Many of us out there are obsessed with good coffee. Black, white, short, long – some even go to bed day dreaming about the next morning’s cup.
Often though, regular coffee consumption can leave you feeling more tired than usual, especially in the late morning when you start to dip off your earlier caffeine high. If this becomes a regular pattern for you, your adrenals are trying to tell you they are tired. And whilst many things stress the adrenals out, coffee is definitely at the top of the list.
Who should especially consider giving up coffee?
There are many people with particular health conditions that should really consider giving up coffee for good. These conditions include:
- Any type of fatigue, including Chronic Fatigue and Adrenal Fatigue.
- Addisons disease
- Thyroid disease
- At times of high stress.
- IBS (both diarrhoea and constipation dominant)
- GERD (Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease)/ Heartburn
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Pre-conception or pregnancy
- Hormonal imbalances
- PMS/ PMDD
- Female reproductive disorders such as PCOS or Endometriosis
- Diabetes and Insulin resistance
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Anyone with an inflammatory disease or chronic pain issue (as coffee is inflammatory and will worsen symptoms)
The perks of no coffee
Give it 14 days with no coffee and you will feel like different person.
Your energy will be better and more consistent
If getting out of bed is a struggle most mornings and the first thing you are reaching for is coffee, it is likely you have some level of adrenal fatigue. People with adrenal fatigue rely on stimulants like coffee to keep their energy kicking on throughout the day (often combined with sweets or chocolate but more on that below). Whilst coffee provides a temporary energy kick, it can leave you feeling more tired than you did in the first place. What goes up must come down – and the down hill run can be far more extreme if the adrenals are already struggling.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but when you quit coffee your energy will start to feel better and more consistent throughout the day. Quitting is hard for about a week as you do feel a little more tired, but you very soon start to feel more awake generally. As your adrenals get a break, you start to feel fresher in the morning, and mid-morning/ afternoon slumps start to become a thing of the past.
You will feel less stressed and anxious
When you cut out coffee, your anxiety levels will dissipate and you will be able to manage stress a lot more effectively.
When you drink a cup of coffee, the huge hit of caffeine increases the level of your stress hormones (catecholamines). By stimulating the fight or flight response in the name of waking up, your body is literally stressed out. This perpetual flood of stress hormones can lead onto a myriad of health issues including increased ageing, anxiety, insomnia, blood sugar, fat storage, cholesterol levels and the urinary excretion of certain minerals essential to the role of keeping you calm.
You will start to crave sweets less and will likely lose weight
Many people that give up coffee report less cravings for sweets and a lesser need for snacking.
When you drink coffee regularly, you disrupt your natural cortisol rhythm (cortisol is another stress hormone that coffee stimulates the release of in order to wake you up). Disrupted cortisol rhythms may cause:
- Increased insulin sensitivity making it harder for glucose to enter your cells.
- Reduce your ability to burn fat and increase the rate at which you do it.
- Disruptions to your HPA axis that cause hormonal imbalances that can cause you to gain weight.
- Increased fat storage.
- Disrupted blood sugar levels (which is why you are hungry often craving sweet a little while after a coffee).
Cutting coffee from your diet also takes the load off the liver, giving it a chance to clear out old toxins previously stored away in fat.
This weight loss effect of quitting coffee can be also attributed to the cutting of frothy milk lattes and added sugar.
Your memory will improve
Although it’s not immediate, when you stop drinking coffee you will notice a difference in your focus and ability to remember things (especially in the short term).
Whilst many studies have shown coffee to enhance mental performance, when you are stressed or exhausted coffee can actually make mental performance and memory worse by taxing the adrenal glands. This occurs when hormones that are usually harnessed to make brain chemicals are shunted down the pathway to create more stress hormones. This leaves you with brain fog and regular complaints from loved ones about your constant forgetfulness.
You will sleep a lot better
Thanks to genetics, some people metabolise caffeine a lot more slowly than others, allowing the effects of caffeine to stay in your system for up to 8-12 hours.
If you are a slow metaboliser, you will experience serious benefits to your sleep by cutting it out altogether (even if you just drink the one in the morning). When your system is caffeine free you are able to experience a much deeper sleep thus feel a million times more refreshed the next morning.
Your digestion will improve
A lot of people rely on coffee to get their bowels moving during the day. It does so by overstimulating the acid in your stomach (HCL) and the peristalsis action of your large bowel (the way your bowel squeezes to push the stool out). Whilst it might make you go daily in the short term, drinking coffee every day can make digestion issues a lot worse (such as IBS and GERD/ reflux).
Your skin will look better and younger
When you cut coffee out, your skin always starts to look clearer, plumper, more hydrated and less tired due to the benefits of taking a heavy caffeine load off your system.
The effect of coffee on your skin is two fold. Firstly, coffee speeds up the ageing process by stressing out the adrenal glands (you can start to break down elastin and collagen quickly with stressed out adrenals, often showing in the face first). Secondly, both the coffee bean itself and the caffeine it in is extremely dehydrating.
So why is it so hard to give up coffee?
Is it the smell? Is it the flavour? Maybe. But more likely it’s because a lot of us are simply hooked on the caffeine (which is considered a drug after all).
If you feel like doing the same and experiencing some of the benefits above, have a read below and prepare yourself to make going coffee-free a lot easier.
Tips that will help you come off coffee and still stay awake
- Choose a time when you can rest a little more than usual, like a weekend or holiday period. Especially if you are used to drinking coffee first thing, you will want more time to sleep in (and this is something you should let your body enjoy).
- Consider weaning yourself off coffee vs going cold turkey. Cut down the amount your drink over a few weeks first, or alternatively try and switch to organic decaf before going the full hog.
- Substitute with green tea, which is great as it has a little caffeine but unlike coffee contains L-Theonine which is hugely beneficial to the nervous system (drinks up to 3 cups a day before 1pm).
- If you are looking for something a little stronger, try a little chai tea.
- My favourite coffee substitute is roasted Dandelion tea. Like many cafes around sydney run the dandelion thru an espresso machine, topping it with hot frothy almond milk. Dandelion tea is bitter like coffee, caffeine free and extremely beneficial to the liver.
- Consider supplements that boost your energy: Activated Bs, Magnesium, CoQ10, Carnitine and if you have diagnosed Adrenal fatigue (depending on your hormone profile) consider supplemental DHEA, Liposomal vitamin C, Adrenal Cortex and Adaptogenic herbs (all under the supervision of a practitioner)
- Drink a LOT of purified water during the day (up to 3L). Many people feel tired because they are simply dehydrated.
- Get moving, which can be hard if you have previously relied on coffee to get you thru your exercise routine. Just do what you can. If you are too tired for a run, go for a gentle walk. If you are too tired to do laps, go and float in some salt water. Consider Japanese Ki yoga vs the popular vinyasa yoga. Any kind of gentle movement will get your blood circulating and will help you perk up faster for your day.