In college my 1978 Volkswagen bug had problems starting on cold days. I would sit in the driveway for ten minutes trying to get it going, but it was like trying to wake a large hibernating bear. When I discovered ether my problems were over, or so I thought. Rather than getting the “girlfriend” (as my mother would put it) fixed, I would use this “coffee for cars” to perk it up. The ether got my car “high” and I could be on my way. Unfortunately, “drugging” my car only created more problems: I was slowly killing it.
Like my old car, each morning many of us drug our bodies –not with ether – with coffee. Make no mistake: coffee, with its high level of caffeine, is a drug. Seen first in history in Ethiopia and Arabia, this elixir has become America’s and – to a larger extent – the world’s, wake-up drug. According to the National Coffee Association (in 2000) 54% of the population consumed, on average, more than two cups of coffee per day.
That’s quite a bit of this artificial stimulant. Caffeine also creeps up in our carbonated beverages, often matching – if not exceeding – the caffeine concentration in a morning cup of Joe. Even worse, this double-edged beverage sword sneaks into our diet – and that of our children – through the sugar saturated beverages that deliver a double punch of sugar and caffeine.
This combination of sugar energy and caffeine stimulation makes it difficult for both the young and old to stay attentive. Like any artificial stimulant, caffeine causes problems that our bodies have trouble adjusting to. With caffeine, the biggest problem is addiction. Once the body is hooked on coffee, it has difficulty working without it. People who are trying to cut the habit often complain of headaches, lethargy, nausea, and the inability to concentrate. The physical effects of coffee can actually last up to sixteen hours – meaning that a cup of coffee at 8:00 am can keep you awake as late as midnight.
It’s no surprise that coffee drinkers commonly complain of sleepless nights! And even if you don’t feel the effects, the caffeine is still wreaking havoc with your metabolic system. Another significant problem with the coffee drug is that it is a substance which, over times, causes diminished effects. The body adapts, and so with time and use you find that you need more and more to get that jolt you first enjoyed. For that reason, you’ll never attain that first-cup-of-coffee feeling again. So what can you do to wean yourself from coffee? If you love the taste of coffee, try decaffeinated coffee. Though still flavorful, these beverages don’t pack the punch that exists in the full-strength version. Next, go to sleep on time. The fact is that many Americans just don’t get enough sleep at night and caffeine is just an excuse. Try to get six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Is it really worth your good health to stay up past 1:00 am and try to be fully functioning by 6:00 in the morning? If you do so regularly, over time your health will deteriorate – as will your lifespan.
By getting enough sleep, you will find that your body feels better and you can stay energized longer – without the peaks and valleys often associated with caffeine. Eating healthy foods will help as well. Since so many of the foods available are over processed and stripped of the nutrients that fuel you for busy days, try to consume fresh, unprocessed foods that repair the body, provide the building blocks for the immune system, and give you the energy needed to propel you through the day. To return to the Volkswagen comparison, if you put low-grade gas in your car, it will not perform as well as if you use high grade fuel. The high-grade costs a little more, but it extends the life of the car, meaning you save money (by spending a bit more) because you won’t have to pay for expensive repairs or for a new car – and your life is not as easily replaced as a car! You only have one body, so feed it high-grade food – not junk food – and you will truly extend your life.
As a general rule, when purchasing groceries from your local food mart, the best foods are often found on the outer rim of the stores. This is where you will find your fruits, vegetables, milks, and refrigerated juices. Finally, if you just love to have a hot beverage in the morning, try going to a naturally decaffeinated tea or Postum. Postum is just malted wheat bran and molasses, so it doesn’t have the harmful effects of coffee, but in a strange sort of way it reminds you of coffee. You will find that once you kick the coffee habit, you will stay energized longer, sleep better, and create the harmony that your mind and body crave each day