Hey Why are You Playing with Your "Fight or Flight" Hormone?

We can’t even think about starting a day without having a cup of coffee or tea. But have you ever wondered why you are feeling much energetic, when you have coffee or tea? Well the answer is simple Caffeine!

Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world. It is found in more than 60 known species of plants, and dietary sources include coffee, tea, cocoa beverages, chocolate and soft drinks. On average, a cup of brewed coffee contains 100 mg of caffeine, compared with 75 mg for instant coffee and 50 mg for tea; a can of Coca Cola contains 30 mg. Increasingly, stimulant drinks such as Red Bull (80 mg of caffeine per can) are being marketed to the public, and sales have increased dramatically since they first became available in 1987.

                The primary effect of caffeine is to relieve fatigue and enhance mental performance by invoking the “Fight or Flight” hormone or adrenaline.  Here is how the whole scenario play’s out. When a person encounters a potentially dangerous situation (or ingest stimulants), the hypothalamus in the brain signals the adrenal glands (The adrenal glands are found directly above the kidneys in the human body, and are roughly 3 inches (7.62 cm) in length.) start to release adrenaline and other hormones (cortisol) directly into the bloodstream. The body’s systems react to these hormones within seconds, giving the person a nearly instant physical boost. Strength and speed both increase, while the body’s ability to feel pain decreases. This hormonal surge is often referred to as an “adrenaline rush.”

Though adrenaline can play a key role in the body’s survival, it can also cause detrimental effects over time. Prolonged and heightened levels of the hormone, due to the use of stimulants, can put enormous pressure on the heart muscle and can, in some cases, cause heart failure. Additionally, it may cause the hippocampus to shrink. High levels of adrenaline in the blood can lead to insomnia and jittery nerves, and are often an indicator of chronic stress. Excessive consumption of caffeine by children and adolescents has been identified as a cause of headache, which usually resolves on withdrawal Caffeine is also associated with sleep disturbance, with shorter nocturnal sleep duration, increased wake time after sleep onset and increased daytime sleep.

The other problem with having high levels of both cortisol and adrenaline is that, since they breakdown our stored carbohydrates for energy, releasing glucose (sugar) into the blood for immediate use. As blood sugar rises, so do our insulin levels. Over time, our body’s cells can become desensitized to too much insulin, leading to a condition you might know of as Type 2 Diabetes (insulin resistance).

Since insulin removes excess sugar from your blood, high blood sugar levels lead to high levels of removal (via insulin), leading to low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia). When our blood sugar crashes, all “normal” decision making is thrown out the window as all you can think about is “I need sugar. I need sugar.” This is when you start feeling jittery, anxious, and in desperate need of a quick sugar or caffeine fix. And if that wasn’t bad enough, chronically high and low blood sugar levels also drain your adrenal glands – setting you up for all-day fatigue in the future.

So what you say? you wanna fight or gonna flee against this caffeine addiction and health issues?

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  1. Wow, this is a very interesting article, thanks!

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