There are many addictions that affect people around the world; some are serious such as alcohol and cigarettes, others less so like shopping or chocolate. Today, one of the most widely held addictions is to coffee. But what many regular coffee-drinkers don’t realize is that drinking large amounts of caffeine can seriously impact your endocrine system, and actually leave you with LESS energy, not more.
The problem with caffeine is simple to understand. The energy that we get from a cup of coffee tends to be short-lived, and is often followed by a crash that leaves us needing another cup. With time, we need to consume more and more caffeine to get the same buzzy, awake feeling that we crave.
You’re probably asking, what could be wrong with a little coffee every now and then? The problem is that this constant stimulation is a stress on the endocrine system. Each dose of caffeine prompts your adrenals to release the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, just the same kind of response that a stressful situation might trigger. Increase the amount and frequency of your dose, and your adrenals will eventually become unable to respond. That’s when we see the typical Adrenal Fatigue symptoms of a lack of enthusiasm, tiredness, weakened immune system, and more.
Why Should You Quit?
Here are a few more reasons why it might just be time for you to ease off the caffeine:
- Though the sharp taste of, in particular, black coffee can be seen as a great pleasure, the associated acidity is much less appealing. Coffee’s acidic qualities have been linked and associated with many ailments including indigestion, heartburn, digestive discomfort and unhealthy imbalances in the flora of the gut.
- The culture of coffee drinking has strong associative addiction potential with regard to a number of less healthy food groups. The fashionable nature and versatility of the drink has lead to a much larger intake of sugars and fatty additions, from frothy cream to flavored syrups and chocolate sprinkles. A large chain store cup of coffee can often end up containing more calories than an average main meal, most of the time unknowingly for the consumer.
- Research has helped to determine that 5-HIA, an organic acid and contributing element in the production of serotonin is found in much higher quantities in the urine of coffee drinkers. This means that less serotonin (known as the ‘happy chemical’) is reaching the brain, and this can be detrimental to an individual’s well being as serotonin is necessary for energy levels, mood stabilization and normal sleeping pattern regulation. This can turn in to something of a vicious cycle. Caffeine can cause anxiety and stress, and many people then turn to coffee as a remedy for exactly those symptoms.
- Quitting coffee will generally give you more consistent, predictable energy levels throughout the day. After a few weeks of no caffeine, you will likely find yourself with more energy in the mornings, and no afternoon crash.
How to Quit Coffee
We’ve examined some of the detrimental effects of caffeine, but many of you probably already know that quitting caffeine is no easy task. If you wish to wean yourself off this stimulant, here are a number of tips and ways to help you on your way!
- Get up earlier
Many people rely on a cup of coffee to be able to wake up and function in the morning. To get out of this habit, try to change your morning routine. Perhaps set your alarm for half an hour earlier so that you can wake up more naturally and do not have to rely on the artificial boost that caffeine provides. A healthy and satisfying alternative to coffee after waking is room temperature water with a twist of lemon. It may seem mundane but it is extremely refreshing and encourages the body to begin to operate.
- Try decaffeinated alternatives
You may be surprised just how much of your coffee addiction is down to psychology and the act of preparation. Many people have commented on the practice of switching from caffeinated to decaffeinated beverages, including coffee and popular carbonated drinks, and the way in which consuming them had something of a placebo effect. The coffee taste remains the same but the majority of potential health risks have been eliminated.
- Take it slowly
Quitting “cold turkey” can result in headaches and other withdrawal symptoms. Yes, this is when you realize you really were addicted! To avoid these, you can try gradually reducing the frequency and size of your coffees. You can also try gradually reducing the strength of your coffee, but this obviously works best if you are making your coffee at home.
- Use your willpower!
It’s an old fashioned technique, but sometimes the strength of a person’s willpower can really work wonders. Make the conscious decision to give up caffeine, and whenever you get the urge to grab a cup of coffee, simply tell yourself “no, not today” and choose an alternative snack or beverage to consume. If you can do this successfully, your addiction will begin to subside. You will find that over time you do not have to consciously remind yourself that you do not want coffee because you really won’t crave it at all.
- Build a routine
It is important to try and get in to a daily routine and pattern that does not rely on the ‘pick me up’ effect of caffeine. Make a conscious decision to try to adjust your daily schedule. Whether it means going to bed an hour earlier, waking up an hour earlier or readjusting your eating times, try to find a routine in which your natural energy levels feel comfortable.
- Drink more water
It is often feelings of tiredness that drive us to coffee and other stimulants like sugar. Remember that it might simply be dehydration that is causing your fatigue. When you feel tired, reach for a glass of water instead of a coffee. You should quickly feel less tired, and you’ll save some money too!
- Don’t use coffee as a crutch
If you are feeling stressed, anxious or tired, spend a little bit of time trying to think of the physical reasons behind these feelings instead of immediately turning to coffee for instant gratification of the symptoms. If you try to address these problems at the source, then you may find that your need for coffee will not be as strong.
These are just a few tips that might help you to quit coffee. Remember that each cup of coffee that you drink puts your adrenals and endocrine system under stress. An occasional coffee may not harm you, but drinking strong coffees several times each day can have a real impact on your health. In time, your adrenal glands may lose their ability to respond appropriately, leaving you tired, unenthusiastic and fatigued.
To avoid adrenal exhaustion, consider cutting back on your caffeine consumption today. For some the process can be very quick and simple, for others it may be longer and harder, but the end result is worth it. Being caffeine-free and freeing your body of unnecessary stress is definitely something worth fighting for!