Bring Up Coffee—What Is In Besides Caffeine

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Coffee is such a morning staple that I cannot remember a morning without it. For instance, my parents always consumed a cup of coffee as soon as they were up. However, they never grab their daily cup from a coffee maker nor an espresso machine. They instead preferred using instant coffee powder. My parents were not too keen on us drinking coffee too young as they have heard that it can disrupt our growth. So, as I reached my 16th birthday, I was then allowed to drink coffee. At first, I found the taste of coffee to be too bitter for my taste. I would typically add an equal amount of coffee powder and sugar to my mug. My parents interpreted this particularity as an undeniable reflection of my disdain for coffee. Believing that I dreaded coffee, they often tried to dissuade me from drinking it. However, I knew something that seemed to escape their understanding. I had come to realize that once my coffee got spiked with abundant amounts of sugars, the taste became fantastic. Yet, it still took me years to grasp the difference between the taste of instant and filtered coffee. And oh boy, it’s weird how distinct it can be.

Once I started dating my fiancé and moved in together, we had to acquire a coffee maker. Manuel was used to the taste of filtered coffee, and even though he constantly assured me that instant coffee was fine, I wanted to please him. It turns out that filtered coffee became my preferred sort of coffee. I was now able to reduce the amount of sugar I had to put in. Now, I don’t even need any. Sometimes when I feel like spicing things up, I add a little something along with my freshly ground coffee beans, like cinnamon. It supplements the taste by inserting an extra layer, or a new dimension, to it. I have also read that some also like adding cardamom to their coffee, and I have tried. Although I like it very much, my fiancé isn’t exactly interested in its taste.

Despite my clear preference for filtered coffee, I find myself now routinely rejecting it. My sudden bouts of insomnia have recently justified my self-restraint toward its consumption. To reduce the gravity of this drastic and sudden change, I decided to replace my cup of filtered coffee with a cup of instant decaffeinated coffee. It is not quite the same, but it does the trick. Although, when you look back at the making of instant coffee, it doesn’t explain the noticeable taste difference between both coffee preparations. Its manufacturing process starts by brewing the coffee beans and then pouring the liquid through a filter to produce filtered coffee. So both instant and filtered coffee are brewed first. If there would be no other steps, then instant coffee and filtered coffee would be synonyms of each other, but this sadly is not the case. Contrary to instant coffee, we can serve filtered coffee immediately after brewing. As for instant coffee, it will need further processing of the brewed mixture to produce the soluble solid that is so characteristic of its instant nature.

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To produce instant coffee, we need to collect the brewed coffee and then desiccate (aka dry) it. We can do this dehydration step using two very different techniques: freeze-drying or spray drying. Freeze-drying or cryodesiccation is very expensive but is the best method to preserve the molecules’ structure and integrity. In other words, it is better at conserving the flavours and aromas of the coffee. This technique involves bringing the temperature of the brewed coffee below the water’s triple point. The triple point corresponds to the lowest temperature at which gas, liquid, and solid can coexist. For water, this triple point is near 0℃. After we reach the ideal temperature, we reduce the internal pressure of the container. The pressure drop allows the frozen water (solid form) to sublimate (straight to gas, bypassing its liquid form). We subsequently remove the water (gas form) to leave the final product devoid of water. 

Compared to freeze-drying, spray drying is much cheaper. The resulting savings can explain why a lot of food manufacturers will opt for this drying method. However, by choosing spray drying, they also sacrifice some of the flavours we can find in our dearly beloved filtered coffee. Instead of making use of cold temperature, spray drying involves the presence of heating. For spray drying, we atomize brewed coffee into a drying chamber which creates tiny droplets. Some heated gas is also projected into this chamber to evaporate any water present in the droplets. Since the droplets are not very large, the water inside them vaporizes almost instantaneously.

