By: Alison Dunn Sep 28, 2010
Jumping for Joe

My name is Alison, and I think it's time I admitted something: I'm a caffeine addict.

I can't seem to get my day going without a cup or two (or five) of coffee. I don’t put any sugar or cream in my coffee – just a splash of skim milk – but I know I really rely on that morning jolt of caffeine. I'm the mom you see at the bus stop, dropping my kid off while clutching my travel mug of hot coffee.

I know there are supposed to be some health benefits that come from drinking coffee, but honestly, I think you can probably get the same benefit drinking just one cup rather than two (or five). So why is it such an addiction?

Last spring, a study came out of the University of Bristol in England that found regular coffee drinkers need to keep drinking it just to reach their normal state of alertness and avoid the classic symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, like headaches. Basically, what they're saying is that I might think I'm getting a boost from caffeine, but really, I've been drinking it so long, it's really only making me feel normal.

What to do, then, about the addiction? The obvious answer would be to cut out the coffee – and tea and other caffeinated beverages – and live through the withdrawal. But in our coffee obsessed culture, with a Tim's on every corner, that's not always easy.

Think about it. Where do you and your co-workers gather in the morning? In the coffee room. When you want to meet up and chat with friends, where do you go? For coffee. When you're meeting someone for a first date, what's the date of choice? Grabbing a coffee. Our lives often revolve around coffee – even those of us who don't like it!

I know I'm not alone in my addiction. I see countless parents and co-workers schlepping their Timmy’s or Starbucks around with them on a regular basis. I'm not the only caffeine addict out there. But what's the addiction really doing to us all?

After yet another groggy morning standing in front of the coffee pot, I decided to put one of our contributors, Aileen Brabazon, on the case. Aileen, who is also a holistic nutritionist, was bound to be able to find out more about our caffeine addictions and deliver the straight scoop. And as someone so concerned about nutrition, she likely wasn't as addicted to her morning cup of Joe as I was.

That's why I had a shock when I assigned it to her. "That's a great story!" she said. "Coffee is my vice, too... I'm in love with it!" Even Aileen, who has one of the healthiest diets around (she's the only person I know who can rank her favourite leafy greens on a scale from 1 to 10), isn't immune to coffee's dark charms.

Luckily for us, what Aileen found wasn't all bad. To find out the verdict on caffeine and our favourite morning drinks, be sure to read "The buzz on caffeine" this week on Primacy Life. It looks like caffeine, while not the best thing we can put in our body, is actually somewhat okay in moderation.

Ah, there's the rub. Moderation. And really, like everything else, moderation is the key with our caffeine intake. I, for one, am going to really try to limit my coffee intake in the morning and switch to water or herbal tea after 10 a.m. I'm not going to grab a coffee in the afternoon as a pick-me-up, and I'm certainly not going to consume any after dinner.

That starts now… or right after I finish the cup of coffee on my desk!

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.