ESTIMATED READING TIME 4 MINUTES
Had your morning coffee yet? If so, you’re not alone, because caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world, with an estimated 95 million cups downed in the UK per day.
But have you ever wondered why coffee makes you feel so good – and whether this might have its downsides? Turns out, your morning brew has a complex relationship with your stress hormones.
It’s Stress Awareness Month, which aims to highlight how stress can negatively affect health. In support, in this week’s blog you’ll discover how caffeine influences the way your body responds to stress.
Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant drug. It’s so popular because of the instant energy lift it provides, banishing tiredness and improving focus.
When you consume caffeine, it alters your body’s chemistry. One of its many effects is to cause a spike in the level of your stress hormone, cortisol 1 . This happens even if you habitually drink coffee, and levels of cortisol can stay high for up to two hours afterwards.
Let’s have a look now at what this means.
Cortisol is designed to help your body deal with stress. When your brain thinks you’re in some sort of danger, it tells your adrenal glands to release cortisol. This pushes up your blood sugar to provide a boost of energy, helping you to escape from danger quickly.
But cortisol should ideally only be released for short periods. If it remains high due to constant ongoing stress it can do more harm than good. And for many people, that’s the norm – too many responsibilities, constantly on the go, and not enough sleep. When you reach for a coffee to help you through it, this will simply pile on more cortisol, adding more stress. If you’re constantly stressed out anyway, adding in even a little extra stress from the effect of caffeine and your body has to work harder to counteract its negative effects.
Even though you are designed to deal with occasional stressors, the negative effects of constant stress are widespread. It affects every single cell in your body, but particularly plays havoc with your immune system and your gut. Over time, continuously high levels of cortisol cause your body to deposit belly fat, and trigger anxiety, carbohydrate cravings, immune system dysfunction, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, fatigue and insomnia. High cortisol levels make you feel ‘wired and tired’.
But cortisol is not the villain it’s often made out to be. It’s a very necessary part of health at the correct levels, but it should naturally fluctuate over a 24-hour period. As it gradually gets light in the morning, cortisol starts to be released, becoming highest around 8am. It then should taper off as the day wears on, dropping down throughout the evening, baselining at around 3am. Problems occur if it becomes out of kilter, and artificially spiking your cortisol levels by drinking caffeine will throw out this delicate balance.
If your cortisol starts off being too high early in the morning, you’ll probably wake up before dawn feeling anxious with your mind racing, only for your energy to crash mid-morning. If your cortisol is elevated late in the day, you’ll have trouble falling asleep, and you may find you’re worried and anxious in the evenings. This can be made worse by drinking coffee after midday.
High-street coffee chains vary enormously in how much caffeine they deliver per cup, with some medium cappuccinos containing a whopping 325mg caffeine 2. A shot of espresso contains around 75mg caffeine by comparison.
Caffeine isn’t only in coffee, it’s found in tea, cola and dark chocolate, too. A cup of black tea has about 45mg and green tea around 30mg. A square of dark chocolate contains about 8mg caffeine. There’s around 35mg in a can of cola, while some energy drinks contain as much as 80mg per can.
If you want to reduce your caffeine intake, it’s best to do it gradually. Caffeine causes tiny blood vessels in your brain to constrict. Take it away and these blood vessels dilate, leading to withdrawal headaches. These are much more severe if coffee is stopped suddenly.
You are individual and so is your response to caffeine. How much stress you have in your life plays a role in how well your body can deal with caffeine.
Certain genes dictate that some people detoxify caffeine far more slowly than others. So if this is you, you’ll be more sensitive to caffeine and feel the effects for longer. It seems some people may be more predisposed to have an exaggerated stress response to caffeine than do others, too.
If you think coffee may be stressing you out, we can help. Functional medicine offers bespoke health solutions personalised to your lifestyle and health goals. Contact Embracing Nutrition today to find out more.
Would you like natural support for your stress levels? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.
Please enter your details below and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
FOR ALL THE LATEST NUTRITION & WELLNESS NEWS & OFFERS
Login to your account to access your personal dashboard
Create your free account to gain access to free content and a customer dashboard to access your orders, appointments and subscribed courses. A verification email will be sent to the address provided.
Please enter your contact details below and some details of your Fibromyalgia for your discovery call and we will get back to you to arrange a suitable time for your FREE 15 Minute Call
Please enter your contact details below and some details of your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for your discovery call and we will get back to you to arrange a suitable time for your FREE 15 Minute Call
Please enter your contact details below and some details of your symptoms for your discovery call and we will get back to you to arrange a suitable time for your FREE 15 Minute Call
Please enter your contact details below and the reason for your discovery call and we will get back to you to arrange a suitable time for your FREE 15 Minute Discovery Call
If you wish to reschedule your appointment, please fill out the reschedule booking request form below.
Booking Re-schedules need to be approved and are processed manually. You will receive confirmation of your rescheduled booking once processed.
If you would rather cancel your appointment, then please close this form and select Consultation Cancel Request from the menu.
If an appointment is cancelled with less than 24 hours-notice 50% fee will be incurred. If an appointment is not attended a 100% fee will be charged.
If an appointment is cancelled with less than 24 hours-notice by Embracing Nutrition, a 50% reduction of your next appointment will be made.