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The dried particles form what we know as instant coffee. After the particles are thoroughly devoid of any water, the final product is collected and packaged. Generally speaking, spray drying will produce more fine and round particles than freeze-drying, which typically makes larger fragments. The larger coffee flakes tend to be preferred since it is easier to use. Even though both these methods have their distinctions, they both have the same objectives. Instant coffee prolongs shelf life, doesn’t require any additional tools, and it’s super quick to make. Although these characteristics are certainly enough to justify their popularity, there have been recent claims that could motivate us further to switch products. Indeed, eco-friendly groups are insisting that instant coffee has a lower carbon footprint. This implication resides in the notion that instant coffee uses less space and is significantly lighter than its counterpart, the coffee beans. These characteristics would also indicate that shipping would require less gasoline consumption which means less carbon dioxide emission. Furthermore, not needing a processing machine to make our daily cup of coffee would also reduce our carbon footprint by reducing our waste. 

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Now that we know more about instant coffee, we can maybe investigate the secrets behind decaffeinated coffee. Essentially, we all know that coffee beans contain caffeine. Yet, before the beans get roasted, we can expose them to many processes which remove their caffeine content. Some methods require exposing the beans many times to an organic solvent like dichloromethane to extract the caffeine, and others will use water. In some cases, manufacturers will even utilize carbon dioxide at high temperatures and pressure to remove caffeine. Carbon dioxide is a fascinating gas as it allows for caffeine to dissolve in it, yet it won’t allow the same for the compound responsible for flavours and aromas. This gas is thus an efficient solvent that can surprisingly conserve both of these desirable attributes. Yet, even though all these methods adequately remove most of the caffeine content, the result is still imperfect. Most decaffeinated coffee brands can accept the presence of up to 3% caffeine, depending on the country’s legal standards. Here in Canada, we tolerate no more than 0.3% of caffeine left in the final decaffeinated product.

So even though the concentration is so minute that you may even consider it null, it’s still not a great idea to consume it late at night. This statement is especially true if you suspect yourself of being highly sensitive to caffeine. During the past weeks, I found myself experiencing some sleep disturbances. These events seemed to correlate with my coffee consumption. And even though my coffees were decaffeinated, I decided to purge myself of it entirely. Surprisingly, I seem to experience fewer of these events than in the past months. Yet, I don’t really know if it is a coincidence or if there truly is a link. A way to find out would be to resume drinking coffee for a couple of days and then stop. Maybe my insomnia would have resolved itself on its own; we don’t know. 

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Drinking coffee is undoubtedly something that I miss and would unquestionably like to reintegrate into my routine. Not only did the taste feel incredible, but just a sip of it seemed sufficient to keep going. Being an entrepreneur in charge of writing, reading, and researching makes me desperately crave my daily cup of coffee. Nonetheless, until I can unquestionably revoke all my suspicion towards it, I must resist the temptation to succumb to its striking appeal.

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.

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Bring Up Biophilia—What makes us particularly attracted to nature

No one can dismiss the amazing feeling we get after spending some time in nature. We instantly feel relaxed and reinvigorated. Some might attribute this effect to time spent far away from work, and even though they could be correct, it is not the whole picture. Biophilia is a relatively new concept that brought the…

Bring Up Blood—How our oxygen gets carried throughout our body

Good evening my dearest followers, Please, take a moment to enjoy this excerpt for my newest post (Bring Up Blood). We could most certainly not live without blood. It is absolutely essential for the survival of our most distant limbs and organs. Even though almost all of our respiration is thanks to our respiratory organs,…

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Bring Up Water—What is Behind Hydration

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Living in Canada, I can probably say that there is nothing here that we take more for granted than water. Bottled water is just one example of this. I love regular tap water; I feel incredibly fortunate to live in a place where tap water is not only drinkable but also tastes great. However, some people would preferably opt for bottled water. They can swear that the taste is different. Somehow, the only difference between the bottled water made in Quebec and our tap water is the plastic bottle. The water source is customarily identical. Yet, bottled water is not our only problem. When given the opportunity between water and other drinks, people would typically choose any alternative options. 

I must confess that I am guilty of making this choice, and I am embarrassed by it. Hence, for the last few months, I have been trying my best to remedy the situation. Choosing to adopt intermittent fasting has made this task much easier, but drinking water is still far from enjoyable. When it comes to drinking water, my main bother is the taste, or more precisely, its lack of taste. Yet, over the last months, I have been able to appreciate the subtle taste of tap water. The many minerals found in tap water are responsible for the hints of flavour we can perceive when drinking it. I can definitely say that water from Sherbrooke (my hometown) and Montreal (where I was until recently residing) has a different flavour. This variation is most often credited to their respective filtration and sanitization processes. 

