Hey there, good to see you!
This past weekend I was out of town staying with a non-coffee-drinking friend. As it wasn’t part of her routine to stumble to the coffee pot immediately upon waking, and I was in no condition to didn’t feel like leaving her place to scout out some good java, I went without.
Flash forward to five hours later, and I had a gruesome headache. At first I wrote it off as a result of staying up too late and sipping on vino over girl talk the night before. But it seemed to me that I should have recovered from both by the time we made it to our dinner reservation that evening. On the way to the restaurant, a thought occurred to me and I ordered a cup of coffee right after we were seated. By the end of the meal, my headache was gone.
This surprised me because I am not a coffee guzzler. I enjoy two cups every morning; one while I’m doing my makeup, and another when I get to work. I’m not the person who goes back to the coffeemaker over and over throughout the day. Surely missing my morning cup for a day couldn’t have been enough to propel me into the throes caffeine withdrawal!
Wikipedia, citing a National Geographic Magazine article, states that “Studies have demonstrated that people who take in a minimum of 100 mg of caffeine per day (about the amount in one cup of coffee) can acquire a physical dependence that would trigger withdrawal symptoms that include headaches, muscle pain and stiffness, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, depressed mood, and marked irritability.”
Whoa. In as little as one cup of coffee a day?
This article from Smithsonian.com explains why. Basically, our brain cells have receptors for a molecule called adenosine. Adenosine occurs naturally in the brain as a byproduct of natural cellular processes. Adenosine typically finds its way to the adenosine receptors, and when they do we feel tired. Caffeine effectively blocks those receptors, so that we don’t experience the feeling of tiredness. Our brain cells actually learn to grow MORE adenosine receptors to make up the difference, which we continue to block with more caffeine. We develop a tolerance.
So, guess what happens when you stop drinking caffeine? Now you have more adenosine receptors opened up, and nothing to block the adenosine from locking into them and making you feel tired.
It’s no wonder I was feeling withdrawal!
Looking into things a little further, I was still more surprised to find a multitude of articles which actually were singing coffee’s praises. This one and this one both agree that drinking coffee regularly can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They also claim reduced risk for certain types of cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Granted, they point out that these studies were conducted with black coffee, or coffee with very little milk and sugar. The health benefits likely don’t extrapolate to your morning latte (or, if you’re like me, your flavored creams). But, notably, nothing in these articles raised any concerns about caffeine dependency.
So what gives?
Like anything else, there are two sides to the story. One week something is good for you, the next, it’s bad for you.
I’ve been employing the “moderation is key” idea in lots of things for a long time now, and I decided to give it a try with coffee. What if I could make it a treat instead of a daily habit?
So as of Sunday, I haven’t indulged. Check back for my next post to see what I’m finding out!
Caffeine dependence is something that I struggle with as well, definitely something to work on!