Monday, September 10, 2012

Ah... the smell of coffee in the morning!

Most coffee lovers would agree (Including myself a native of Seattle - coffee central!), there’s nothing better than the smell of a fresh cup of coffee in the morning. As the aroma permeates the room, the senses are awakened. There’s nothing wrong with that first cuppa, but sadly the novelty and benefits start to disappear; as more cups are poured throughout the day attempting to recreate that first stimulating hit many of us have become addicted to.

Many people these days are making the switch to coffee alternatives, these people are attempting to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle. As with most drinks besides our precious water, coffee is only beneficial or acceptable when taken in moderation.

What are coffee alternatives?

Alternatives to coffee can provide the same pick me up benefits without as many negative side effects of excessive caffeine intake. We know that there will never be no substitute for the distinct character, taste and aroma provided by our loving coffee beans. Below I've categorized several coffee alternatives. This list will hopefully be a good start to help you break the cycle - or at least give you a switch up every once in a while when you feel the coffee running a little thick in your veins.

Energizing alternatives to coffee:

Reasons to drink coffee alternatives:

  • Bad breath – coffee leaves a residue that clings to the plaque in your mouth and infiltrates your digestive system. Traces of this residue are expelled back into the air every time you breathe out.
  • False sense of energy – the pick me up benefits are only short term. The energizing effect usually ends after the first one or two cups. Continuing to drink throughout the day makes you feel as though you have more energy but you don’t really – it does not help fatigue.
  • Hot coffee brings on hot flushes. It’s the combination of heat and the caffeine which causes the trigger. For example, having a chilled cola or hot herbal tea is fine.
  • Excessive coffee intake can aggravate the symptoms of incontinence (involuntary loss of urine). As a diuretic, caffeine irritates the bladder and stimulates muscle contractions. Coffee also contains other substances which irritate the bladder.
  • Caffeine disrupts sleep patterns.
  • Causes discomfort for people with irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Overuse increases the risk of heart palpitations.
  • Whilst unlikely to cause stomach ulcers, drinking coffee increases discomfort of peptic ulcers, since there is an increase in levels of stomach acids.
  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) – caffeine intake contributes to anxiety, irritability and breast tenderness.
  • Exacerbates the symptoms of Raynaud’s Syndrome by constricting blood vessels.
  • Giving up coffee has been shown to relieve restless leg syndrome.
  • Stress – large amounts of caffeine aggravates physical symptoms of anxiety and irritability.
  • Avoiding caffeine can help reduce tinnitus. The irritating noise can be worsened by blood vessels being constricted and temporarily raised blood pressure caused by coffee intake.
  • Stay away from coffee whilst you have a urinary tract infection. The caffeine can make peeing more painful. It can also increase the urinary urges by stimulating the muscular walls of the bladder.
  • Studies have shown that abstaining from caffeine (all caffeine & not just coffee) improves breast pain and other symptoms of benign breast changes.
  • Caffeine irritates the colon.
  • Dry mouth is worsened by caffeine.
  • Heartburn – caffeine and very hot drinks can irritate an already inflamed oesophagus.
  • Caffeine, not just hot coffee, can speed up dehydration and make you sweat more.
  • Impotence – since caffeine is a stimulant, it tends to constrict the smooth muscle that needs to dilate before an erection can occur.
  • Insomnia – caffeine should be avoided after 4pm to avoid disrupting your sleep.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks can be perpetuated with caffeine, because it recreates some of the symptoms experienced during panic attacks.
  • Caffeine is a drug and it’s addictive.
The news isn’t all bad.
Coffee does have benefits.
There’s no need to be stuck drinking just coffee alternatives. The recommended daily intake is two cups or one mug of coffee a day. So, unless your doctor advises otherwise, you can still enjoy that morning hit. Here are some incentives to take the guilt away:
  • Being a vasoconstrictor, coffee reduces the swelling of blood vessels that causes headaches. Drinking one to two cups of coffee can help reduce headaches and can also aid with a hangover. Keep your intake moderate to avoid jitters in addition to the hangover.
  • Studies have shown a lower risk of liver cirrhosis (particularly alcoholic cirrhosis) associated with properties found in coffee.
  • Reduces the risk of gallstone formation.
  • May help liver function by lowering levels of liver enzymes in the blood.
  • Reduces the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s, diabetes type 2 and gout.
  • Coffee contains antioxidants which have been shown to prevent free radicals from causing cell damage.
  • A study has shown that people who drink four cups of coffee or more per day have a lower risk of irregular heartbeat and other heart-rhythm conditions than non-coffee drinkers or people who drink one or two cups a day.


Switching to coffee alternatives

If you consume coffee regularly and suddenly withhold your daily dose of caffeine, your blood vessels will dilate. This will possible give you a headache as well as other withdrawal symptoms. If you wish to completely cut coffee out of your diet, going cold turkey will most likely cause withdrawal headaches and other symptoms like tiredness and mild depression for the first few days. To ease the situation, try gradually cutting down before taking the plunge into your coffee-free or coffee-a-day lifestyle.

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