Twice in my life I have given up my addiction to coffee–when I was pregnant. Each time I said I wouldn’t go back, but each time I did. And I’ve always felt a little guilty about my morning cup or two, like it is somehow a small character flaw that I can’t function in the morning, or can’t function as well, without my cup o’ joe.
But recently I started wondering about the health effects of caffeine–was coffee triggering my hot flashes? Headaches? Does my heart “race” after a cup of espresso or am I imagining that?
I did some homework. Turns out, caffeine has many good qualities and my mind was put to rest in some ways, and I became more caution in others. It also turns out I am consuming a lot more caffeine than I thought.
Here are some caffeine facts, the good and the bad, that I learned:
- Caffeine doesn’t appear to trigger hot flashes (though there are scientists who say that it does) but, by consuming a hot beverage, my internal or “core” temperature rises. That’s why paramedics give hot tea to someone who is shivering from hypothermia, to raise their core temperature. So if my core temp goes up AND I happen to get a hot flash at the same time, it makes the hot flash feel so much worse. That’s one reason to cut back.
- Caffeine doesn’t cause headaches and can even help alleviate them, depending on their type. One common treatment for migraine headaches is caffeine, because it contracts your blood vessels, even in your brain, which can help a migraine. Further, if you have plain-vanilla headaches (not migraines), a lot of over-the-counter remedies, including those for colds, contain caffeine. Studies show it actually increases the effectiveness of pain relievers.
- Caffeine probably has a negative effect on calcium absorption, and therefore is a problem for those of us in menopause or who are post-menopausal, because of our tendency toward osteoporosis anyway. It also hinders the absorption of iron (which helps maintain healthy blood) and magnesium (which is important in a lot of ways).
- Yes, my heart may indeed “race” after my second cup of coffee, because coffee releases stress hormones like adrenaline and norephinephrine. I’m not prone to “panic attacks” and I don’t have atrial fibrillation (heart flutters), but if I did, I’d think twice about ingesting any caffeine cuz those are scary conditions. A panic attack is just as bad as it sounds and a-fib makes you feel like you’re having a heart attack (even though you aren’t). But the thing is, how do you KNOW you’re not?
I’m going to keep researching this and write about it in a few days, too. Caffeine is such an integral part of many of our daily lives that I think it bears a little more investigation.
Photo compliments of Ahmed Rabea.