Whereas Montreal still uses a system relying on multiple screens and a bed of sand to filtrate the water, Sherbrooke relies on a new system that involves making use of membranes to filter out unwanted particles and microbes. The system Montreal is using hardly clears out 85% of bacteria, which leaves the water undrinkable. To decontaminate it, the city of Montreal must chlorinate and ozonate its water. Sherbrooke’s newer system allows for the elimination of virtually all contaminants without further need for extra sanitization. When added to water, chlorine can add a bitter or metallic taste that can be undesirable. Sherbrooke does not have to use chlorine, and thus its taste relies uniquely on its mineral content. I also have to mention that both cities are not getting their water from the same source. Montreal’s water reservoir is the St-Lawrence River, whereas Sherbrooke is the Memphremagog Lake; hence, they both have two different mineral content profiles.

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If asked to choose between Sherbrooke’s water or Montreal’s, I would pick the former. Although, It would still be hard for me to pick between water or something else entirely, something with more taste. The delicious taste of these drinks (sodas and juices) typically comes from the presence of sugars or sweeteners. So, despite the reasonable amount of water it contains, it is unquestionably an option that’s best avoided. It may succeed in hydrating you, but in the process, it also delivers a toxic dose of sugar to your body. Over time, the elevated consumption of sugar can lead to the development of obesity and diabetes. In drinking tap water, you absolve any of those risks. However, this statement is not valid for bottled water.  The generic plastic used to make these bottles is not typically strong enough to sustain the repeated stress it has to endure. 

The splashing and sploshing of the water inside the bottle and the mechanical stress we create can liberate microplastics in the water. Yet, given that there is now a total of 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste globally, there is already an enormous number of microplastic created and ingested. Indeed, some newspapers have reported that we usually inhale or ingest 5 g of microplastic in no more than a week. If you wondered what 5 g is, well, it weighs the same as one of your credit cards. If you think that this figure is scary, then you might think again before grabbing your next bottle of water. Some scientists may have found hints that consumers of bottled water could ingest twice this amount each week. 

If you are still not scared at this point, you may like to know that we presently consider the presence of microplastic in our body to trigger DNA damage, cellular damage, and inflammation. Now, we may all vow to stop drinking water forever, but this is not an option, and we know it. We are all composed of 60% water, and as such, we must all drink around 2 litres of water a day to maintain this body composition. This water serves an immense variety of functions, from digestion to lubrification. 

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Knowing its importance might be more apparent to us once we are dehydrated. Since I do not particularly like drinking water, I often forget to drink. This behaviour has repeatedly led me towards dehydration. In this state, I realize that my eyes and mouth are considerably dry, my urine becomes dark yellow, and sometimes I even get a headache. Our eyes here become dry since there are no longer enough tears to lubricate them. Tears are composed of water. As for our mouth, it is dry because there is no longer enough saliva, also composed of water. Our pee adopts a darker coloration since there is not enough water diluting it. Our kidneys must reabsorb the water to keep filtering out any waste products created. This process creates extra stress on the kidneys, which we should all aim to avoid. The headaches may come from the shrinking of our brain, which may temporarily pull away from our skull, causing pain.

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Water is also responsible for digestion by carrying digesting enzymes to the nutrients. It is also a medium used for the fabrication of hormones and neurotransmitters. It creates a shock-protective bubble around the brain called the blood-brain barrier (often referred to as the BBB). It helps to regulate our body temperature through perspiration. Moreover, our blood needs water to carry its red blood cells in charge of delivering oxygen throughout our body. And you may suspect here that the list is even longer, but here I will add only one last one. Water is necessary for the survival and reproduction of our cells. 

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This little piece of information is the sole reason supporting the fact that there is unmistakably something such as drinking too much water, especially non-mineralized water. There are even names for it, overhydration or water poisoning.  When there is excess water outside the cells, they will absorb water to even out the ions present inside and outside of them. Indeed, the water moves in since the sodium ion concentration is higher within than outside. Absorbing too much water may induce the cell membrane to rupture, causing irreparable damage, which could then lead to cellular death. Once it reaches this stage, it can be fatal. However, before it reaches this stage, our brain sends us a signal warning us about the danger. When they start swelling, the brain cells increase their volume, which also increases the intracranial pressure. 

