Is this modern-day vice all that bad?
My liaison with coffee was born out of necessity and it swayed and morphed throughout the years, to carry me through exam seasons, long working hours, and sleepless nights.
It didn’t take long for my tastebuds to depend upon the substance at the ripe age of seventeen, and due to self-diagnosed lactose intolerance, I became intoxicated with the aesthetic, the smell and the perfect taste of a strong black coffee.
I have bounced to either end of the spectrum, days without coffee and days with more than my weekly recommendation, in the hope that the next sip would do what the last several hundred hadn’t.
When I had finally reached a healthy equilibrium of one, large, strong, cup a day, I found myself sitting in a nutritionist’s office. I explained that despite my near-constant stomach pains and constant drowsiness; I slept a wholesome eight hours most nights, I exercised regularly, I ate well and I only had one cup of the good stuff daily, black — no sugar and no milk.
I accepted that perhaps my fling with coffee was coming to an abrupt end, with an extra layer of pain than I had anticipated.
To my dismay, I received a very long list of intolerances, a key to my symptoms. And there it was, my biggest fear, in big, bold writing — coffee. All those cups over the years had pushed my body to the brink and it needed a break.
I began to ween myself off everything else on that list — the meat, the gluten, the dairy — but not coffee. It was impossible, and unjust.
It wasn’t until a dreadful bladder infection, in which coffee was a distinct irritant, that I accepted that perhaps my fling with coffee was coming to an abrupt end, with an extra layer of pain than I had anticipated.
The first few days resulted in predicted headaches and dizzying exhaustion.
By day five, I began to see a glimmer of light. The headaches had subsided and I began to feel lively after my morning green tea, rather than unbearably groggy.
By day 10, I was impressed, convinced I had kicked my coffee drinking habit. I felt daringly liberated, no longer restricted by the chains of my coffee dependency.
On day 15, I was up and active from the sound of my alarm, independent of a caffeine kick.
By day 20, I was cocky and deluded with grandeur. I scoffed at my previous self, who clung to coffee like a crutch. I began to think up ways to tell my story, to pass on my anti-coffee to others and help them.
On day 25, I accidentally took a sip of coffee, mistaking it for tea. The taste was so conventional, so natural to me, that it wasn’t until the second sip that I recognised what I was drinking, and had it yanked out of my hand by the intended recipient. I refused to admit defeat.
Day 30 came and I was proud, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been so attentively cognizant of my last coffee. In typical addict behaviour, I briefly considered rewarding my abstinence with a cup of the devil’s juice itself.
On Day 40, I had a terrible hangover and a busy day ahead of me, and without a second thought, I succumbed to my vice and rapidly guzzled the liquid gold, vowing never to relinquish the sacred juice again.
Coffee: Good or Bad?
Coffee has been demonized for decades, with doctors warning of its dangerous health risks. Yet, in latter times research has highlighted our misconceptions.
To a multitude of coffee lovers surprise, the studies are suggesting that coffee is in fact highly correlated with good health and longevity.
Still, a majority seem to be indoctrinated to argue that coffee is ultimately bad for our health. Perhaps, it is because subconsciously we believe that the taste and effects are too desirable for it to be good for us.
We are habitually told that all the items that taste good, be it pizza; crisps; ice-cream; alcohol; fizzy drinks; are all terrible for our bodies and have simply no benefits.
Yet, to a multitude of coffee lovers surprise, the studies are suggesting that coffee is in fact highly correlated with good health and longevity, despite previous revelations that it was linked to poor cardiovascular health and high blood pressure.
The Benefits of Drinking Coffee
Recent research has actually disproved a lot of our previous perceptions of coffee. In fact, in 2016, the World Health Organisation has actually taken coffee off the carcinogen list, so that’s one less cancer-causing item to worry about.
If you’re wondering what happened to all the studies that told us that coffee was a cause of bad health, well that’s simple. They were merely failing to look at the whole picture, and account for everything.
