How Caffeine Causes Anxiety? (+ 3 Anti-Anxiety Drinks)

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As a coffee lover I'm truly sorry to say but caffeine and anxiety together are not good news!

Caffeine is a drug that affects the central nervous system and there is strong scientific evidence that it can cause an anxiety disorder. [1]

The effects of caffeine on your body are similar to those of a frightening event.

Caffeine stimulates your “fight or flight” response, and this can make anxiety worse and trigger an anxiety attack.

But, research also shows that eliminating caffeine can be even more beneficial for anxiety than taking anti-anxiety medications. [2]

Caffeine is not only in coffee, but it is in many different types of teas (i.e. black and green tea), chocolate, soft drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks.

It can also be found in prescription drugs, over-the-counter painkillers, vitamin waters, and even in vitamins and herbal supplements.

In the United States, 85 percent of the population consumes caffeine every day so it is very likely that most of us consume caffeine in some way.

For example,

  • Decaf Coffee: in 8 ounces there is 3–12 mg of caffeine
  • Plain black coffee: in 8 ounces there is 102–200 mg of caffeine
  • Espresso: in 8 ounces there is contains 240–720 mg of caffeine
  • Black tea: in 8 ounces there is contains 25–110 mg of caffeine
  • Green tea: in 8 ounces there is contains 30–50 mg of caffeine
  • Soda: in 12 ounces there is contains 37–55 mg of caffeine
  • Energy drinks: in 12 ounces there is 107–120 mg of caffeine

Caffeine Sensitivity and Anxiety

Some people are sensitive to caffeine while others are not. There are many factors that can make you caffeine sensitive including your genetic predisposition, how quickly you can metabolize caffeine, if you are on certain medications, your age, and if you consume drugs and alcohol.

But, as a general rule, if you suffer from anxiety, you are likely to be caffeine sensitive. This means that the effects of caffeine are more emphasized in your anxious body.

If you have very high caffeine sensitivity you can experience an intense adrenaline rush when you consume it. You may feel as if you have had five or six cups of espresso after drinking only a few sips of regular coffee.

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, which translates to about 4 cups of coffee, typically doesn’t result in negative or dangerous effects for healthy adults.

But research shows that those suffering from anxiety should avoid caffeine altogether, and the following 6 points will explain in more detail.

How Caffeine Causes Anxiety?

1. Caffeine Can Increase Stress

The effects of caffeine can increase your stress levels.

That’s because caffeine consumption increases heart rate and blood pressure and can also stimulate the production of stress hormones.

For example, caffeine can cause the levels of stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine to more than double. [3, 4]

Further, these symptoms of stress are also common in anxiety disorders.

2. Caffeine Can Reduce Calmness

Consumption of caffeine inhibits a chemical in your blood called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that makes you feel calm. [5]

GABA is sometimes referred to as “nature’s Valium” because it helps to slow down brain activity when needed, and it is also necessary for feeling happy and relaxed.

So, caffeine can lead to low levels of GABA, associated with anxiety and panic attacks.

3. Caffeine Can Cause Insomnia

High-quality sleep is essential for mental and physical health.

During sleep your brain and body detox and repair. For example, your brain flushes out toxins, repairs itself, consolidates memories, and produces new brain cells. [6, 7, 8]

However, caffeine consumption can significantly impact your sleep quality and cause insomnia, which in turn negatively affects your mental health. [9]

So, if anxiety makes you restless at night, caffeine will make this problem much worse!

4. Caffeine Can Trigger Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, is when blood sugar decreases to below normal levels.

A low blood sugar attack can make you feel confused, jittery, and irritable, as well as sweaty and with a pounding heart – which are also symptoms of an anxiety attack!

Caffeine triggers the release of the stress hormones such as cortisol, causing blood sugar levels to drop. [10]

5. Caffeine Can Deplete Essential Nutrients

Consumption of caffeine causes your body to excrete nutrients, some of which are essential for your brain health and mood.

One of the nutrients that get depleted is magnesium, a mineral that has a significant role in mental well-being. [11]

Magnesium deficiency plays a critical role in a number of brain-related disorders including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease. [12, 13]

Caffeine also depletes your body of B complex vitamins, known as the ‘anti-stress vitamins.’

In fact, B vitamin deficiency is a common sign of anxiety. [14]

6. Caffeine Can Restricts Blood Flow To The Brain

If you are anxious, your blood flow to the brain is already reduced and consumption of caffeine can reduce it even further. [15]

Research shows that caffeine can restrict blood flow to the brain by as much as 27%. [16]

Since, nutrients such as oxygen, water, glucose, vitamins, and minerals are delivered through blood flow, caffeine can lead to deficiencies in these nutrients which can further negatively impact your anxiety and mental health.

Top 3 Anti- Anxiety Drinks

You can replace your coffee with the following caffeine-free, anti-anxiety drinks.

Valerian Root Tea

This drink is a favorite due to its soothing effects which improve the quality of nighttime sleep.

Valerian has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy. In ancient Greece and Rome it was used to ease insomnia, nervousness, trembling, headaches, and stress making this tea a great anti-anxiety drink!

study conducted in 2008 shows that valerian can improve GABA quantity in the brain that serves to calm anxiety.

For best results drink a cup of valerian tea before bedtime. It may be just what you need to finally get a good night’s sleep.

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Chamomile Tea

This ancient tea is another great anti-anxiety drink.

The soothing nature of chamomile tea can increase serotonin (happiness hormone) and melatonin (sleep hormone) levels in your body, and these hormones help to relax you and relieve stress. [17]

As this tea helps with relaxation, it can also calm your mind and in turn, reduce classic anxiety symptoms.

Chamomile tea also provides relief from migraines and headaches.

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Oat Straw Tea

Green oats, also known as Avena sativa, are the main source of oat straw.

This ingredient is widely used to support brain health. It is high in nutrients and has various therapeutic properties that have been known for centuries.

Oat straw tea helps to calm the nervous system, relieve anxiety, improve digestion, energize your body naturally, and improve sleep quality. [18]

Even medical professionals have associated oat straw with reduced levels of anxiety and heart disease risk.

Further, it is an excellent source of calcium, leading to stronger bones and teeth.

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Drinking water triggers the release of endorphins throughout the body. Endorphins are essential chemicals in the improvement of mood and well-being leading to a diversion from anxiety and stress. [19]

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I'm a Heart-Based Life Coach for Gentle Anxiety Sufferers. After two decades of chronic anxiety and self-hate, I managed to conquer both, and experience a huge spiritual transformation in the process. This incredible journey inspired me to pursue my dreams and help other gentle anxiety sufferers. I’m not a mental health professional, but I’m someone who has studied intensively about anxiety and achieved success with everything I learned. If you’re a gentle soul who is struggling with anxiety and would like my help, I’d love to coach you. Check out my free and paid coaching services.

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