Aaah Coffee. That smell, that energy kick, that cup of soothing warm comfort. It signals to us a time to stop, rest and take a break. Coffee has become a culture and a huge part of our lifestyle and diet.
And while some of us are able to drink coffee with perceived minimal negative effects (and in fact in small quantities, it can have positive effects on some people) it does have an impact on our biochemistry and hormonal system. It impacts our WHOLE body in one way shape or form.
This post is for you to learn a little more about the down sides of coffee intake and for those of you who may have signs and symptoms that perhaps it is not all ok for you. If you have even an inkling that this may be the case, I encourage you to explore this further. What may seem harmless or innocent can be part of a bigger picture that is worth investigating.
You and your well being are worth the exploration!
Caffeine stimulates Stress Hormone Production
Caffeine acts on your Adrenal Glands and stimulates the production of Adrenaline.
Adrenaline is one of our stress hormones that initiates the stress response to start its cascading effects on the body, all designed to help us!
Adrenaline’s role is to shut down all non-necessary activities such as digestion, cell repair and regeneration including skin cells, reproduction and channel all effort into responding to a stressful event. The body needs energy and resources so that it can fight or flight in a life-threatening situation or what the body thinks is a life-threatening situation!
One of the first things Adrenaline does is to mobilise glucose stored in the liver and muscles to raise blood sugar levels in an effort to provide energy to skeletal muscles so we can move quickly!
But here’s the kicker:
Historically, the stress response occurred in life threatening situations, that needed mobilised blood glucose to fight or flight and save our lives! But if the fight or flight does not occur ie. you are sitting down at work, driving or are inactive throughout your day, then the increase in blood sugar is not utilised by the muscles and requires Insulin release to correct blood sugar levels.
And just as it is designed to do, Insulin mops up unused glucose in the blood and re-stores it in the liver, the muscles (this is why muscle mass is especially important) and any excess to body fat.
What else does Adrenaline do?
Blood pressure and heart rate rise to provide more oxygen to muscles.
Muscles contract and become tense in anticipation of action.
Pupils dilate to see better.
The immune system is down regulated to focus on the response to the stressor and in the case of persistent low level stressors is regularly down regulated leading to greater risk of illness and infection.
Blood is diverted away from digestion to focus on blood flow to skeletal muscles, which as above if persistent low level stress is either perceived or real WILL impact your digestion everyday!
Reproductive function is also down regulated to focus on danger and again, in the longer term, if life is not safe or perceived as safe; reproduction is not prioritised.
And finally, please consider this part of the equation; if you already have high levels of daily pressure or stress through your lifestyle (both real and perceived), or you are a naturally excitable and energetic person, are driven and achievement focused person, a busy and rushing person, prone to feeling anxious or having a monkey mind, your tolerance to stress hormone production may be already low. Throwing caffeine onto this may be fueling a fire that doesn’t need any encouragement.
Key Point: Caffeine through its stimulation of Adrenaline can contribute to down regulation of core body functions causing flow on effects to your health and well being; and increased body fat as a result of its role in increasing blood sugar and insulin production, thereby promoting fat storage.
Caffeine is a Liver Loader
The Livers role is to detoxify substances that we consume or that are naturally occurring in the body, for them to be excreted or converted to other useful substances.
Caffeine is one of these toxins that is dealt with by the Liver.
Liver congestion starts to occur when excessive toxins (liver loaders) are consumed. These include processed foods, sugar, alcohol and caffeine, trans fats, and chemicals. Unfortunately, the modern world and lifestyle are abundant in these substances, and our Liver knows it!
If liver congestion is occurring when two common and normal body substances (cholesterol and estrogen) come to the liver as part of their metabolism and excretion journeys, they cannot be dealt with and then are recycled into the blood.
Healthy cholesterol metabolism involves cholesterol being converted to sex hormones in the liver. Liver congestion results in cholesterol being recycled into the blood. Two outcomes of this are: this may pose a health issue of excessive cholesterol especially if it is damaged cholesterol (though it is questionable as to whether high cholesterol alone is truly is an issue for heart disease) and you now have less sex hormones being made.