Oftentimes coffee drinkers also display other high-risk behaviours such as smoking, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity — things that we all acknowledge as detrimental behaviours.
Evidently, upon accounting for other risk factors, they discovered that coffee could be linked to a decrease in high blood pressure and a reduction in inflammation.
Despite previous contradictory evidence, a study in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Natural Productsfound that coffee is actually linked to a decrease in type two diabetes.
Another study, conducted by the National Institution of Health, concluded that coffee was associated with the reduced risk of all-cause and specific cause mortality from illnesses such as; liver disease, inflammation, Parkinson’s, and a decline in metabolic health.
As the most commonly consumed psychoactive worldwide, coffee stimulates the central nervous system. This can benefit our blood-sugar metabolism, and even our blood pressure, notwithstanding contrary belief, and this could protect against age-related mental decline.
In the short-term, coffee boosts brain function and neuroprotection by stimulating us and keeping us alert, and also by promoting the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
Several studies have even shown that because of its effect on cognition, coffee consumption could potentially lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s by 65%, and by 29%, Parkinson’s disease.
Coffee is also high in antioxidants, which can fight cancer and promote all-round health.
Coffee is simply delicious — need I say more?
The Benefits of Quitting Coffee
As I mentioned, I am intolerant to coffee, as I am to many things. But people generally assume, when they hear the word “intolerant”, that the problem is solely with the product, when in reality it lies within the person. Often with most intolerances, your body has been worn down by difficult to digest foods and simply needs time to heal before reintroducing these foods.
Over-consumption of coffee resulted in terrible stomach cramps and acid-reflux for me and quitting ensured intestinal healing, and gave me immense relief. However, as I said, this isn’t entirely the coffee’s fault. After all, it takes two to tango.
If you have a coffee at 12 pm, and go to bed at 12 am, it would be the equivalent to guzzling a quarter cup of coffee before switching off the light.
Sleep could be the best argument against coffee consumption. There is no doubt that as a stimulant coffee can damage sleep routine if consumed in high doses, or if one is particularly caffeine sensitive.
Sleep expert Matthew Walker says that coffee has a six-hour half-cup life and a twelve-hour quarter-cup life. What this means, is that twelve hours after consuming a cup of coffee, a quarter of that is still in your system. In other words, if you have a coffee at 12 pm, and go to bed at 12 am, it would be the equivalent to guzzling a quarter cup of coffee before switching off the light. Thus, problematic for your sleep.
In other words — know yourself. And if you feel it is affected your sleep, then perhaps try to have your coffee 12–14 hours before bedtime. Walker also suggests walking around or having a herbal tea when that caffeine crash hits in the afternoon.
Similarly, with arguments about jitteriness and increasing anxiety, one or two cups a day should not be the sole cause of an increase in anxiety. If you venture beyond your normal caffeine threshold, it will cause problems with anxiety and sleep.
Coffee is highly addictive for most, and with dependency comes tolerance. Quitting coffee breaks the cycle of caffeine addiction, and with lower dependency, there is less risk of withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and headaches.
It is important to highlight the cost of coffee. I didn’t notice a huge saving when I quit, however, I generally drink coffee at home. The profit margin on coffee is huge and a coffee here and there can add up.
If you find you’re coffee money outgoings are high, then switch to instant or cut back on your Starbucks.
So… Should We Drink It?
Coffee is not without its risks, and everyone is different. Ultimately it comes down to this — are you happy and are you healthy?
If you’re quitting coffee to be healthier, and you’re miserable, well maybe one cup a day won’t hurt?
If you’ve never had the stuff before, why start now? You do you.
As we’re told time and time again; moderation is key. All the doctors and health researchers only ever ask us one thing, and that is a balance.
Listen to you’re body, and go from there.
- Disclaimer — all the benefits of drinking coffee in this article are concerning black coffee. Coffee with milk or sugar or other caffeinated beverages can be highly detrimental for your health in high doses because of their large amounts of sugar and fat.*