to use,
can make the difference between a panacea and a poison.
It was once said that coffee was meant to be consumed by the scientists and intellectual folks. It enhances the capacity to move thought rapidly forward, developing one concept into the next. In contrast, drinking tea is for the artists and those with a leisurely life. Its effect enhances the bouncing around from one thought to the next, growing ideas in every direction. Then there’s chocolate, known for it’s enhancement of love and sweet sense of satisfaction. We’ll not even discuss the caffeinated substances that nature did not intend: sodas, energy drinks, and various powders.
Coffee has a variety of components that affect physiology. Primarily, it is a powerfully bitter, acidic, and descending substance. Many people who consume coffee daily nearly depend on the substance to mobilize their large intestine and get the bowels moving to start their day. When used on a full stomach in the case of the end of a very large, rich meal this effect is supportive to the digestive process. However, consumed on an empty stomach, coffee wreaks havoc on the digestive system contributing to inflammation in the body.
Black and green teas also have variable levels of caffeine. Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant, enhancing neurotransmitter activity in the brain. It also works by increasing cortisol release from the adrenal glands, enhancing our perceived energy. Black and green teas are mildly descending substances and have beneficial anti-oxidant qualities.
Cacao is another of nature’s substances containing caffeine. Dark chocolate contains more caffeine than a cup of decaf coffee. It may stimulate alertness, contributing to a sense of euphoria, as well as agitation or insomnia. In combination with a variety of other compounds, cacao stimulates the nervous system to experience a greater degree of elation than coffee and higher propensity for addiction.
Good or bad? For the most part, when used moderately caffeine found in natural sources has many advantages for health. However, like all chemical compounds, the way the body processes it can be either smooth sailing or extremely difficult depending upon our personal biochemistry. Many individuals are caffeine sensitive, which suggests that the liver detox pathways that act upon the caffeine molecule are not performing as efficiently as they otherwise could. This may be genetic or a sign of liver stagnation and toxic overload.
If caffeine is something you choose to use, consider this: if you feel great doing it and you can also feel great without doing it, that’s ideal. Depending upon external substances for our sense of well-being suggests that we may not be living our lives in balance. Caffeine as a routine vice may become something that we regret if it contributes to our lifestyles involving higher degrees of stress than we can sustainably manage. If we can take it or leave it, then we may be better able to manage our stress and keep a healthy balance.