Could Coffee be Making You Anxious?
When I ask patients how they would feel if I suggested they reduce their coffee intake, I usually get one of two responses. Either they’ll say, “sure I’ll give it a try” or they’ll say something along the lines of “don’t you dare try to take away my coffee!”
I totally get that second response. I’ve come to love everything about coffee – the smell, the taste, the energy boost and that warm, cozy feeling it gives you that’s hard to mimic with other drinks. There’s even some evidence that coffee can improve low mood as well as other markers of health due to its antioxidant content as well as other beneficial properties.
However, in a subset of people, coffee can increase levels of anxiety. Those who are particularly sensitive can experience anxiety at lower amounts of coffee than less sensitive people. Younger people (like high school students) have been identified as a potentially sensitive group but adults can be sensitive as well.
Drinking large amounts of coffee has also been associated with anxiety. But the definition of what a “large amount” is doesn’t seem to be very solid in the research. On the flip side, some studies show no association between coffee intake and anxiety.
So how do I use this wish-washy information in my practice when I treat patients with anxiety? Basically, I have a conversation with them about the potential role coffee may play in their anxiety and we talk about doing a trial period of reducing coffee intake by whatever percentage they are comfortable with.
Many of my patients decide to reduce their coffee intake. True to the mixed study findings, some of my patients notice their anxiety improves with less coffee and others notice no difference.
One thing I don’t recommend is just assuming you’re one of those people who is not negatively impacted by coffee. You won’t know for sure unless you give it a try. Many of my patients were surprised to find that coffee negatively impacted their anxiety and stress levels more than they expected.
This blog post is definitely not a tirade against coffee. I love the drink and it really does seem to have health benefits. Coffee makes me anxious, but I’ve found that I can tolerate having it a couple times a week. Tea doesn’t have this impact on me, but I still try to not make it a daily thing.
Everyone will have their own coffee sweet spot that works for them. I encourage you to find yours. It’s just one of the many things I work on with my patients to help them get a better hold on their anxiety.
Dr. Samantha Dass is currently a naturopathic doctor working at Holland Landing Health Centre in East Gwillimbury, Ontario, which services Holland Landing, Newmarket, Aurora, Keswick and Bradford areas. If you are interested in naturopathic services please contact Holland Landing Health Centre at 905-853-7900 or via e-mail at [email protected].