Caffeine tricks the brain into releasing more serotonin and dopamine in order to stimulate the central nervous system. It is also helps in releasing adrenaline, which contributes to the body’s fight or flight response. This causes most regular coffee drinkers to become more irritable and anxious.
Caffeine and Stress Relief
Coffee isn’t something that people often associate with reducing stress. Most people would usually avoid taking in too much caffeine when they want to get some sleep or relax. However, recent studies have shown that drinking coffee could reduce physical and emotional stress. Its effect on a person’s brain chemistry not only makes you more alert but also triggers neurotransmitters in the brain to get rid of symptoms of stress.
Caffeine has also been linked to producing positive effects on depression. One experiment has shown how caffeine prevents brain receptors from reacting to stress, bad mood, and memory problems which increase the likelihood of depression. It works by causing the brain to release more dopamine in the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex that facilitates mood regulation.
In another study, coffee has been found to be rich in polyphenols, a compound which aids in decreasing blood pressure, increasing blood supply to the brain, and reducing risks of stroke or heart attack.
Scientists from the US, Portugal, and Brazil have also conducted preliminary studies on mice. A group of them were given caffeine in their water while some were given regular water. They exposed them to different stressors; some of which include tilting their cages or giving them cold baths. The results show that those who drank regular water experienced changes in their brain and their behavior due to stress. But those who were given caffeine did not exhibit any brain or behavior changes. The scientists hypothesize that it is due to the caffeine blocking brain receptors that cause a stress response.
Many researchers have long suspected that caffeine contributes to boosting a person’s mood. Others, however, are speculative of this theory and are unsure if it is the caffeine or other factors associated with it, such as being greeted by a friendly barista or being with good company while having your coffee that brings stress relief.
Effects of Too Much Caffeine
Although coffee brings several benefits, drinking excess amounts can cause diarrhea, discomfort, indigestion, increased urinary excretion, and sometimes, even heartburn and higher blood pressure. Coffee can be very addictive, so you must learn to control your intake to avoid its negative effects or causing your body to rely on it as a source of energy.
So what’s the verdict on coffee as a good stress reliever? Like anything in your lifestyle and diet, it’s always about taking it in moderation. If you decide to drink coffee, be sure not to over-indulge. The ideal amount for every person is about 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, which is about 4 cups of coffee. This is the maximum safest and healthiest amount for adults. Although the studies mentioned above are convincing enough to make you consume more coffee to reduce stress, do keep in mind that many of them are still preliminary research and require more backed data to confirm the effects of caffeine on stress. To be safe, don’t go beyond the maximum amount allowed for your daily caffeine intake.