What would you say if someone accused you of being addicted to a stimulant, and taking large doses of it on a daily basis? Well, the truth might be a little closer to home than you realize. Caffeine is a highly addictive substance, and many of us crave and consume it in large amounts.
We start taking these stimulants to give us a lift in energy, and there’s no doubt that’s what they do. But the problem with caffeine is that the energy it gives us is short-lived. We’ve all experienced the up-and-down energy swings that are associated with regular coffee drinking. Each high is followed by a low, and (if we’re not careful) each low prompts us to ingest more of that same stimulant.
So are we actually getting more energy from caffeine, or are we just reapportioning the limited energy that we have into peaks and troughs through the day? Many Adrenal Fatigue sufferers find that their coffees have less and less effect over time. The peaks become less fulfilling and the troughs start crashing even lower. To compensate, they consume more stimulants (larger coffees, more sugary snacks), but eventually even those become ineffective. To treat Adrenal Fatigue effectively, avoiding caffeine is one of the first things that you need to do.
Constant stimulation weakens your adrenals
What happens each time you drink a cup of coffee? Your brain sends a message to the pituitary gland, which releases a hormone that tells your adrenals to produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. In other words, you are triggering exactly the same kind of stress response that your body uses when you are in imminent physical danger.
If you only have the occasional cup of coffee, your adrenals will be able to react quickly and capably to this kind of stimulation. But if you are drinking several cups of coffee each day, you start to notice a weakened reaction. Some people might say that their ‘tolerance’ has increased, or be proud that their body just processes it better, but the truth is somewhat different. After long-term and repeated doses of caffeine, your adrenals are simply weakened and less able to respond adequately.
In a 2005 study, researchers gave three groups of subjects a 0mg, 300mg or 600mg dose of caffeine each day for 5 days. Then on the sixth day they gave each subject a morning and afternoon dose, and measured their bodies’ cortisol response. The results? Those who had been abstaining from caffeine saw large spikes in cortisol on the sixth day. On the other hand, those who had been ingesting caffeine each day saw no cortisol response at all in the morning of the sixth day, and only a reduced response in the afternoon.
Giving up that morning cup of tea, coffee or caffeinated soda might sound daunting, but it’s an important part of recovering from Adrenal Fatigue. Many of us experience short-term withdrawal symptoms from caffeine, but they are generally gone within a week. After quitting coffee, most Adrenal Fatigue sufferers report a more even, consistent energy level throughout the day, without any of the crashes associated with caffeine intake.
Caffeine Stimulation of Cortisol Secretion Across the Waking Hours in Relation to Caffeine Intake Levels (Lovallo et al., 2005)
The Impact Of Coffee On Your Adrenal Glands (Nancy Desjardins, Nutritionist)