This swelling can create a vast range of cognitive dysfunction that we should all keep in mind. The risk associated with ignoring early signs of these dysfunctions might lead to seizures, coma, brain damage and death. Avoiding overhydration is quite simple. It is not about how much you drink but how fast you drink. The kidney can eliminate no more than 1 litre of water per hour, so you should never drink more than that. I realize that reading through this article may have scared you, but be confident that those catastrophic scenarios are pretty unlikely. Just remember to drink enough, not too much, and to drink less sugary drinks and more tap water 😉

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.

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Bring Up Tattoo—How it can be possible to mark our skin permanently

Not all appearance alterations are created equal; some may be more short-lived and others more permanent. If you think of tattoos, they mostly belong to the second category. So thinking carefully about certain aspects of the tattoo becomes imperative. Things like the symbolism or the artistry behind your new piece shouldn’t be random. Choosing a…

Bring Up Grad School—What Is the Reality Behind Higher Education

For people who want to pursue studies after completing high school, university studies may look very attractive. So, undergraduate studies may lead to graduate studies. However, undergraduate studies are not the same as graduate studies. The latter is not only more complicated, but it is also very different. First of all, contrary to your undergrad,…

Bring Up Alcohol—What We Can Expect From Drinking

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This week will mark the beginning of summer season, along with the general opening of beaches and pools. And I’m probably not the first one to associate pool and beach with parties and alcohol, am I right? For some reason, alcohol becomes the drink of choice, and it does not matter if it is beer, wine, coolers, cocktails or distilled spirits. Everyone has their pick; as for me, I will pick cocktails any day. The taste of alcohol under a decent splash of grapefruit juice can be particularly well camouflaged, but beware that this ruse can trick more than just your taste buds. Nonetheless, before we can explain what I mean by that, we have some grounds to cover. 

Alcohol, most commonly, emerges from the fermentation of sugars by yeasts. The source of sugars varies between spirits which grant each of them their stereotypical flavour. As a result, the type of sugar used may also differ, and it could be sucrose, fructose or glucose. For example, we produce ale via the fermentation of malt with hops and thus mainly consist of glucose. Ale, although similar, is different from beer. We make beer through the brewing and fermentation of malted cereal grains and then it is flavoured with hops. As for bourbon, we create it out of a mash composed mainly of corn. We then distill the mixture and age it in oak barrels for at least two years. Corn contains a large amount of fructose. Lastly, we produce rum from the sucrose provided by sugarcane products (typically molasses or sugarcane juice). There are plenty of other drinking alcohols, but their description will stop here. If you are interested in learning more, you need only to mention it in the comment box.

The fermentation of sugars can produce ethanol and other types of alcohol, such as methanol and isopropyl alcohol. Do not be alarmed by these technical terms since you have all come across these types of alcohol before. Ethanol, in our daily life, is called drinking alcohol. We can find methanol in antifreeze products and gasoline. As for isopropyl alcohol, you may already be aware that it most commonly runs under the name of rubbing alcohol. Each of us has probably at least one bottle at home; I know I do. 

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All these alcohols share mostly the same properties. They are potent antiseptics and disinfectants. Hence, their incorporation in many medical products aimed at eliminating microbes and fungi. Hand sanitizer gels and disinfecting pads are excellent examples of this. Hand sanitizer gels are mainly composed of ethanol or rubbing alcohol (60–70%), while the rest is mostly water. Also, all these alcohols have some well-sought psychoactive properties. They are drugs that cause an inhibition of the activity in the central nervous system. This depressant effect can produce sedation, decreased anxiety, muscle relaxation, pain relief, physical euphoria, appetite enhancement, and this list is far from exhaustive. 

Although this list seems quite attractive, let’s not be fooled; all good things come at a cost. The cost of overindulging here is the infamous hangover. We can all remember our last hangover; it is not a pleasant affair. There is a cascade of side effects such as fatigue, weakness, thirst, headache, and muscle ache. These are all related to the dehydrating effects of alcohol, further enhanced by increased sweating and more frequent urination (pee). However, if your consumption was even greater, you probably remember other things happening like nausea, stomach aches and maybe vertigo. These were all warnings; if you do not know this yet, well! News flash, ethanol is toxic. When our liver breaks down alcohol, it creates toxic metabolites. In a moderate amount, the liver can manage the breakdown of these metabolites even further, reducing their overall toxicity until their removal. 

