I considered naming this post “For the Love of Coffee” or “To Coffee with Love.” To say I love coffee is an understatement. I love the smell of coffee. I love the taste of coffee. I love the act of brewing coffee: I own an automatic drip coffee maker, a french press, a cappuccino machine, a pour over coffee dripper, and a coffee grinder for grinding my own beans. I like coffee hot, iced, black, lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, and sometimes I make bulletproof coffee or even splurge with an Almond milk White Mocha or Vietnamese style coffee. Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts, and mocha almond fudge is one of my favorite ice cream flavors. So suffice it to say, I love coffee. Not to discriminate against tea. I am a fan of tea as well, and have a well stocked supply of flavors and teas with different therapeutic benefits, but coffee is my morning jam. ❤ So cutting back on how much I drink hasn’t been easy.
The sheer art of drinking coffee evokes a lot of great memories for me. My earliest memory is my mom and a neighbor mom sitting around the kitchen table in the 70s, drinking coffee and eating cookies. My mom used to let me dunk my cookies in her coffee, instead of milk. I think I started drinking coffee on my own when I was about 12 or 13, and have been drinking it ever since.
Caffeine increases dopamine. Dopamine is a neurochemical that activates the pleasure centers of parts of the brain. Caffeine increases dopamine similar to the way that amphetamines do. This increases alertness, and also may be part of what makes caffeine so habit-forming.
I have fond memories of drinking a hot cup of coffee while sitting around a camp fire on many a chilly morning, or on the deck of a beach or mountain condo while watching the sun rise. One of my fondest memories is sitting down for brunch and espresso with my family in the Piazzo San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) in Venice, Italy. We listened to classical music while we sipped our espressos, ate our first Italian meal, and just took in the sights and sounds of the square and the Basilica San Marco. It was a moment to be savored.
For the last year or so I noticed that if I drank coffee too late in the day, I wouldn’t be able to sleep well that night. As someone with fibromyalgia, sleep disturbances and non-restful sleep are already an issue and I don’t need anything aggravating that.
“Caffeine blocks adenosine, a neurochemical that increases in the body throughout the day. As adenosine builds up, you feel more sleepy and less alert.”
Caffeine suppresses melatonin. This is one key way caffeine can disrupt your normal sleep-wake cycle. It might surprise you to hear, but caffeine has an even stronger influence on melatonin suppression than bright light. This is also an important way caffeine affects your sleep-wake cycle.
So I cut back to no coffee after 2 pm. No afternoon runs to Starbucks for an iced coffee. Iced green tea doesn’t seem to have the same effect, however.
And then the last few months I noticed that even my usual morning coffee was giving me the jitters. It started when I was in Salt Lake City, so I figured it was related to the altitude, as I was feeling a bit off. But then it was still happening when I got home. My morning routine was two cups of strong black coffee.
I asked my husband to make it a little weaker. Still jittery.
So I finally cut back to just one cup of coffee a day, and maybe some regular or herbal tea. But, alas, I am missing my coffee. 😦
Caffeine and Pain
This is a dividing topic, as you will have people in both camps – pro and con. Caffeine is an additive to many pain relievers, such as Excedrin and BC (which my husband takes every night for his chronic knee pain, and sleeps fine). There are many studies suggesting that it is a potent pain reliever (Caffeine is a Potent Pain Reliever and Caffeine May Boost Pain Relief). Suggestions are that it:
- Interferes with the neurotransmitters that carry the pain signals
- Stimulates the body’s own pain killing mechanisms
- Stimulates the Central Nervous System to change the way the body processes pain signals
- Is a mood booster
- Helps pain medications reach the blood stream faster
- Can reduce post-workout pain
But when you read about Fibromyalgia among other conditions, experts say to avoid caffeine for these reasons, among others:
- Caffeine weakens the adrenal glands, sucking vital nutrients from other parts of the body
- Caffeine can cause stomach problems and aggravate conditions like acid reflux, ulcers and IBS
- Caffeine is one of the things thought to trigger fibro flares and having a net-negative effect on those suffering with fibromyalgia
- Heavy caffeine use (4 cups or more) is thought to worsen the pain of fibromyalgia
- High levels can exacerbate symptoms, as it can cause anxiety, insomnia, tremors, and depression
- Caffeine is linked to fibrocystic breast disease, a condition of lumpy, tender breasts
- Caffeine can weaken the bones by preventing calcium absorption, leading to osteoporosis
This article and the graphic below lists many of the positive and negative effects caffeine can have on the body.
So, as it is with many things in life, caffeine consumption is a personal choice. And the key is MODERATION.But moderation varies in everyone. “Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee,” according to the Mayo Clinic. But there’s something about people like me who suffer with fibromyalgia that makes us more susceptible to the side effects of drugs and I suspect caffeine as well, as it is the most common drug consumed. This amount of coffee would definitely give me the jitters.
But cutting back or going cold turkey is no walk in the park either. I suffer brutal caffeine headaches without my daily dose. So if you choose to cut back or cut out caffeine from your diet, make sure you do so gradually, weaning yourself off. And drink plenty of water while doing so, to stay hydrated.
Keep in mind that caffeine is in more than just coffee and tea: It’s in sodas, chocolate, energy drinks, supplements, over-the-counter diet pills, and other medications. There are many alternatives to caffeinated coffee: decaf, herbal teas, teeccino, and just drinking water. But to me, there’s still nothing like smelling coffee first thing in the morning, and holding a cup of steaming, hot, luscious, black elixir.
But First, Coffee
As I have recently taken a more deliberate approach to my health and well-being, I have found that cutting back on my caffeine habit has had benefits. No more nervousness or jitters and better quality sleep are definitely side effects I enjoy!
I have actually been experiencing less pain, which may be more a by-product of yoga and diet, but perhaps there is a correlation between caffeine and pain. Or perhaps it’s just all of these things are working together.
With many things in life that have questionable effects on the body, moderation is key. I am trying to keep to my 1 cup of coffee per day. I have to be steadfast in my healthy lifestyle choices in order to keep my fibromyalgia symptoms at bay, and cutting back on caffeine is just one more of those hard choices I have had to make.
Are you a coffee lover like me? Maybe you prefer tea? Do you suffer an ill-effects from caffeine consumption? I would love to hear from you!