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Friday, November 26, 2010

Nature better pick-me-up than coffee???

I've been working night shift since 1991, and I worked as the lone night shift RT here at shoreline since November of 1997, and during that time I imagine I had, say, maybe five cups of coffee. Yet since becoming a day shifter in January of this year I've become a regular coffee drinker.

There's a couple reasons I never drank coffee, the main one being that I hated the taste of it and I never noticed any "pick me up" from it. I never needed a mental acuity boost, and I never needed to drink a cup of coffee to feel alive, because until about 2006 I was chronically dependent on theophylline -- a xanthine with the same effects as coffee.

Yet after being weaned from theophylline, I suppose my body needed some form of an acuity pick me up for me to feel alive in the morning, and when I observed coffee was available to anyone working day shift, I tried a cup. And, lo and behold, it made me feel more alive. Thus, I've become addicted to the nasty tasting stuff in a short period of time.

I drink it black with sugar -- lots of sugar, to deaden that nasty taste. I tried the flavored kind, and I hate that even worse than the bland coffee taste itself. Thus, black, with sugar, it is.

In essence, coffee has replaced theophylline in my life.

Yet this morning I found myself reading one of my wife's magazine, Healthcare Traveler, July, 2010 edition, and I came across, on page 8, a study that was originally published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Keep in mind the only reason this magazine floats around my home is because my wife is a nurse and gets it for free.

The article notes that "being outside in nature makes people feel more alive," which is why a study was done to compare the effects of being outdoors in nature as compared to having a cup of coffee in the morning.

Researchers say we feel depleted, we need to be revived, and we reach for a cup of coffee in the morning. Yet, researchers, by reviewing the results of this study, now know what common sense may have already known, that allowing your body to breathe in the outdoors, among the fresh breeze, to smell the fresh greens, and absorb the sun's rays, may have the same pick-me-up, reviving effect, as a cup of coffee.

This study, or one similar to it, was also mentioned and discussed by Anahad O'Connor, health blogger for the, in "The Claim: Exposure to Plants and Parks Can Boost Immunity."

Actually, he notes a scientific reason for this: "
Stress reduction is one factor. But scientists also chalk it up to phytoncides, the airborne chemicals that plants emit to protect them from rotting and insects and which also seem to benefit humans."

Likewise, O'Connor notes (link provided by O'Connor), "The scientists found that being among plants produced 'lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure,' among other things."

He ads, "
A number of other studies have shown that visiting parks and forests seems to raise levels of white blood cells, including one in 2007 in which men who took two-hour walks in a forest over two days had a 50-percent spike in levels of natural killer cells. And another found an increase in white blood cells that lasted a week in women exposed to phytoncides in forest air."

I just thought this was interesting to note. A few years ago I read a Time magazine article about the effects of coffee. It basically reported that there have been millions of tests done on coffee over the years, and most note coffee to be safe. And most do note that coffee does provide a sense of vitalization after a cup or two.

Yet, research also shows that once your body gets used to one cup of coffee, you actually need to drink one cup of coffee just to get back to your normal vitalized state. And to get the pick-me-up feeling you actually have to have a second cup of coffee. In this way, your body becomes tolerant to coffee, and addicted at the same time.

So, stuck inside for 12 hour long shifts, I can see how many people have become dependent on coffee, at least since it has become a main staple in the United States since the industrial age as more and more Americans started working indoors.

Drink up!

1 comment:

lifewiththeselungs said...

Yep - nature is my pick-me-up! I sometimes need to get outside just to get feeling like myself

Although I do drink tea for the comfort and ritual of it.