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Cup Of Joe, Friend or Foe?

Posted by Rachelle Hidalgo on

It’s 3:00, the students have all gone home, and I’m alone in my classroom. I’m slumped in my chair, and a yawn creeps up on me. I’d really love a nap, but there are about 30 personal narratives written by blossoming fourth graders that have to be read, commented on, and hung on the colorful writing wall before I can go home. What’s my solution? I stumble into the teachers lounge and brew myself a cup of coffee. Yes! The surge of energy awakens my mind and body, increases my focus and energy, and makes me feel great! My productivity soars and those essays are graded and attached to the wall as I dance, stapler in hand. It seems as though I’ve found the answer for my daily fatigue. On the other hand, an exploration into the dark side of my favorite drug, caffeine, seems worthwhile. For example, why was I feeling the need to hibernate in the early afternoon? Coffee has been credited with many health benefits, but the truth is that there is a darker side to caffeine.

Although caffeine gives the consumer a pleasing dopamine high, the after effects and damage to the nervous system lead me to question if the benefits outweigh the risks. After having caffeine (in the form of coffee, soft drink, energy drink, or even chocolate), the body receives a rush of adrenaline (epinephrine), which can increase focus and productivity, but also puts the brain in a “fight or flight” mode. Blood pressure goes up, heart rate increases, the liver pours sugar into the bloodstream for energy, and muscles tighten up. This is when some people start to feel “jittery”.

Healthy energy doesn’t feel “jittery.” Natural cellular energy production occurs from ATP (adenosine triphosphate). As the energy cycle ensues, ATP breaks down and adenosine binds to adenosine receptors, causing drowsiness and slowing down the cell’s activity. This natural process allows people to feel tired and go to sleep. However, if caffeine is introduced, it attaches to adenosine receptors, blocking adenosine. When caffeine blocks adenosine, the nerve cell activity remains artificially high, the person feels awake and alert, but subsequently crashes. Although a person may be able to fall asleep a few hours later, the afternoon coffee will not allow for meaningful rest or deep sleep. Even if someone forgoes an afternoon coffee or energy drink, the morning cup of Joe will still lead to the p.m. crash, as the body is left feeling void of essential energy. It is possible that adenosine blockage is linked to the interference of ATP production. The body’s normal cycles are disrupted.

Even though I may realize what caffeine is doing to my body, the fact remains that it is quite addictive. The splitting headaches that accompany withdrawal make it difficult to pursue freedom from its clutch. The following is a five-step guide put together in an attempt to aid those wishing to quit caffeine.

First, get off of all synthetic caffeine sources, such as soft drinks and energy drinks. Synthetic caffeine is worse for the body than naturally occurring plant caffeine. Any drink label that lists “caffeine” as an ingredient has synthetic caffeine.

Second, combine an anti-stimulant with your stimulant. Examples of the best anti-stimulants are Reishi Mushroom, Holy Basil, and Mucuna Pruriens.

Third, gently lessen the amount of coffee or other naturally caffeinated sources and replace them with a substitute, such as Raw Revelation’s Coffee Fix or Latte Fix.

Fourth, restore ATP (real energy) with the help of essential nutrients, such as Magnesium, Iodine, MSM, and Vitamin B2 and B3.

Fifth, explore tonic herbalism. There are highly revered herbs that offer adaptogenic properties, which help the body to thrive in a truly balanced way. A great source is Raw Revelation’s Bag of Tricks.

Good luck on your journey. Here’s hoping for a rejuvenating new school year, sans Joe.