Too much coffee can make you jittery, high-strung and run around frantically like a crazy person with your long check-list of stuff that needs to be completed. Despite its established conventional wisdom that it heightens anxiety, Peter Bongiorna ND, LAc wrote in an article for Psychology Today that coffee can actually alleviate anxiety.
He reviews coffee in terms of anxiety and mood – for some the caffeine increases the senses of euphoria and energy. He said, “caffeine helps the brain release dopamine into the prefrontal cortex, a brain area important for mood regulation. Caffeine may also help storage of dopamine in the amygdala, another part of the brain important for anxiety regulation.”
Though it sounds counter-intuitive, for the right person, the raised levels of dopamine can help with anxiety and panic attacks. “Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of feeling in love for the first time. It is also important in feeling happy, motivated, and rewarded about something,” Bongiorna wrote.
In a ten-year cohort study of more than 50,000 older women, investigators found that the women who drank 2-3 cups of caffeinated coffee a day had a 15% decreased risk for depression than those who drank one cup or less a week. For those who drank 4 or more cups had a 20% decreased risk.
Dopamine is typically low in people with depression and social anxiety. If you experience either of these, coffee before the situation of stress/panic may be helpful for you. However, if coffee worsens your panic and anxiety and you can’t sleep, then this is not the right remedy for you.
However, “the more the better” doesn’t apply. There’s a threshold to coffee’s benefit. A study from Finland found that the risk for suicide decreased progressively for those consuming up to 7 cups of coffee per day but the risk started increasing when consumption went over 8 cups a day. Decaffeinated coffee, caffeinated tea and chocolate didn’t have positive effects in this study.
For social anxiety and depression, long-term coffee use will contribute to a “burnout”. He writes, “There can be other negative health effects: caffeine at long term high doses can encourage mineral loss like magnesium, which is an important co-factor for brain neurotransmitters. ”
So how much coffee should we drink?
For most people who do well with coffee, 2 cups a day sipped slowly is optimal. If you have anxiety, more than 2 cups will make you anxious and experience heart palpitations. Also, it is best to skip the sugar.
Image Credits: photo