Yet, in excessive amounts, the liver is overworked. Thus, it can no longer provide for the total amount of work it is given. It becomes forced to prioritize the breaking down of alcohol, thus letting metabolites roam free. Only when we stop our alcohol consumption—and finish processing all the consumed alcohol—can the liver be available again to break down metabolites. And while metabolites reign free, our body wants to eliminate them, so we pee and sweat.

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Nonetheless, drinking alcohol is far from the only one that we designate as toxic. Methanol and isopropyl alcohol are unquestionably more toxic and can lead to some serious, potentially lethal, health problems. Since methanol can also produce desirable effects like anesthesia, people who cannot afford ethanol products will be prone to buy methane-containing products for their high. Thus, to prevent people from drinking methanol, the EU has banned in May 2018, the use of methanol in windshield washing and defrosting products. 

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Although the risk for fatality is a sufficient enough reason to restrict methanol’s availability, there still exist more reasons to support similar efforts. Methanol use comes with an additional lot of danger, particularly to the central and peripheral nervous systems. Some side effects related to its excessive or routinely consumption can appear from damages to the optic nerve. These injuries can lead to irreversible blindness. It can also be damaging to some critical regions of the brain responsible for movement. These damages can cause parkinsonism. Beware that parkinsonism is not Parkinson’s disease, yet some of their symptoms are the same. More damage to the brain may also lead to the development of encephalopathy. Encephalopathies display a series of cognitive symptoms like memory loss, confusion and personality change. Lastly, damages that extend to the peripheral nervous system may cause muscle weakness, numbness and pain.

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Let’s add that, although the toxicity of ethanol is much lower than that of methanol, we should overlook the long-term adverse effects that its overconsumption has on health. The excess and constant stress created by the high demand for the metabolism of alcohol competes with the metabolism of fats and can lead to irreparable liver damage. The liver, in each case, is often forced to store fat in the liver cells, which can cause tissue death. The dead hepatic cells become replaced by scar tissue, which leads to cirrhosis. Excess drinking may also cause damage to the brain, which may lead to amnesia or memory loss. Overindulging is also strongly correlated with the appearance of cancer. One of the metabolites created from the alcohol breakdown is acetaldehyde, which is a well-established carcinogen. Yet, if you thought that it could not get worse, think again. Alcohol usage is strongly proscribed for pregnant women, as its ingestion leads to the formation of certain birth defects. Indeed, consuming alcohol while having unprotected sex will dramatically increase the risk for the baby to be born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 

Lastly, although ethanol must be taken in moderation—to avoid, at least, hangovers or, worst, severe health issues—, it can be a valuable tool to treat some conditions. In addition to its typical use in hand sanitizer gels and antiseptic wipes, ethanol can also be an antidote for methanol poisoning. One of the enzymes responsible for breaking down alcohols, alcohol dehydrogenase, has a stronger affinity to ethanol than methanol. This affinity to ethanol means that this enzyme will prefer metabolizing the ethanol leaving methanol intact in the presence of both products. Methanol is mostly entirely eliminated intact, which efficiently reduces toxicity.

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.

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Bring Up Cryptography—How to Hide your Messages

To ensure our privacy, we must be careful about what we share and how we share it. Most often, your personal information, like your passwords, we’ll be hiding from everyone. But that only happens if we transmit the data through a secured channel. Unfortunately, you can be as careful as possible, some people can still…

Bring Up Fireworks—How Do We Make Colours Explode

Summer festivals are not only fun for all the foods they’re providing and the activities they’re offering, but also because of their well-anticipated fireworks. Those orchestrated explosions are so grandiose that most can’t help but feel moved by the spectacle. Some may even start wondering what makes those magical displays, and I am for sure…

Bring up Matching‒How Dating Apps Are disappointing us

It probably wouldn’t be too far-fetched to claim that most people seek, during the course of their lives, a soul mate, or at the very least, a significant other. And in their quest to find the perfect mate, some people opt to satisfy their desires by going after one-night stands. Nowadays, the most popular way…

