GUEST BLOG By Lesley Atkins
Lesley is a health coach and food & drink specialist who believes eating real, whole foods to nourish us and celebrate life. She helps people through one to one, and group coaching, online or in person in Dumfries and Galloway, to cut through the well-being noise and focus on what is right for each person
at a given moment. Supporting people to make lasting beneficial changes to improve their health and live a long life well.
Coffee the drink, has a complex and multifaceted role in our lives and our health. It can pick you up, stress you out, help you focus and be alert, improve your memory, stop you sleeping and now is being shown to have disease prevention potential. Oh, and it tastes amazing! Wow, what a wonderful thing it is!
As a health coach I provide people with relevant, up to date, information and then ask high - mileage questions of them. This guides them to discover what might be the best changes for them to make, based on how this knowledge sits with them and what they know they really need deep down as the experts of their own health. More than anything I encourage them to experiment with change and notice where they find the most helpful improvements and what might be holding them back.
THE SOCIAL BENEFITS OF COFFEE
When it comes to health one of the most overlooked areas is our social connection. We try to eat healthily, work out more, sleep better, stress less but connecting socially is not always a priority and perhaps seen as indulgent.
Connecting with others, or not as the case has been over the pandemic, impacts our mental and physical health much more than we may realise. One idea I wanted to get you thinking about is the way café’s play a role as a social meeting
place with all the benefits that brings. The barista in your local coffee shop, as well as having to expertly work an espresso machine, also acts as a friend and therapist to those who drink in the same venue each week. A chat with the person who makes or serves your coffee can offer a mini pick you up in your day. This contact boosts your happy hormone, oxytocin, the same one you get from more intimate contact, and this in turn triggers serotonin production which improves our mood.
If you run or work in a coffee shop, how you interact with customers is just as important as how the coffee and food taste and keeping the place clean. Receiving a friendly smile and a warm greeting is a great start and puts people at ease. It can also reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. People like to belong to a tribe which makes them feel safer and taps into their hardwired system of survival instinct. So, little things like hosting social events at your coffee shop or having a loyalty card can be beneficial for people’s happiness and in turn your business. Perhaps you may even enjoy what you do more when you realise what an important part you play in our society’s health?
CREATING A MORNING RITUAL
Making your morning brew at home is part of many people’s morning ritual. Having a routine in the morning, especially a considered and mindful one, can be of great benefit for our mental health. It sets us up well for the day ahead and puts us on an even keel for a low stress day.
One of my favourite podcast hosts is Dr Rangan Chaterjee, GP and lifestyle medicine aficionado. In his book, The Stress Solution, he advises people to create a morning routine if they don’t have one already. He regularly talks about his own morning routine around making his cup of coffee. Whilst the coffee brews he gets in a moment of movement. A movement snack, for which
he leaves his dumbbells by the kettle to remind himself to use them to do some bicep curls, squats and lunges whilst waiting 4 minutes for the cafetière to brew. He then takes his brew outside and gets some morning sunlight into his eyes to help set his circadian rhythm and drink his coffee mindfully, savouring the richness of the aroma and flavour.
There are many other beneficial habits which you can try out to see which gives you the best start to the day. Gratitude in the form of speaking, or writing, or thinking about how thankful you are for the coffee you’re drinking, this precious time you have this morning, the roof over your head, your relationships with loved ones, or anything that pops into your head which is positive. Ideally you would do all this without having looked at your phone yet, a source of stress diminished concentration for many of us!
What is your morning routine like? Perhaps you’ve got it perfected or maybe you need to prepare more to create calmness and space to avoid rushing. What one thing could you change tomorrow which could help your morning routine set you up better for the day ahead?
OPTIMISING CAFFEINE TO YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHM
Caffeine is a psychostimulant and acts like the hormone adrenaline on the fight and flight part of our nervous system. It also has some role to play on increasing dopamine which is the reward centre hormone. Increased heart rate, blood pressure, alertness in the brain, and fighting fatigue is also attributed to it. So how does it do this?
Adenosine is the hormone that makes us drowsy. It builds up during the day as the neurons in our brain are working until we have a large enough amount to make us sleepy. Caffeine blocks the receptors for adenosine. The half-life of caffeine is around 4-6 hours which is how long it can take the liver to metabolize caffeine. Some people have more of the enzyme to metabolize caffeine than others which is why some people can handle more espressos. As the caffeine moves out of your system you then get hit by a double whammy of adenosine
finding the receptors which they couldn’t attach to earlier. So, your body fast forwards a few hours of tiredness which you haven’t been aware of until now. We can get on a caffeine roller coaster if we aren’t careful. Matthew Walker, a sleep expert, recommends not drinking coffee 10 hours before sleep and many experts are suggesting we wait an hour or so after waking before drinking our first cup.
However, 2-5 cups of coffee have been shown to have a host of benefits to reduce the chances of getting various non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular conditions, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes and obesity. So, it’s a great thing to keep drinking if you already love coffee, just learn how to optimize it in your day based on your own personal response.
If you still want to drink coffee later in the day, have you tried switching to decaf? Decaf still has many of the health benefits which regular coffee does for disease prevention. It can also be beneficial for those with IBS, as I mentioned, and if you suffer from acid reflux which can be exacerbated by coffee.
Did You Know?
- While water is always the best choice for quenching your thirst, coffee can count towards your daily fluid goals.
- Although caffeine has a mild diuretic effect, it is offset by the total amount of fluid from the coffee.
- Coffee contains soluble fibre, around 1-2g per cup. This is more than a cup of orange juice!
Book: “The Stress Solution” Dr Rangan Chaterjee publisher Penguin
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