Caffeine: The New Antidepressant?
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There is a new antidepressant on the market these days. Actually it is one that has been around for centuries, and it's also about as natural a commodity as you can get. What is it? It's that cup of coffee you drink one or more beverages of on a daily basis. You may be “taking your medication” as you read this article.
Studies show that your daily cup of Joe features antioxidants that can help the body’s immune system defend itself from many of society’s ailments; from Parkinson’s disease to Prostate Cancer and even Diabetes. But it is more for the mood enhancing features that make this beverage the most consumed drink in the United States and the world over. Stress is the body’s worst enemy. That and anxiety are known to deplete serotonin which lowers your mood. The nature of work today is very demanding, which leaves employees everywhere chronically stressed out. This explains why the first thing many people do when they get to the office is make that first pot of coffee.
Coffee itself is known to be a stimulant, so it is a good way to get a pick me up, and dopamine is known as the pleasure transmitter, which caffeine stimulates. Whenever we feel stimulated, it is because we have more energy and our dopamine is more readily available to our brains. Consequently, if we use that energy productively, we can get more work done and keep up with the demands that are placed upon us in the workplace. So there is some truth to the statement that all things are good in moderation. That just leaves the question of what classifies as moderation and how do you know when you crossed that line? The average coffee consumer drinks 2-3 cups of coffee per day with most connoisseurs drinking as much as 4-6.
Too Much Pep?
While it is easy to believe that coffee can be another form of natural medicine, even as a mood stabilizer for depression and anxiety, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Too much coffee, or any caffeinated beverage, can cause you to become nervous and jittery, and if you drink it too late in the day it can keep you up all night. Also, if you drink too much coffee to keep your energy levels "normal", it could be a symptom that you are self-medicating something a more serious condition, and you may need to consult with your primary care physician.
As with anything else concerning your health, you need to keep your doctor informed. If you are on medications and feel that the coffee works better than the medicine, then don’t go off your meds without talking to your doctor first. Coffee may help with feelings of mild depression and anxiety but it will not work as effectively for major depression. The same goes for the more serious mental illnesses known as Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. In fact, since these brain disorders involve a high level of dopamine, too much coffee can be dangerous.
However, if you have major depression, or something more serious, you would have to drink coffee all day to boost your energy levels consistently. This would go beyond moderation and would show you are out of balance, so chronic conditions that have severe symptoms will naturally require medications to be taken on a daily basis as prescribed by your doctor. If you have stomach and other digestive problems, such as Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD), you may not be able to drink too many caffeinated beverages - GERD is also known as Acid Reflux and, in many cases, coexists with illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Most physical illnesses are related to psychological causes, whether they are an affect or the underlying cause. That is if you understand the mind-body connection of course.
The same could also go for tea which is more popular in England. The good news today if you don’t like that bitter cup of coffee, you can add an assorted variety of flavored creamers today. The most popular is hazelnut and French vanilla. Since there is truth to all things in moderation, you can even add Jack Daniels to it for a little Holiday nip. However, I don't recommend any hard liquor, especially during working hours. Beverages such as soda, on the other hand, have more sugar than the average coffee and tea drinks. Too much soda can take the enamel off your teeth and leave you with dentures early in life. But the next time you need a pick me up, and it’s not something that is ongoing or chronic, just make yourself a cup of coffee, every now and again. Daily may be too much for some people, and remember - This is not something that you want to overdo.
Chronic stress, anger, and anxiety will be intensified through regular caffeine intake, so don't just throw back coffee all day because you read somewhere that it has some potential medicinal properties. In-fact, daily consumption may result in acid reflux and even a worsening of some depressive symptoms. Speak with your doctor if you believe that caffeine could be a small and intermittent addition to your diet, and remember to keep your anxiety and stress levels in check.
Rising stress, anger, and anxiety levels = No Caffeinated Coffee and Tea.
- Erwin Bishop