Bring Up Ageing—What We Can Expect With Growing Older

From where I stand, there is nothing sweeter than a newborn baby. It is so pure, an impeccable blank slate. However, this condition only lasts for a moment. Indeed, as soon as babies are born, they begin growing older, which embarks them on transformative journeys. Actually, this last sentence suggests that ageing starts at birth, but this is not exactly right. We now have legitimate reasons to believe that it would happen before labour even kicks off. Scientists are claiming that they observed the first signs of ageing at the blastocyst stage, which occurs as early as five days after fertilization. Not quite yet an embryo, the blastocyst is composed of three main parts: an inner cell mass (embryoblast), an intramembranous liquid (blastocoel) and an outer cell layer (trophoblast). 

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The embryoblast, which results from many cellular divisions, is responsible for forming what becomes the early embryo. So, we seem to possess a better understanding of the moment when ageing begins. Yet, we don’t really grasp what is going on before the blastocyst stage, but we know a few things. We realize that the blastocyst comes from the cellular divisions of the fertilized eggs. We also recognize that the female gametes, at the time of fertilization, can be very old. They can be anywhere between 12 and 51 years old, which corresponds to our reproductive age. Thus, the reason behind our ability to produce offspring that are cellularly and physically younger than us is pretty enigmatic. Somehow, the cells go through a reversal ageing process, but there is no existing explanation yet revealing how this process could even be possible.

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Anyhow, even if research on ageing is still failing to reveal the mysteries behind this rejuvenation—maybe it is time travel, we do not know! 😉—, we are still discovering quite a lot about ageing in human development. We presently realize the power we each hold in slowing down ageing and potentially reversing it to some extent. At this point, we are all aware of the public recommendation promoted by our respective health officials to reduce physiological ageing. We should adopt a healthy diet that may include fruits and vegetables, oily fish and nuts. And should exclude most, if not all, processed food. We should get at least 3 hours 30 min to 4 hours of physical activities per week. One-third of that time should be used toward vigorous aerobic activities and two-thirds toward moderate aerobic activities. At last, we should all sleep enough, which approximately corresponds to eight hours per night. I know you’ve heard about all these health recommendations, and each of them probably more than once. Yet, the recommendations for proper brain care are clearly not as well advertised, even though some of them are considerably similar.

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Still, we should be even more careful about our brains since they contain the oldest cells of the human body, neurons. Even though we can still generate a few neurons throughout our life, most neurons that we have will never be substituted. Typically, once neurons die, they are gone forever. Thus, we must take great care of these wondrous cells and provide them with the proper stimulation they require and rest. Research has revealed some crucial roles that the brain must fulfill in order to thrive. It seems to all rest on these three elements: executive function (thinking and reasoning), social cognition (interacting with others) and emotional regulation (maintaining a state of well-being). And similarly to the physiological health guidelines, our cerebral health also has its own set of recommendations for us to follow.

Caring for our brain might very well be the same as caring for our gut microbiota. Our gastrointestinal tract hosts a vast and complex range of microorganisms. These microorganisms are essential to our overall health, as well as our brains. They are responsible for absorbing minerals and nutrients, synthesizing enzymes, vitamins and amino acids and producing short-chain fatty acids. Moreover, in recent years, it has come to our knowledge that these microorganisms were also responsible for even more than previously thought. For example, scientists have discovered that a few were able to produce certain neurotransmitters, like serotonin. This revelation suggests that our gut may have more impact on our well-being than what we are attributing them. But caring for our digestive tract can be a sensitive task since any slight change to our environment might jeopardize it. The most important risk (after a faulty diet, of course!) might be regularly switching our intimate partners. Kissing exchanges microorganisms, some foreign to us, which may attack and endanger that sweet balance gained over our lifetime. On that front, I risk nothing; I’ve kept the same partner for over ten years. I’m safe!

Although our gut may also benefit from a stable and healthy diet, our brain might prefer a fattier diet. Beware that I am not talking about fast food or processed food here; I am merely talking about healthy unsaturated fat. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids have been gaining a lot of attention in the last decade. And now we know more about their impact on the brain. Even though we eat lots of omega-6 fatty acids, we don’t eat enough omega-3 fatty acids. We now consider the ideal ratio to be 1:4, compared to our average consumption ratio of 20:1 (omega-6: omega-3). Omega-6 is essential, but we should consume it moderately. Whereas omega-3 fatty acids have a neuroprotective effect and, as such, we should eat more of them. A good source of omega-3 fatty acids is oily fish, spinach and flax seeds. I typically also enjoy chia seeds and walnuts as my source for omega-3.

