Some medical professionals are of the opinion that it is in no way safe to consume alcoholic beverages while one is recovering from a head injury. Some people claim it’s harmless, but it could slow down your recovery if you do it. Still, others suggest, “On your next night out, why not switch things up by ordering a premium coffee instead of your go-to cocktail?” (I beg you, refrain from doing this. We’ll go into the specifics of why later on in this essay.)
Why are there so many different perspectives? It’s not complicated: There hasn’t been much research on how people with concussion and post-concussion syndrome are affected by alcohol and caffeine. As a result, the patient is frequently responsible for making decisions. At our clinic, we see patients suffering from post-concussion syndrome on a weekly basis, and it’s common practice to have dialogues with these patients about the option in question.
We can draw some conclusions about what you can drink and at what times based on those. We will make every effort to condense the information into something that is more manageable for you (pun definitely intended).
When your brain strikes your skull as a result of an impact from the outside, you have suffered a caffeine concussion, commonly referred to as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). It’s possible that the tissue that was impacted will become bruised and inflamed.
Even while the bruising and inflammation in your arm could give you some discomfort, the situation is not very serious. However, when it reaches the brain, it triggers a temporary death of brain cells (neurons) in the region that was wounded. Because of the inflammation, other parts of the brain may experience pressure. Worst of all, it interferes with the communication that normally occurs between neurons and the blood vessels that provide them with oxygen on demand. This link is referred to as neurovascular coupling (NVC).
There are a few different manifestations that dysfunctional NVC might take. Sometimes the damaged part of the brain does not receive sufficient amounts of the resources it needs in order to finish a task. At other times, an area accomplishes its duty, but in order to do so, it consumes a greater quantity of resources than its fair portion would dictate. In many cases, healthier regions begin to compensate for unhealthy parts, but in the end, they find that the additional effort is too much for them to handle.
These disorders manifest themselves as post-concussion symptoms such as headaches, trouble concentrating, brain fog, memory problems, difficulty sleeping, balance problems, etc. The examples are endless. In addition, this is the reason why the brain does not always react the same way to external chemicals like alcohol and caffeine as it did before the damage.
This predicament is only going to last for a short time for the vast majority of individuals. After a few weeks, the brain returns to its normal state, and patients are able to resume their normal life. However, malfunctioning NVC and symptoms might continue for an extended amount of time for up to 30 percent of caffeine-concussion patients. Post-concussion syndrome is the name given to this medical disorder.
Caffeine has a wide-ranging impact on the body’s different systems, and it also causes the brain to undergo a number of transformations. We are going to talk about what these symptoms are, as well as how coffee can make them worse for people who have had a caffeine concussion.
There is a mechanism in your brain that can tell when you should feel alert as opposed to when you should feel tired. The chemical known as adenosine is an essential component of the system in question. Adenosine signals your body to slow down by engaging in a series of intricate interactions with your brain.
Your body interprets the molecules of caffeine as adenosine molecules. However, coffee prevents the real adenosine molecules from carrying out their function, at least temporarily, which stops the dampening effect from occurring. As a result, the majority of people will experience an increase in alertness after consuming coffee.
However, feeling alert is not the only benefit of consuming caffeine. Additionally, it facilitates the utilization of “happy” neurotransmitters within the brain, such as dopamine, glutamate, and serotonin. Because caffeine enhances the function of those hormones, consuming it can make you feel happier and give you more energy.
Additionally, caffeine may have an effect on your pituitary gland. Caffeine stimulates your body’s production of adrenaline, which in turn activates the sympathetic branch of your nervous system (the “fight or flight” reaction). This is one way in which your autonomic nervous system is intimately connected to your sympathetic nervous system. Because of this relationship, some people find that drinking coffee causes them to have an elevated heart rate.
Additionally, caffeine can impact other systems. Your memory and ability to focus may momentarily increase as a result of using it. It is possible that it will affect both your appetite and your digestion. If you are currently taking any medications, it is vital that you discuss your caffeine usage with your doctor.
The length of time it takes for caffeine to be eliminated from your system is significantly longer than the vast majority of people think. When the effects of the cup you drank in the morning start to wear off at 2:00 in the afternoon, it is not nearly gone; in fact, it is still in your brain when you eat supper. And if you consume coffee on a consistent basis, it will generate changes in your brain that will not be undone in a matter of days or even a couple of days. Altering the amount of coffee you consume on a daily basis, either by increasing or decreasing it, as well as the time of day that you consume it, has a discernible impact on the chemical makeup of your brain. If you suddenly stop drinking coffee after having done so for two years, your body may struggle with the withdrawal effects for several weeks rather than a few days.
Coffee has the power to transform us into superheroes. You’ll find that you have abnormal abilities, such as increased energy, a better memory, and a more positive disposition. You might even discover that engaging in physical activity is less difficult. But it’s not sustainable. These benefits come at a price—one that you pay for later (anyone who has ever suffered a crash after drinking too much caffeine can attest to the truth of this statement). The negative effects of caffeine diminish in proportion to the amount consumed. However, consuming an excessive amount of caffeine will result in a severe crash once the effects of the drug have worn off.
What exactly takes place in a brain that has already been damaged and does not have sufficient resources to go around when caffeine is added to the mix? It is dependent on the individual patient. The following are some of the responses that we have seen:
Instant Symptoms: Some individuals have an immediate reaction to caffeine, which is frequently associated with dysautonomia or hormonal imbalance. Heart palpitations, an active “fight or flight” response, anxiety, trouble with gastrointestinal function, profuse sweating, flushing, nausea, and headache are some of the symptoms. Caffeine may exacerbate adrenal problems that are caused by a brain injury if these problems are already present.
Some patients experience delayed symptoms because their bodies are taking longer to respond. They feel wonderful when they take coffee, which helps them get through the day, but after six hours, they feel as if they are going to die from the effects of the caffeine. Although patients report that many of their post-concussion symptoms are aggravated, the most common symptom that we hear about is a tremendous headache. Patients may also have other symptoms. Because the symptoms manifest themselves later in the day, several patients do not make the connection between their experience and the ingestion of coffee.
Sleep Disruption: Caffeine concussion makes it more difficult to obtain a decent night’s sleep, and this is true even in the absence of a brain injury; when you’ve suffered a concussion, it’s even more difficult to sleep soundly. An interrupted night’s sleep can slow the healing process.