Ways Caffeine Affects Your Brain

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Ways Caffeine Affects Your Brain

For most of us, the morning cup of coffee is more than a tradition; it’s a necessity. You feel groggy and irritated until the first sip of caffeine hits your body. While caffeine has numerous health benefits, its addictive nature can cause several problems in the long run. The FDA estimates that about 80% of US adults rely on caffeine in one form or another.

To help you understand how coffee behaves, here are a few ways in which caffeine affects your brain:

Alert and active – The structure of caffeine resembles that of adenosine, which is a chemical that makes us sleepy. When you consume caffeine, its molecules bind with the brain’s adenosine receptors, leaving no room for adenosine to perform its function. This allows the body to remain awake and alert for more extended periods. However, for avid coffee drinkers, a much larger dose of caffeine is required to produce the same results.

Adrenaline rush – Caffeine alerts the pituitary gland in a way that is perceived as an emergency. This causes the pituitary gland to stimulate the release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands. Once the adrenaline is released into the bloodstream, you experience the classic signs of a caffeine rush. Your heart rate fastens, your breathing rate increases, and you may even feel jittery or anxious.

Dopamine rush – The addictive nature of caffeine is a tale told many times. It’s rather tricky for a caffeine addict to give up on his daily cups of coffee without experiencing any withdrawal symptoms. Caffeine tends to prevent the hormone dopamine, commonly known as the feel-good hormone, from being reabsorbed by the brain. Therefore, leaving it in the bloodstream for longer is what causes you to feel better. Dopamine is also the chemical responsible for making caffeine into the very addictive drug we find it to be.

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Caffeine withdrawal – Caffeine is a drug much similar to more lethal drugs, such as cocaine. However, its effects are significantly less intense. Therefore, once you decide to cut down caffeine from your life, your brain will undergo a withdrawal stage.

  • Headaches: Caffeine tends to constrict your brain blood vessels, reducing the blood flow. So when you give up caffeine, the constricted blood vessels expand, and a gush of blood rushes towards the brain, causing frequent headaches.    
  • Fatigue: The role of caffeine in blocking adenosine to make you feel more active is its defining property. So when you undergo caffeine withdrawal, the brain tries to stabilize the adenosine-caffeine dynamic by producing more adenosine receptors. More receptors and fewer caffeine molecules cause more adenosine molecules to bind to the receptor, making you feel tired and sleepy.
  • A shift in mood: Your body is filled with energy and positive emotions during a caffeine high. But as you undergo caffeine withdrawal, the levels of dopamine and adrenaline drop significantly. This change in chemical release affects your emotional energy by making you feel sadder and more damaging overall. If you are more dependent on caffeine, you’re bound to face even worse emotional consequences. You may feel much more anxious, depressed, and unable to concentrate. But over time, your brain stabilizes its normal functioning, and your behavior patterns return to normal.

Until Next Time,

Team Doctor ASKY!

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