Sex hormones determines your energy and vitality from the moment you wake up in the morning. Healthy sex hormones enable you to feel alive and vibrant!! So a healthy uncongested Liver is essential for healthy sex hormones.
Another issue that occurs with Liver Loading is Fatty Liver Disease. The more load the liver has over time can result in liver cells dying and not being regenerated, and in it’s place a fat cell is made. This is known as Fatty Liver Disease (once just a disease of long term excessive alcohol consumers but now more frequently showing up as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease).
As with cholesterol being recycled back into the bloodstream, Estrogen is also affected by a congested Liver. If estrogen is not able to be converted and excreted as it should, recycled estrogen is then released back into the body, which causes at best PMS and flow issues, but also estrogen related cancers. (This is why there is no safe level of drinking for prevention of Breast Cancer, but that’s another story!)
Key Point: Caffeine puts pressure on the Liver, which can contribute to impaired sex hormone production, cholesterol metabolism, estrogen recycling and fatty liver disease.
Caffeine has a diuretic action which causes us to excrete water, vitamins and minerals, meaning we are more likely to miss out on hydration and nutrition.
Caffeine can cause the loss of calcium and magnesium from the bones.
Caffeine can inhibit absorption of vitamins and minerals.
The stress response and liver detoxification utilise vitamins and minerals in their processes, so not only does caffeine inhibit and excrete vitamin and minerals but requires more of them! By reducing or eliminating caffeine, you can improve your vitamin and mineral digestions, absorption and availability.
So what to do? Caffeine certainly doesn’t work alone in it’s negative effects on the body, and many people are able to safely consume small to moderate amounts of caffeine. But once we are aware of the biochemical effects of Caffeine, perhaps we can consciously take action to reduce our consumption and choose carefully how much and how often we consume it.
Here are some starting points for you to consider:
Get honest with the effect of caffeine on your body, mood and emotional state. How do you feel? Perhaps you are not even aware of how you feel and it’s effects. Start taking notice.
Do you shake, does your heart race, do you feel agitated?
How centred and calm do you truly feel throughout the day?
Do you rely on it as an appetite suppressant or an upper?
Do you rely on it to get your bowels moving?
Do you crave coffee first thing in the morning and believe you couldn’t possibly go without it?
Are you already running on Adrenaline through a rushing and busy lifestyle?
Does coffee nourish you? And in what way?
What emotional need does coffee meet for you?
Reduce caffeine significantly. Cut down on the number of coffee’s you drink in a day, a week and a month…
Replace coffee with weak black tea/green tea or decaf coffee, especially in the transition phase to reducing caffeine. (Green and black tea contain Theanine which buffers the effects of caffeine present in them).
Drink more water.
Choose herbal teas or other low caffeine/caffeine free drinks instead.
Consider Turmeric, Chai or Cacao drinks when you want that warm nourishing drink (be aware though that Chai and Cacao still have stimulant effects).
Set yourself a short-term goal. For example, “I only drink coffee on weekends” or “I only drink coffee on these days…at this time of day”.
Important Note: if replacing coffee with alternatives, be sugar aware. I believe that sugar is even more abundant and damaging to our bodies than coffee/caffeine and in fact, many anecdotal stories from those who go Sugarless or Quit Sugar notice that they are far better able to tolerate coffee once sugar is out of their system.
A Four Week Break
Finally, to really see the impact coffee has on you and the flow on effect on your Liver health, Sex Hormones and Stress Hormones are you prepared to take a 4-week break from coffee?
This may seem challenging, but when you consider the silent and not so silent damage it may be doing; are you prepared to be curious and investigate how you may feel without it?
Take the 4-week break from caffeine and use it to take note of any positive effects; for example weight loss, energy, cycle improvements, mood improvements.
After the break perhaps you can bring caffeine back more mindfully and after the body has a chance to re-set and recover.
Sending you love on your Coffee exploration.