Coffee has never really been my thing to get me started in the morning – to wake up, the aroma, or my catalyst to have a BM… until this past holiday season. I would steal a couple of sips from my partner at breakfast before I headed out of the house, before I could drink any more. But even those two sips would awaken my mind and my heart. Honestly, it was insane to see such a quick reaction. Obviously, it was a "guilty pleasure" I fell in love with.
The first 3 days after Opie left for the holidays, I didn’t have any coffee. I had forgotten about it and everything was fine. Then for fun one Friday morning I had a cup and then another to follow, then the morning after, and after. I craved that first sip of exhilaration. Then I found my bedtime being pushed back a couple of hours and I could not for the life of me have the strength to get up in the morning. I had feelings of urgency and anxiety about getting work and life done. I knew then that the black liquid gold was the culprit.
There are goods and bads to coffee. Maintaining a healthy balance of consumption is vital for keeping the cons at bay. So, it is my honor to give you the pros and cons of daily consumption and how to get to your sweet spot.
Coffee is great on paper. It contains more antioxidants than green tea and cocoa. This protects the body from cell damage. It’s main component is caffeine, a powerful stimulant that is absorbed into the bloodstream and travels into the brain where other neurotransmitters are increased leading to the firing of neurons. Caffeine can last up to 7 hours in the body...we can do so much in a span of 7 hours, right?
- Coffee contains caffeine, the stimulating component that makes you feel less tired and energized
- Coffee improves cognitive function --mood, boosts short-term memory, reaction time, and concentration
- Increases adrenaline levels, so you’re prepped for intense physical exertion if you need to be
- Coffee reduces risk of developing depression
- Caffeine sends signals to fat cells to break down body fat
- Coffee drinkers have lower risks of developing diabetes II, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease
- Coffee is a liver-lover. Coffee protects against common liver diseases like cirrhosis, hepatitis, fatty liver disease and protect against liver and colon cancer
- Coffee improves exercise performance. Caffeine enhances endurance, strengthens muscle contraction and reduces your perception of pain
- Drinking high consumptions can cause irritability, nervousness, and anxiety
- Caffeine interferes with the body’s natural regulatory rhythms and can impact quality of sleep and can cause insomnia, leading to perpetual imbalances
- Caffeine can cause headaches
- Caffeine can cause indigestion
- Caffeine can reduce fertility in women
- Caffeine can make menopause symptoms worse
Caffeine can strongly impact the digestive and adrenal system. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I bring things back to the digestive and adrenal system (my fave topics). Caffeine stimulates the stomach to produce stomach acid which can aid in digestion but over time can actually reduce stomach acid production. Low stomach acid production can lead to indigestion, heartburn and low absorption of nutrients.
Drinking coffee raises your adrenaline and cortisol levels, triggering your fight-or-flight mode. If you’re constantly in this mode, your adrenals and nervous system can eventually burn out. In other words, you always feel exhausted.
If you’re hooked on coffee, you’ll know it. Caffeine alters mood and behavior and can lead to physical dependence. If you are a habitual coffee drinker and you stop drinking it even if its anywhere from 12-24 hours, you will mostly likely notice withdrawal symptoms.
Unfortunately, if you’ve been a huge coffee drinker for some time, the harsher the duration of withdrawal symptoms you may have. Symptoms typically last a few days to a week for light to moderate drinkers but can be as long as two months or more for heavy drinkers.
COMMON WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
- Caffeine headaches. They start just behind the eyes then move up the front of the head
- You’re so sleepy you can’t keep yourself straight
- Lack of energy and motivation to get things done
- Lack of concentration, focus or coordination
- Brain fog
- Nausea and vomiting
GIVE YOURSELF SOME TLC
Caffeine affects everyone differently, so if you’re starting to experience some negative side effects like heart palpitations, anxiety or indigestion, consider cutting down to find your balance.
Since caffeine can stay in the body for up to 7 hours, you may want to consider only drinking it in the morning or switching to decaf or half caffeinated-half decaf.
Cutting cold turkey may cause intense withdrawal symptoms, especially if you are a heavy drinker. Consider tapering gradually. For example, if you typically drink 16 oz a day, cut down to 12 oz for a couple of days, then 10 oz, and so on. This will allow your body to acclimate to its natural rhythms.
Stay hydrated. Your brain and cells need water for optimal functioning. You will feel better. Trust me.
Allow yourself to rest. The first couple of days may be the hardest, so if you choose to cleanse from coffee, it’s best to do so during the weekend or when you know you will have time to rest and get extra sleep.
Sweat it out. You may be tired to exercise but breaking a sweat will release dopamine, your brains pleasure chemical.
Eat the rainbow. Colorful fruits and veggies will give your body the nutrition it needs, giving you energy and a positive mind space.
Eat adequate levels of lean protein and healthy fats to stabilize blood sugar levels. Lean animal meat like poultry and fish and healthy fats like avocados, nuts and seeds will provide sustainable energy and satiation for hours.
WHAT’S UP WITH DECAF?
Decaf coffee isn’t totally caffeine-free. The USDA only requires products to be 97% caffeine-free in order for manufacturers to make the claim on the label, so there’s still a mild stimulating effect.
HOW TO KEEP COFFEE HEALTHY
- Keep consumption at 8-12oz, which is about 80-200mg of caffeine per cup
- Order it black, or add a little whole milk or a nut milk
- Leave out the sugar
- Replenish with water. For every ounce of coffee, you want to double that in water. Example: 8 oz coffee = 16oz water.
Most people enjoy the ritual of drinking coffee but you can begin new rituals with these ALTERNATIVES if you give it up:
- Green tea
- Licorice tea for adrenals and energy
- Siberian ginseng for concentration
- Rich black tea with milk, like chai
- Dandy Blend, a herbal blend of dandelion and chicory root. This one is great because it looks like coffee and even tastes like it.
Now that I love coffee, I don't mind taking a little swig of it here and there and drinking alternatives. Now, go find your sweet spot.
What have been some of your experiences with coffee intake? Leave a comment below.