Caffeine is not my friend: anxiety triggers and staying on the right path

A bit of a personal post today. 

 So, I had caffeinated coffee for the first time in, oh, about three and a half years yesterday. It was kind of by accident: it was warm out so I asked for an iced coffee at a cafe and simply forgot to mention that I wanted it decaf. By the time I realised my mistake, I felt silly and decided to just get on with it and drink my iced coffee.
 

Now, the reason I stopped drinking coffee in the first place was because it was having too strong of an effect on me. A few years ago, I realised that after drinking coffee, I always felt on-edge, antsy, anxious… It triggered a number of anxiety attacks at that point in my life and as soon as I put two and two together and saw the correlation, I decided to stop and never turned back! 

 Well, I turned back once, 6 months after stopping, and boy was it a bad idea! 

 Anyway, for the past few years, I’ve kept saying that one day, I’d have coffee again – when I’d have a day to waste, in case it didn’t go so well. I kept putting it off, because I didn’t really miss coffee. Tea is better anyway 😉 

 As it turns out, I suppose yesterday was that day! And it wasn’t that bad, considering. I felt the caffeine as soon as it hit my system, like an oncoming rush of…something… a heightening of sensations, a certain loss of control. I had to breathe deeply and talk myself into not freaking out. And I managed not to, although I felt very hyper and slightly agitated for the hours that followed. Finding sleep was particularly hard. 

 The lesson I learned from this? Coffee is not my friend. I’m no longer suffering from anxiety and I can deal with whatever life throws my way, but reintroducing anything in my life that can have such a noticeable effect on my psyche still seems like a stupid thing to do. At least it’s good to know what my triggers are. And I suppose that’s part of managing my health, as well: knowing what’s likely to set me off and staying away from it. 

 I’ll just stick to tea (green and white, mainly), thank you.

My Teatox diaries

So, as I previously pointed out on Instagram and in my latest post of the benefits of tea, I’ve started a teatox – yup, you heard right, a tea detox.

What’s not to love about teatox? It’s tea (great great great!), it boasts amazing benefits just for drinking it on a regular basis (keep going, I’m loving it) AND it is the best compound word I’ve seen in a while. My wordplay-loving brain couldn’t possibly have stood a chance!

Now, about “detoxing”: truth be told, I haven’t quite made up my mind about the concept. Yes, sure, we ingest and inhale toxins daily, and need to get rid of these toxins – but a healthy body, with functioning organs such as kidneys, liver, even lungs, already detoxifies itself constantly. I mean, detoxification and the removal of waste products is literally what the liver and kidneys are for. Is there really anything we can do to influence toxin removal?

Now, obviously, although a healthy body is made to process out toxins by itself, there are a number of things you can do in your daily life to help: keeping your body healthy and able to do its job, for one thing. That means eating healthy and clean, and probably doing a little exercise. The less rubbish you put in your body voluntarily, the less your body will have to work to get rid of it. Eating the right foods would hence have an effect on your body’s overall health… But we knew that already.

Although the concept of “detoxing” is starting to appeal to me less and less – this article did start to convince me of that – I do believe in the health benefits of different foods or drinks. For a start, your body needs a number of vitamins, minerals and enzymes to function properly each day, which you get through what you eat and drink, mainly, so eating the right foods is very important. I also believe that different herbs or plants do have specific effects – which is why they have been linked to and used in medicine for so long.

I’ve already talked about the health benefits of tea on this blog, so you all know I believe in those. Is can’t be surprising, then, that when I saw a tea mix that boasted energy-boosting benefits, antioxidants, improved digestion, and appetite-curbing properties (for the morning tea) and anti-bloating benefits as well as better sleep (for the evening tea), I just had to try it.

