A large proportion of the very popular ‘antidepressant’ drugs on the market today, are prescribed with the intention of attempting to increase levels of active serotonin – the so called ‘happy hormone’ – circulating in the brain. Unfortunately – although not for reasons which are biologically inexplicable – they have been associated with a significant increase in suicide rates amongst users.
Coffee on the other hand, seems to act in what could reasonably be described as the opposite direction – stimulating the storage or inactivation of serotonin – hence it is probably not a coincidence that regular coffee drinkers are known to have a low incidence of suicide.
Serotonin is closely tied to the regulation of emotion, and excess serotonin has been demonstrated to interfere with thyroid function, reducing metabolic rate, slowing brain function, thereby promoting symptoms of depression – including learned helplessness and despair.
Much like the physiological state of hibernation – which tends to occur in the presence of rising levels of serotonin (as well as suppressed body temperature and brain function) – many of the features of depression go hand in hand with an under active thyroid metabolism.
In both of these scenarios there is a shift towards the use of fat as fuel for the cells – and away from the metabolism of glucose – similar in many ways to the physiological conditions commonly described as diabetes.
Experimental evidence exists which shows the relationship between emotional stress, anxiety and diabetes, however there is no shortage of biologically rational explanations for why this makes sense.
Most revolve (one way or another) around the manner in which both stress and low blood sugar interfere with thyroid function and energy metabolism, promoting the release of many inflammatory stress substances – such as cortisol, serotonin and estrogen – implicated in the progression of numerous degenerative conditions including depression and diabetes.
This kind of metabolically suppressed state is more likely to be a persistent or chronic issue as fat stores become increasingly unsaturated in nature. This is due in large part to the many inflammatory, immunosuppressive and thyroid interfering features of the polyunsaturated fats, particularly when they are released as free fatty acids into the bloodstream under conditions of stress.
As well as having a variety of anti-thyroid effects however, the polyunsaturated fats in and of themselves cause an increase in circulating levels of cortisol, serotonin and estrogen, and directly cause issues in relation to blood sugar regulation. For this reason they can be considered to play an important role in the promotion of many different issues relating to mood.
Coffee is known to stimulate thyroid function as well as having been demonstrated to suppress estrogen and cortisol (as well as serotonin) levels, helping with depression on many metabolic fronts.
As with any substance however, that stimulates metabolism – speeding up metabolic rate – caffeine increases the amount of glucose which is able to be used by the cells.
When sufficient sugar is not consumed with coffee – especially if glycogen stores are low or become depleted – this will then result in an increase in the release of adrenalin and cortisol (as a means to sourcing out an alternative fuel supply), turning what is able to be a mood stabilizing (as well as enhancing) disease protective food, into something potentially stress increasing and anxiety promoting.
Because the increasing secretion of cortisol and adrenalin – apart from causing a rise in serotonin and estrogen circulation, helping to suppress metabolism – promotes the release of the polyunsaturated free fatty acids from storage, consuming lots of coffee without the accompaniment of plenty of fuel, can create the impression that it is coffee per se which is responsible for a worsening of metabolic issues.
Many of the experiments showing the negative aspects of coffee or caffeine have at the very least been designed without taking these factors into consideration, often leading to results which have the potential to be highly misleading.
Regular consumption of coffee combined with a sufficient intake of sugar is known to protect against many conditions including liver disease, inflammation and cancer.
Are you consuming enough sugar with your coffee?
For those who are super sensitive to the effects of coffee, try introducing it gradually – with small amounts combined with meals.
See more here.