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To protect our brain, we also need to stay active. Other than the previously mentioned guideline, we must remember to get up every hour of sedentary work for at least 10 minutes. Otherwise, we risk abolishing all the gain produced from our regular activities. If you follow these rules correctly, you might fully deserve your beauty sleep. And it is genuinely as important to sleep as to eat or be active. Despite what we have all come to understand, it is wrong to believe that we need to sleep less as we age. Studies have revealed that it does not matter how old you get; you still need those 7 – 9 hours of sleep every night. Personally, I love going to sleep, and I won’t complain about this recommendation.

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Now that we have mentioned digestion, diet, physical activity, and sleep, what more can there be? Three more things. We must try our best to nurture our social relationships. Being social is essential to reduce stress and loneliness, which comes under emotional regulation. Then, we can find a new skill to learn. How about learning a new language? How about Russian? Learning Russian was the endeavour I assigned myself three years ago. Although I am improving, I am not nearly disciplined enough that I can speak it yet. Still, I can understand a decent amount of written words.

There is one last piece of advice to strive for, which is to stay happy. Personally, this pursuit of happiness is not technically a pursuit. I have learnt to embrace all the positive that life has to offer while trying to let go of the negative. Happiness seems to be not the absence of the negative but the experience of the positive. I realized that achieving an overall state of happiness meant staying present. I had to learn to let go of regrets and past trauma and explore the distant future only as a thought.

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.

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Bring Up Working Out—How It Can Benefit Our Entire Body

Staying active is hard, and we may very well feel tempted to give it up entirely. However, there are some good reasons why health professionals advocate adopting a more active lifestyle. Beyond the most apparent argument, weight loss, there are other advantages to moving out of your couch and grabbing those neglected sneakers for a…

Bring Up Coffee—What Is In Besides Caffeine

The most enduring morning staple is probably coffee. Most people may even swear that their ritual cup of coffee is the only thing that keeps them going. Without coffee, some people might feel lost or incomplete. And even though we can all agree that heaps of people drink coffee, they do not all drink it…

Bring Up Intermittent Fasting – What should my eating schedule look like

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Although I was, until most recently, studying the physiology of pain (see Bring Up Pain for more about this topic), it definitely wasn’t the only topic I was interested in. One topic in particular got my attention in the last couple years, Intermittent Fasting or IF. Its many mentions in multiple media platforms was enough to ignite a spark of curiosity, but it was certainly not sufficient enough to have me follow this trend blindfolded. However,  a careful study of the science and its effects from an extensive literature review got me entirely convinced of its benefits. I hate to be a sheep and follow the newest fad, but I have to say that this one might be totally worth trying out.

Being overweight never really felt like a terribly wrong physical state to be in. I like my body and I like that it has led me to have a different perspective on myself. In the last article (Bring Up The Beginning) I’ve mentioned that I was bullied, mainly because I was a full blown nerd, but another reason was my very thin figure. Some people were spreading rumors that I was anorexic. From bad to worst, my family doctor was insisting that I should gain some mass since I was below my intended BMI. However, it was really difficult for me to gain mass. I ate so much, and no, I didn’t purge. Though, I was very athletic, and it was, with hindsight, probably why I could remain so slim.

At the end of high school, I began receiving another type of attention from guys. They started flirting with me. It took me a couple of years to figure out that the only thing they were interested in was my appearance. This realization led me to despise myself, and I then really thought that no one really cared about me. This was definitely the darkest time of my life. Finally, my objective to gain weight finally saw some success and simultaneously I started to date this incredible man that despite my emotionally unstable predisposition was patient and caring. Unconsciously, I started to link gain weight to my potential to be loved and cared for.