Anyway, here’s my impressions on the first week of doing SkinnyMint’s 28-day Teatox:

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The morning tea is delicious – it’s lovely and light and the perfect green breakfast tea. I have been drinking it for a week, and I love it already. I have found that I am more awake in the morning, and I have felt less hungry. I’ll have to keep you posted on whether I think this particular tea is having an effect – and not just my general lifestyle – but in any case, it has convinced me to start drinking green tea in the morning instead of black tea.

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The evening tea, which you only have one every two days, is nice: I was afraid the lemongrass and liquorice would be too strong (they are not my two favourite flavours), but I’ve found they’re actually quite light, and the different flavours blend quite well. This tea really does have an effect on my digestion – however, although one of the ingredients is supposed to calm down cramps, I have been getting slight but noticeable cramps the morning after I drink this tea. Not the nicest side-effect, but logical, in a sense.

Verdict: the two teas taste great, and they really do have an effect. I do feel slimmer when I wake up every morning, and more energised after the morning tea. However, I have been getting some cramps after drinking the night cleanse tea.

Would I recommend it? For the price, I’m not sure. I’m sure you can find lovely green teas to drink in the morning with a similar effect for a fraction of the cost, as well as cheaper night “detox” teas. The main attraction with this brand is the flavour and the cute packaging – but you can very probably get the same or similar results with other teas as well.

Health benefits of tea

“Tea comforts the spirit, banishes passivity, lightens the body and adds sparkle to the eyes.” – Shen Nong

So. I am a tea addict. I drink tea most days. I mean most of the day. I mean all day. Yup, that’s the one. Oh, and I have a tea for everything:

Stressed? Here’s a green de-stress tea.

Tired? Here’s a nice, strong cup of Yorkshire tea.

Want to go to bed but think you’ll have trouble falling asleep? Have a Pukka Love tea.

I already strongly believe in the health benefits of tea, as have many others since the drink was first invented: in China, where it originated during the Shang Dynasty, it was first used as a medicinal drink. According to myth, Shen Nong, a legendary Chinese emperor seen as the father of Chinese herbal medicine, discovered tea some 4000 years ago when a few tea leaves were blown into a bowl of boiled water he was drinking. Surprised by the restorative and detoxifying properties of the drink, Shen Nong then proceeded to test the peculiarities of different plants and herbs on himself, which, in keeping with legend, led to his death.

From this point on, the medicinal properties of tea were more and more recognised, and it was prescribed in China against headaches, bad digestion as well as dark thoughts. According to Li Shizhen, author of Compendium of Materia Medica, published in the 16th century, tea can “regulate the body’s internal temperature, calm anxiety, dissolve fats and improve concentration”.

Modern science has only relatively recently started to confirm what the Chinese have known for years: tea does indeed have various health benefits, including antioxydant effects (due to the presence of polyphenols) which cancer prevention researchers have been taking an interest in, although no conclusive studies have yet been published according to the National Cancer Institute.

Most teas share a number of recognised benefits, including supporting the heart system, activating circulation, detoxifying and eliminating toxins, fighting hypertension, fatigue and slowing ageing, helping with digestion, strengthening the immune system…Too many to count, really! But different types of teas each have some specific perks.

Here’s a quick lowdown on the virtues of different types of tea:

white-tea-benefitsWhite tea, as the least processed tea of all, may have the most potent anticancer properties of all different types of tea: indeed, white tea is steamed and dried, and as such only goes through slight oxidation, which preserves the high number of polyphenols it contains in their natural state. This gives it powerful antioxydant effects. According to Chinese medicine, white tea may also counteract excessive heat and alleviate the symptoms of menopause.

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Green tea is also a great antioxydant: only slightly more processed than white tea, it contains a higher number of polyphenols than other types of tea. It also contains more iron, vitamins and catechins (a type of polyphenol) than black tea. Also, it’s got lower levels of caffeine in it than black tea, so it won’t get you wired and stop you from sleeping.

