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Caffeine: On the Human Body & Mind
It really baffles me how corporate caffeine has become. It’s not just one of the drinks on the menu like a glass of OJ or some milk. No; full-on restaurants – a.k.a. Cafés - have been opened dedicated to the production of espresso and coffee drinks. Huge corporations and businesses rely on the demand for caffeine. And what does the demand rely on? Its source of life is derived straight from the addict themself. Just how addicted are we? How much money are these “big” business people making off your own cycling addiction?
Now this is nothing against those quaint little local spots where students, bikers, hipsters, surfers, or whoever go to enjoy a hazelnut latte for socializing, studying, or whatching an open mic session. But it breaks my heart every time I see a brainwashing advertisement exploiting the holidays for Starbucks’s pumpkin spice latte. It looks so sweet, so warm, so inviting. The funny thing is that it seems so innocent and comforting, but all it really has to offer is one more step towards addiction and stress… every…single…day.
Caffeine is addicting. We all know that. Now before you divert your attention and start thinking, tell me something I don't know, just hear me out. Many of us have experienced caffeine withdrawal to some extent, but most of us don't even consider bothering to really detox from it. Why not? Because caffeine is addicting! That means, in order to detox, we have to go through headaches, muscle stiffness, chills, hot flashes, etc. Does this sound innocent and harmless? Does this not say something about what our physiology is and is not meant for? Not only does it make so many of us dependent on the drug, but it becomes part of our daily routine. Routine is like our brains way of preventing anxiety and creating a sense of control in our lives. That morning cup of coffee every day is what comforts addicts not only physically, but subconsciously - which is the deepest level of the mind; and therefore, harder a habit to break. Addicts become hypnotized to this cycle - this trap. They can not and will not physically or mentally function with out caffeine in their blood.
Why is this bad? What do these detox symptoms signify? Our bodies are extremely smart. No matter what we do, no matter what we put into it, our bodies are always trying to work toward our benefit. Upon the thousands of functions our bodies can perform, a very important one that often goes understated is our endocrine system. To put it simply, in our bodies, it is The System of all systems. Think of it as a communication system-a "wireless network" because its signals are hormones. To understand the weight of this, consider this from National Geographic's Body: The Complete Human:
"In general, the everyday effects of the endocrine system may go unnoticed by the casual observer. The processes and functions regulated by hormones appear seamless and smooth, making it difficult to appreciate the power of the system when everything is running smoothly. But the endocrine system's impact becomes dramatically apparent when the body enters adolescence and begins to go through puberty...(Which) doesn't occur overnight; it is a series of changes and events that occurs over longer stretches of time, like many processes regulated by the endocrine system."
In The System, the heart, the brain, thyroid gland, digestive system, adrenal glands, kidney, pancreas all communicate with each other via hormones, chemical in nature. Are you starting to realize what this means for us? When we consume just enough of a powerful stimulant like caffeine, The System of glands in our bodies become overstimulated. Our hormones are just going off like crazy! Our heart rate goes up, digestion speeds up, we become more focused, our reactions are more clean-cut. This all feels so good - for a while. But when you constantly crank out the hormones, putting your System under endless stress, the beautiful, mysterious, intelligent System gets burned out. Is it really worth that non-fat mocha with extra foam? As if making it "non-fat" is making it healthier choice. Non-fat my ass. (Hint: fat is not the problem.) Take a minute to think about what that means when The System is burned out. Let's take the pancreas for example:
"When the pancreas pumps out too much insulin due to chronic spikes in blood sugar, blood sugar levels swing from high to low. So do one's energy, mood, and mental cognition. This person spaces out easily, has poor short-term memory, is grouchy and explosive if she goes too long without eating, and is prone to crashing...(leading to) reactive hypoglycemia." (Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? by Datis Kharrazian)
Hypoglycemia - low blood sugar. That right there is a whole set of issues within itself. And this is only one section of The System. There's also the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland secretes hormones that regulate energy, metabolism, growth and development for bones, muscle, hair, etc., nearly every cell in the body. It's what keeps us warm when we walk out into the cold air; sending signals to our brain to increase our body temperature. However, when that gland is burned out - then what? We struggle to stay warm, we feel lousy with all kinds of unexplained symptoms: fatigue, weight gain, depression, constipation, hypersensitivity to cold weather, poor circulation and numbness in hands and feet, cramps, susceptibility to infections and colds, itchy dry skin, hair falling out easily, facial swelling, etc. What bothers me the most is that these kinds of things are written off as normal. Average. Typical. Reasonable. Standard - especially in our caffeine driven culture! This is absolutely a cause for concern.
Speaking of concerns, one thing that really got to me was caffeine on the brain. Caffeine addiction stimulates The System (over and over and over...), right? Well part of The System are the pineal gland, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland; all glands in the brain. Over a long period of time, caffeine (especially weekly or daily) contributes to a severly negative response to stress - particularly depression and/or anxiety. This is because people with depression and anxiety, to different extents, lack dopamine (the pleasure chemical) and serotonin (the calming chemical) - both "feel good" chemicals triggered in the brain.
"Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter. That's why the substances that raise dopamine levels - chocolate, caffeine, nicotine, marijuana, and many recreational drugs - are so popular. Although these substances initially elevate dopamine levels, long term use eventually causes dopamine deficiency." (Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? by Datis Kharrazian)
We all know at least one person (or even ten) who go through their day with constant mood swings, are tired and ready to sleep by five o'clock every night. That person who can't focus or drive without a cup of coffee in one hand and a donut in the other and sits there wondering why they feel so bad. That person who is so used to caffeine in their System, they can drink a full cup of dark, sugary hot chocolate right before they go to bed at night. So many of us have become slaves without even realizing it. Just because the government provides it doesn't make it good for us to have. Just because it's thrown in our face all the time, disguised as stress relief or mood elevation, doesn't mean that it is. Don't be a slave to their system, take care of your own. I want to accurately get this message across in order for you to see why caffeine is so secretly damaging on ourselves and, in turn, everything we do in the world. You may think it is a bit dramatic over a cup of coffee, but it is only because I clearly see that it's the sum of all the little things in life that damage us the most.