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The Relationship Between a Nurse & Coffee: The good & the bad

 

It’s no secret that some people can’t start their day without a fresh cup of coffee. And when you’re a nurse working a night shift, it may be the only thing keeping you on your feet. According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), overall coffee consumption is up by 5% across the nation since 2015, and the average person in this country drinks roughly 3 cups per day.

Sometimes everyone needs that little jolt of energy to start their day or get them through a long day on the job. However, just like everything we consume, it’s good to be knowledgeable about the positive and negative side effects so that we can stay healthy.

In the past, research has shown that drinking coffee has been linked to outstanding health effects such as preventing disease like stroke and certain cancers, lowering our risk of Parkinson’s and dementia and helps boost our concentration and memory. So, what could be bad about it?

Let’s Start with the Negatives

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While coffee beans produce a natural form of caffeine, did you also know that caffeine is technically a drug? Although moderate doses are generally safe, consuming too much caffeine can create addiction problems where it could be difficult to cut back or quit. In fact, if you’ve ever talked to someone that quit coffee (or caffeine in general) cold turkey, they might have told you they experienced headaches or fatigue for the first couple of days while their body adjusted.

What are the side effects of caffeine on your body? Per MedlinePlus.gov, here a few of the side effects:

  • Once you have consumed caffeine, it stimulates your central nervous system, which makes you feel more awake and gives you that jolt of energy
  • Caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it helps your body get rid of extra salt and water by urinating more often
  • Caffeine increases the acid in your stomach, creating an upset stomach or even heartburn
  • Consuming caffeine can interfere with the absorption of calcium in the body and increases your blood pressure

After eating or drinking caffeine it typically takes your body about an hour before it reaches peak level in your blood, and the caffeine can stick around for roughly four to six hours. So, what happens when you drink too much caffeine?

If you drink too much caffeine, it can create restlessness and shakiness, affect your levels of sleep with insomnia, give you headaches, dizziness, rapid or abnormal heart rhythm, dehydration, anxiety and create a level of dependency. A typical brewed coffee (8 oz.) produces anywhere from 95-200 mg of caffeine, and usually the safe, moderate level of caffeine per day is right about 300 mg, so it’s usually a good idea to take that into consideration before consuming cup after cup of coffee.

Fortunately for those that can’t live without it, there are some positive side effects of drinking coffee on a regular basis. Especially when you need that little boost for getting through the night shift or waking up and need a little boost with your morning breakfast.

What are the Positives?

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What could be more positive than a warm, inviting cup of coffee before the start of a big day? Or, possibly during the middle of the day, getting you through that last little bit of work for the day? Either way, people have taken drinking coffee to another level. Making and drinking coffee has become so popular over the last few decades that it’s become its own culture. Coffee can come in many different forms and tastes, which make it enjoyable to a variety of coffee drinkers.

Caffeine intake has been shown to protect against a few problems, such as being less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, according to the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. It also may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as helps with suicide risks. It’s also been linked to lowering the risk of oral cancers, and lowers the risk of stroke for older women.

The NIH’s National Cancer Institute and AARP conducted a study that found that those who regularly drink coffee (both decaf and regular) had a lower risk of overall death than did nondrinkers. The study indicated that coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections.

Another general rule of thumb that’s good to go by is that each person is different. People have different reactions to caffeine. So, while some are fine drinking three or four cups of coffee, others may need to cut back or switch to something different. Which leads us to our final topic of what other alternatives do people have other than drinking coffee?

What are the alternatives to coffee?

Maybe coffee isn’t for you. There are plenty of people that may not like the taste or like the side effects the caffeine produces. Or, maybe you are trying to cut back on your sugar intake and therefore trying to find substitutes. Many times, coffee comes loaded with cream and sugar to give us that nice, well-rounded sweet taste that counters the bitterness of coffee beans. So, what are your alternatives?

According to the University of Miami Health News, there are a few alternatives to coffee, as well as energy drinks, that might be what you’re looking for:

  • Tea: Even though tea ranges in many different flavors and can naturally produce caffeine, there usually isn’t as much caffeine in a cup of tea than there is in coffee; different kinds of tea, such as ginger tea, can even help with health issues such as easing an upset stomach.
  • Matcha Green Tea: Matcha has gained popularity recently as more celebrities have decided this is their go-to beverage to start their day; matcha is a bright green powder that brings approximately one-third the caffeine of coffee, which is good for having less energy spikes and crashes.
  • Yerba Mate: This beverage offers similar caffeine intake as coffee, however, it provides anti-inflammatory nutrients and vitamins which helps have less of a heavy “crash” that coffee produces.
  • Teeccino: Made from chicory root, barley, carob and other naturally decaffeinated ingredients, Teeccino is a brand of roasted herbs that you can brew like coffee or steep like tea. It tastes similar to coffee, but does not have any of the acidity or caffeine.

Whether you decide to try to cut back on coffee or not, it’s ultimately up to you. Drinking coffee in moderation isn’t harmful to your health, and can even help you defeat that mid-to-end slump during your shift. Coffee comes in many different flavors, ways to be brewed and how to drink, but it always has one purpose: to give you a little boost of energy to get what you need done.

In fact, coffee can come in handy for jobs that require you to be on your feet all day, alert and taking care of patients. But remember that your body can only handle so much caffeine before it becomes harmful. So the next time you reach for that fourth or fifth cup of coffee, try asking yourself if you really need it.