The Ayurvedic Truth About Coffee

If you’re like every other person in this country, you probably have a lot going on. Me? I’m managing my own business, teaching pilates and yoga all day, raising a three year old, keeping my family intact and trying to find “me” time. It’s definitely non-stop 24/7, 365 days a year and can be hard to get a break or a rest.

Setting the alarm for 5:30am every morning makes my body pretty pissed off when it hasn’t had enough of that down time, but if I’m going to get any exercise, that’s the time I have to do it. So, Tuesday and Friday mornings, when the alarm blares in my face, it’s time to hit the track with my running group. That’s right. I’m feeling sleep-deprived and out-of-sorts, but ready to run. Some of those mornings I wish I had a caffeine drip implanted in my veins with me everywhere I go. Fighting the urge to go to Amante (my local coffee joint), trying to tell myself, “No, remember? You quit that drug!” And then the bittersweet feeling of giving in when I head on over and place my order. Like the needle to a heroin addict. My eyes are now wide open, my body vibrates with energy, and I am ready to go! I hit the track and score a great workout with excellent mileage, boy am I feeling on top of the world now!

Bam. A few hours later, I’m hit hard. That caffeine crash absolutely kills me. I transform into a groggy, moody sloth-like monster, feeling like a truck had just run me over. The next morning I can’t even get out of bed! That one shot of espresso I had ingested and thought I burned off when my shoes hit the ground had taken a severe toll on my body and mind. I knew this would happen, but it’s hard to be strong all the time. My body was soooo tired. Now, it’s payback time. I robbed the bank for energy I didn’t have and now I’m in debt. Instead of waking up on my own sometime before 6:15am, I find myself unable to get out of bed that next morning, staring at my alarm clock until it turned to 8:30am, when I could slowly peel myself from beneath the covers.

Do you too wish you had a caffeine drip attached to your nightstand helping you wake up each morning? Is it difficult for you to rub the sleep out of your eyes and get going without that special caffeinated kick? Over 90% of Americans drink coffee every day. And not just once a day, but at least 68 million Americans drink three cups a day! What is it that gets us so jittery about this juice?

As you probably know, you can find caffeine in chocolate, coffee and tea—which is natural caffeine. You can also find caffeine in drinks like sodas and energy drinks—that is unnatural caffeine and it is added to the drink rather than being a natural compound. Since caffeine is a stimulant to the nervous system, you create a mild physical dependence on it, which is why many people call it a ‘drug.’ If you’re on the kick, like so many other Americans, you feel it when you don’t get your fix for the day. Common symptoms include headache, fatigue, anxiety, irritability and a pretty tough time concentrating.

Caffeine does a number on your digestive track and if your body isn’t ready for the bitterness, it isn’t going to end well. In addition to mood swings (do you often feel like handing your boss a cup of coffee knowing you will have a better day if she drinks it?) it can cause insomnia, increased muscle tension, lower bone density, interfere with brain neurotransmitters, raise blood pressure, decrease blood circulation and guys, watch out! - it is linked to erectile dysfunction. That seems like a lot of bad for a short amount of good.

However, recent studies have shown that caffeine does have some positive effects. It does increase your metabolic rate (burning more calories), can open up air passages and increase respiration rates, and a reduced risk in heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and liver disease. If you really wanted to reduce your risk of diabetes, you need to drink twelve cups to reduce your chance by 67%! Sounds pretty good, right? But that is coffee. What many people don’t know is that caffeine isn’t the secret ingredient to the good benefits in coffee, it is actually chlorogenic acid which is found in the green coffee beans before roasting. Surprised? I was too.

In an Ayurvedic perspective, one of the worst things caffeine can do to you is put you off balance. And your body will do anything to get back to its symbiotic state, which means doing what it can to get the caffeine out of your system and back to feeling natural. Which then translates to being flat on your back the next morning, groaning with what feels like the worst hangover you’ve ever had. It will drive you to exhaustion.

The fact is: you’re still addicted to something. It’s a crutch. We never want to be addicted to anything… at least I don’t.

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