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We have to face it. Life is not that easy. If only taking weight would be the solution to finding love then everyone would be aiming for it, I am right? Additionally, with knowledge came the realization that being overweight can lead to several health problems. Turns out, even though I don’t have a negative view of my appearance, I came to accept that I need to redefine what acceptable is. I can see that I will never be that very slim beanpole that I was in high school, ouffs! But I just can’t be ok with being 25 kg over my intended BMI. I understand that most professionals would suggest undertaking moderate physical activities, but it was simply impossible for me and trust me, I’ve tried. I am not saying that I’m abandoning the idea of physical activities forever. For now, I have limitations that make those very difficult to perform while aiming for weight loss. Meanwhile I have to say that I’ve tried outdoor running, at home workout and indoor yoga, none of them seemed suited for me, at least for now. 

Then one day I fell upon an online post claiming intermittent fasting as a healthier alternative for weight loss than stricter dieting methods. The following research I did surprised me. Not only is there scientific evidence claiming that IF can lead to weight loss, at least temporarily, but there are also plenty of other benefits that accompany the adoption of IF. Contrary to many promoted weight loss methods, IF is more of a lifestyle rather than a specific diet change. First, it doesn’t require you to add or suppress certain food. Second, it doesn’t ask you to keep track of your calorie consumption, and at last, you are in control of when you want to stop it or not. The only major difference with If compared to the usual eating habit is the timing of your feeding. Depending on the IF style you choose, you may have more or less freedom, but that decision is up to you.

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I am not claiming here that fasting a revolutionary novelty, but it has been studied very little over the years. Although, recently, there has been a great increase of fasting studies, that may probably have been caused by the reported advantages it could bring to people who have been fasting for cultural or religious reasons. Now, people are intrigued by the fasting phenomena and thus there was the development of a particular type of IF, which got named Time-Restricted Feeding. It is based on a schedule that dictates feeding period over 24-hour days. The most popular TRF are 14:10, 16:8, and 18:6. Those ratios represent how many hours you need to fast next to how many hours you can feed. Thus 14:10 is the most lenient and 18:6 the most stringent of the options mentioned above. The fasting windows might seem harsh, but while fasting requires you not to eat anything, you may still drink as much water, tea, or coffee as you’d like, giving the absence of any sugar or milk addition. There are also many other variations of IF, but it won’t be mentioned here. I personally prefer the 18:6 TRF since it was the technique that created for me the most benefits and the least negative side effects. 

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So, as I’ve mentioned, feeding is not restricted. You can eat as much or as little as you normally do. Yet, you will probably find yourself eating less overall, since you have a shorter eating window. Also, the hunger pangs that often lead to excessive eating and craving may disappear and get you to develop a more mindful eating. The first time I adhered to IF, it took me four days to notice the complete vanishing of hunger pangs. For you, it may take less or more time, but the idea is to stick with it and see where the process will lead you. Tips: Drinking more water really helps you manage your hunger pangs in the first few days. I usually kept with the program for a week before switching it up to allow me to better evaluate where the lacks where, if any.   

As for weight loss, I experienced a loss of 15kg in three months, but I can’t assure you that your loss will be the same, as everyone’s experience will be different. Still, don’t give up if you don’t see the number on your scale dropping. It could simply mean that it could take longer to see any difference. The differences that you will be able to notice are not only pertaining to your weight, but could also benefit your energy level, your concentration, your focus and reduce inflammation. On a more subtle view, it may also have protective effects against many illnesses, like diabetes, cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, heart diseases, and more. It may additionally help you fight ageing.  So even though you might not be interested in losing weight, you could still benefit greatly from adopting an IF approach. 

From the negative side effect perspective, IF could potentially lead to malnutrition, the development of eating disorders or mood changes. Those side effects are triggered by either an over-management of your feeding habits by excessively restricting your eating and/or by not listening for what your body really needs. Malnutrition can be avoided by making sure you eat enough vitamins and nutrients from the different food groups. If you have a very negative self-image triggered by your weight, please abstain from adopting IF, and please I strongly recommend you to ask help from a psychologist or a physician before attempting any feeding habit modifications. If your mood becomes the issue, like becoming irritable, angry, etc., those are normally indicative that you are not consuming as much calorie as you should and I would definitely encourage you to either change your intermittent fasting to a more lenient variation, increase your meal size and/or add snacks between your meals. Warning, please never ever fast intentionally for a period of more than 25 hours or more than 18 hours for consecutives days as it may lead to severe health issues. 

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