Monday, July 11, 2011

Wake up and smell the coffee... Or not?!

          Can you start your day without your regular dose of caffeine? I doubt that, because neither can I! Will it hurt us to skip that cup of coffee? We don’t know because none of us dare to. We don’t know because if we do, whatever happens will be blamed on that cup of coffee we didn’t drink. So what is the truth about caffeine? Where can we find it, how does it affect our state of mind and what if we withdrew from it?

          Caffeine is a substance found in coffee, tea, cocoa and other seeds. It is known for its anti-fatigue property. In fact, it is similar in structure to adenosine, a chemical found in the brain, responsible for slowing its activity. The competition between caffeine and adenosine makes the latter less available. Thus, it can heighten concentration and improve attention.
Within 30 to 60 minutes of consumption, caffeine reaches peak concentrations in the bloodstream and its effect lasts 4 to 6 hours; which explains why we start getting sleepy early in the afternoon!
          Presence of caffeine in the blood puts the body on “alert mode”. Therefore, it releases adrenaline, a “fight or flight” hormone, which has numeral effects: the heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, muscles tighten up ready for action, the liver secretes glucose into the blood stream in order to provide fuel for the body and blood vessels constrict. In consequence, our muscles tense up and we feel excited!
It is important to know that every person reacts differently to caffeine and that the amount consumed is very significant.
Linking caffeine with headaches is very common although there isn’t one opinion on whether it causes or relieves the pain. Well, the truth is: it depends on the amount! Headaches are the pain caused by swelling of the brain’s blood vessels. By constricting them, caffeine may have a double effect. Drinking too much can trigger headaches on one hand. And on the other, small amounts may relieve the pain once it starts.


          For the accustomed, skipping morning coffee may provoke headache and fatigue, aggravate mental performances (inability to concentrate) and affect the mood (irritability). Analgesics such as aspirin can improve and eliminate the pain symptoms as can drinking a small amount of caffeine. In fact, this is only possible when the intake of caffeine is no more than 200 mg, whereas, when it exceeds 500 mg, the effects are reversed: it can lower the intellectual capacities.


          For all of you out there wondering about caffeine, it is fair to say that, like any other substance, it has good effects in moderate doses. Skipping the habitual intake may be uncomforting and in contrast, no benefit can come out of excess. So instead of whining about headaches and low moods just go ahead, have that cup of coffee and have along with it a very nice day!!

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