Caffeine—should we wean?
By: Lisa Morrone, PT
The two times in my day that I truly savor are when I get my hands around a steaming mug of lightened and agave-sweetened black (caffeinated) tea. Sipping that wonderful elixir seems to just ease my soul…It must be a drug!
Well, in fact, it is. Not my tea specifically, but the caffeine which can be found “floating around” in it! Sadly I must admit that I’m addicted to it. How ‘bout you?
So what exactly is this fondly-regarded drug all about? Is there any cause for concern? Should I (and you) try to wean from this naturally occurring chemical found in coffee, tea, and chocolate, and added “unnaturally” to energy and soft drinks?
Most people know that caffeine is a stimulant. Here’s how it actually works to keep us alert: In the normal course of a day, our body’s cell activity produces a waste product called adenosine, a “sleepy hormone” if you will. This hormone travels to the brain, and the more that collects there, the more tired we feel. Caffeine acts to block this “sleepy hormone” from attaching to the brain’s receptors. When this event occurs, the brain (sensing something is frighteningly amiss) directs our adrenal glands to release a dose of the “fight or flight” hormone, adrenalin, into the blood stream in order to combat this perceived internal “emergency”.
The presence of adrenalin causes an increase in heart rate, blood sugar levels, muscle tone, and urination—which is why too much caffeine has a dehydrating effect on the body. So not only does caffeine block our natural “calming” hormone, it stimulates release of an “anxious” one!
The National Institute of Health and the American Heart Association agree that 1-2 cups of caffeine per day is not a problem for most people. However, if your blood pressure or sugar tends to be on the high side, you may want to cut this drug out of your diet altogether.
That said, I think it’s tea time!