Oolong-Tea-for-health

Wulong  or oolong tea is produced through a unique process: before it is oxidised, it is withered in the sun. It is said to have a slimming effect over time, if you drink it regularly; apparently, it helps to metabolise lipids (fats). According to a study published in the “Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine” in 2009, overweight and obese participants who consumed oolong tea for six weeks both lost weight and had decreased waist size by the end of the study. It is also said to have a relaxing, almost euphoric effect.

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Black tea goes through an oxidation process called fermentation to be created, which gives the leaves their dark colour. While this technique may destroy some vitamins and lower the number of antioxydant catechins present in the leaf, it allows the caffeine it contains to be released more rapidly into the bloodstream. As such, black tea is more effective as physical stimulant than green tea.

pu-300x300Pu’er tea has long been used as a dietary supplement by nomadic tribes and specific ethnic groups in Asia who ate mainly fatty yak meat, as it counteracts fat and has been shown in rats to lower triglycerides and total cholesterol. A fermented variety of tea, pu’er is also recognised as helping to regulate the body and stimulate digestion.

This information all seems to point in the same direction:

TEA IS AWESOME.

Great news for all fo us tea lovers/addicts out there!

I love testing out different types of tea, so you’ll find a number of posts on this subject on my blog. Right now, I’m trying out SkinnyMint’s Teatox – yes, yes, I succumbed to the pressure of constant advertising! Their adverts have been all over my social media feed for the past few weeks and I thought I’d give it a go. My opinion on it very shortly!

My main source for this post is the book Tea: History Terroirs Varieties, published in 2014 by the Camilla Sinensis Tea House and Firefly.

Why I cook with coconut oil

Coconut oil is starting to be on everyone’s radar these days, whether it’s for its uses in cooking or in healthcare. And no wonder, with the health benefits it boasts – better digestion, antibacterial properties, you name it! So, what makes coconut oil so good for you? And is it really that much better to use in the kitchen than, say, olive or vegetable oil?

In your body:

First of all, coconut oil is very rich in lauric acid, which in your body turns into monolaurin, a monoglyceride compound known to have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Monolaurin is actually an effective treatment against candida albicans and other fungal infections such as athlete’s foot!

Secondly, studies have started to show that virgin coconut oil could help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL or low-density lipoprotein) and increase good cholesterol (HDL or high-density lipoprotein). In this sense, coconut oil could help protect again heart disease!

In the kitchen:

Coconut oil is made up primarily of stable, saturated fats, called medium-chain triglycerides, which are heat stable – this means that it can stand higher temperatures than other oils, such as olive oil, before it starts to oxidise.

What’s so bad about oxidation, I hear you ask.

Well, basically, when an oil oxidises, not only does its quality go down, but more importantly, its chemical state is altered and it forms other chemical compounds, many of them harmful. Have you heated up oil in a pan for a bit too long and seen it start to smoke (I know I have, once or twice)? This is called the smoke point, when the oil starts to oxidise: at this point, the glycerol in oil turns to acrolein, a toxic chemical also found in cigarette smoke and considered to be a major cigarette-related lung cancer agent. Not what you want to be breathing in.

Thankfully, as I was saying, coconut oil is highly resistant to oxidation at high heat. Butter and olive oil aren’t quite as stable when heated, and should be used at lower temperatures, while polyunsaturated fats, such as vegetable oils (soya, sunflower, rapeseed or corn) are very unstable and should be avoided.

013182_A I personally made the switch in September, and couldn’t regret it less. I cook every day and have JUST finished my first pot, which cost me £15.49 at Holland and Barrett. Pretty cost effective at £3/month, wouldn’t you say?

DO BE CAREFUL, however. When people talk about coconut oil, they mean virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil: AVOID any coconut oil which has been refined or bleached, as they are just as harmful as other processed oils.

As for other health benefits, I haven’t yet used coconut oil as a moisturiser or in my hair – but I’ve heard it works a charm! So many women already swear by it, I’m sure there must be some truth to it. It’s definitely on my beauty bucket list, I’ll let you know as soon as I try!