Coffee and your health; the good and bad

Coffee and Your Health: Maximizing the Positive, Minimizing the Negative

Coffee is much more than a simple beverage — throughout history, it has symbolized everything from wealth and gentrification to rebellion and sedition. Today, the caffeinated beverage is a daily staple for approximately 64% of Americans. Yet we still see plenty of conflicting information regarding coffee. One week, news sources claim that coffee reduces workplace stress. The next week, it’s touted as a leading cause of health issues ranging from insomnia to anxiety.

The truth regarding the health benefits of coffee is more complex and multi-faceted. Too much of anything can negatively impact your health, of course; thus, moderation remains key to minimizing the potential negative effects of coffee consumption.

Coffee and Socialization

Four friends socializing with coffee

Even the most knowledgeable coffee aficionado may assume that coffee shops are a recent invention. After all, modern coffee shops essentially co-exist with capitalism, a phenomenon that’s easily seen in the ubiquity of Starbucks. As of 2018, there were more than 14,000 Starbucks stores across the U.S., which accounts for less than half of the total global number.

Whether it’s a Starbucks franchise or a locally owned cafe, modern coffee houses typically see solo patrons. Coffee shops are popular with freelance writers and similar members of the gig economy, and crowds tend to be rather subdued. But the nation’s earliest coffee houses were much more boisterous and often served as community gathering places.

By the mid-17th century, European coffee houses had emerged as choice public meeting spaces, where social activity and stimulating conversation were encouraged. Across the Atlantic, coffee shops played an integral role in the Revolutionary War, serving as gathering spaces for rebel leaders as well as hubs for commercial activity. To this day, coffee occasionally enters the political arena, especially during presidential election years.

The Negative Health Effects of Coffee

Coffee house patrons of the past understood little about coffee’s negative consequences, instead praising the beverage for its stimulating effects. But the daily consumption of coffee isn’t exactly a harmless habit, even if you stick to decaf. The negative health effects of coffee can range from the discoloration of teeth and deterioration of our stomach lining to insomnia and high blood pressure.

Some of coffee’s more pronounced ill effects, such as insomnia, may require the intervention of a healthcare provider. Others can be easily managed or treated at home. For instance, the prominence of teeth stains caused by coffee can be reduced by drinking water alongside and after your coffee. Choosing a coffee that contains lower acidity levels may also help combat teeth stains.

Dental professionals report that coffee tops the list of foods and beverages that stain teeth the most. Coffee may even contribute to more pronounced teeth staining than tobacco smoke. Thus, heavy coffee drinkers (those who drink more than three coffee beverages per day) should be mindful of tooth hygiene.

Another health-related side effect of coffee involves one of the beverage’s most coveted features: Caffeine. The stimulant is considered to be the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug, but caffeine's pervasiveness doesn’t mean that it’s inherently good for you. On the contrary, caffeine is actually classified as a psychoactive drug, and symptoms of excessive caffeine consumption may include restlessness, an irregular heartbeat, and irritability.

Coffee’s Complex Role as a Mood Booster

Coffee break

In some ways, coffee is contradictory. Partake too often, and you may end up jittery, restless, and teeming with anxiety. That’s because caffeine increases the production of a variety of “feel good” hormones, including adrenaline, dopamine, and cortisol. The effects of a coffee-induced adrenaline boost can wear off quickly, leading to fatigue and anxious feelings.

Yet coffee has also been shown to relieve the symptoms of stress, and it may help you to better focus on particular tasks. This is why the midday workplace coffee break has become so ingrained in popular culture. Therefore, each individual must find their own perfect balance of coffee consumption in order to fully reap the benefits of an adrenaline boost without the negative repercussions.

So what happens when your coffee consumption begins to exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and/or other hormonal imbalances? As previously mentioned, moderation can help keep caffeine-induced anxiety under control, or you may consider switching to decaf. You can also make sure to eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water throughout the day to help counteract the negative effects of caffeine.

Battling anxiety may require more than simple caffeine moderation, however. For many Americans, managing the symptoms of anxiety requires a combination of strategies that include stress reduction techniques, like yoga, mindfulness, and meditation, and the use of medication or herbal supplements. Having a strong support system and maintaining a positive attitude can also have a significant impact on anxiety reduction.

Is coffee an important part of your daily routine? 

If you’re among the millions of Americans who drink coffee every day, chances are that you do so on a schedule. For instance, you may end up drinking several cups of coffee before you’re able to get going in the morning. Or perhaps you always stop by your favorite coffee shop on weekday afternoons for a quick pick-me-up that can carry you through the tail end of a busy workday.

The good news is that your reliance on coffee can be advantageous when it comes to staying organized and on schedule. Studies indicate that adopting a solid daily schedule has numerous benefits, such as:

  • Increased productivity.
  • Improved mental health.
  • A reduction of bad habits.
  • More control over your life.

And for aging Americans, sticking to a strict routine may even help combat the effects of dementia or Alzheimer’s. In some ways, your morning routine serves as a healthy investment towards your continued aging. You can further promote wellness as you age by maintaining a healthful diet, exercising regularly, and reducing your coffee intake to less than three cups a day.

Making Peace With Your Coffee Habit

It’s easy to reap the positive benefits of coffee while also avoiding the negatives. No matter your age, a healthy coffee routine is one that involves moderation and an overall awareness of personal health. Even if coffee breaks are a cornerstone of your day-to-day schedule, you should remain mindful of the effects of over-indulgence.

If coffee induces feelings of anxiety, for example, consider cutting down your daily intake, or substitute decaffeinated beans for the traditional version. In addition, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to help brighten your smile and keep fatigue at bay.

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