No, I'm not about to tell you that coffee is the long-awaited cure for the common cold. But it might make you feel a little less miserable when you're under the weather.
When you're suffering from a cold, you feel "slow"—because you are slow. A cold slows your psychomotor activity, which is your ability to move and think.
Fortunately, that's exactly what coffee (and caffeine) help with.
Why Does Coffee Help With a Cold? (It's Not Just the Caffeine)
Reason #1: Caffeine
Caffeine inhibits a neurotransmitter called adenosine—which is responsible for making you feel tired.
In other words, caffeine's a natural pick-me-up.
It can help increase alertness and wakefulness, and just help you feel better when you have a cold. (Source)
Caffeine can also help get your sluggish psychomotor activity back to more reasonable levels. Plus, caffeine can also help relieve some common cold symptoms, like headaches.
And drinking a nice warm cup of coffee can help with congestion and sore throat—not to mention making you feel warm, which can be especially comforting when you're feeling under the weather.
Just make sure you're sipping lots of H2O along with your joe. The last thing you want is to forget about drinking fluids when you're already feeling crummy.
But it's not just the caffeine in coffee that can help with a cold—it's also the antioxidants and other chemical compounds contained in it.
Reason #2: Antioxidants (for Inflammation)
When you have a cold, your body is under stress. And like any other stressor, this causes inflammation. Antioxidants help to fight that inflammation by scavenging free radicals—unstable molecules that can damage cells.
In other words, antioxidants help protect your cells from damage—especially important when you're not feeling well. Bacteria and viruses cause inflammation, and the antioxidants in coffee can help reduce that inflammation. Fighting inflammation is important when you're trying to get over a cold—or just about any illness, for that matter.
Reason #3: Polyphenols & Other Compounds (for Immune Support)
Coffee also contains other compounds that can help protect your body against disease by reducing inflammation and boosting your immune system. A stronger immune system means a better chance of fighting off that cold, or any other infection.
Besides caffeine, there are numerous other compounds that support immune function: polyphenols, chlorogenic acids, kahweol, cafestol, and more. According to this study, it's the caffeine and polyphenols that seem to have the most positive effect on immunity.
That means even decaf can help perk you up if you're feeling sick. That's because of all those other compounds like antioxidants and phenols. Not to mention the placebo effect.
That is, if you don't know you're drinking decaf when you're sick, drinking coffee can help you feel slightly more energetic just because you're expecting it to. And that's about the best thing I can say about decaf.
The bottom line? Go ahead and enjoy a cup of java when you're sick. Just make sure to drink plenty of non-coffee fluids as well.
Mix things up a bit with some water, juice, herbal tea with honey, clear broth, and so on. (But don't literally mix those things up.) It's very important to stay hydrated when you have a cold.
Coffee can help you ride out a cold, but it's not a complete substitute for rest, fluids, and chicken soup. (Or cold medicine, for that matter.)
But if you're feeling under the weather, reach for a cup of joe and enjoy the moment—just make sure to take it easy and drink lots of other fluids, too.
Don't expect it to work miracles, but it might just help you feel a little bit better. And when you're dealing with a cold, every little bit helps.
Even if it's decaf. (Yuck.)
If you need a post-sickness energy kick make sure to try Black Insomnia's Extreme Caffeine Coffee which has 6x more caffeine per cup so you can get back to crushing the day.
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