Coffee culture is big business. This energizing stimulant is what gets the masses to work in the morning, and keeps them alert throughout the day.
However, caffeine is also the enemy of adrenal fatigue sufferers the world over. Not just because of its detrimental effects on health, but its all-pervading presence is just so incredibly hard to escape. Coffee shops on every street corner lure us in with the smell of freshly roasted beans, and machines are conveniently located in our workplaces to keep us productive even when energy is flagging.
When you just have to get through your day, the comfort offered by a steaming mug of coffee can seem like an innocent treat (just one can’t hurt can it?) However, once you understand what caffeine really does to your body, you’ll want to do all you can to kick it to the curb.
Caffeine and Adrenal Fatigue
Mornings can be tough when you have adrenal fatigue. The temptation to have “just one caffeine hit” to get you going can be hard to squash. But if you’re a regular coffee drinker, you’ll already know that as that initial surge of energy wears off, that innocent expresso can leave you feeling even more tired and crabby than you did when you woke up.
This is because caffeine stimulates neuron activity in the brain. Each time you drink a cup of coffee, neurons send messages to your pituitary gland which in turn alerts your adrenals to pump out adrenaline and cortisol. In short; caffeine instantly puts you into fight or flight mode. If you’re drinking several cups a day, it’s likely your whole nervous system is on constant red alert without you even knowing it.
The Addictive Nature of Caffeine
Like any drug, regular caffeine consumption can lead to a need for increasingly larger doses in order to produce the same effect. Just like cigarettes and alcohol, cutting out caffeine can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms which can initially make your adrenal fatigue feel even worse.
If you need to drink coffee for energy, or experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and irritability when you try to give it up – this addictive stimulant may already have a hold of you. For anyone with adrenal fatigue, the cycle of “energy boost followed by huge crash” is one of the worse patterns you can establish when it comes to managing your adrenal exhaustion.
Decaffeinated Coffee and Adrenal Fatigue
If you’ve tried to cut down on caffeine, it’s a sure bet that you’ve considered decaffeinated coffee as a viable alternative. However, if you think this is the best way to break the habit, think again.
Stating that a product is decaffeinated doesn’t necessarily mean its 100% caffeine free. The USDA only requires products to be 97% caffeine free in order for manufacturers to make the claim on the label, but what does this mean in practice? If you think that your average cup of coffee contains approximately 180mg of caffeine, a typical de-caff version will still contain around 5.4g of caffeine; enough to have a mildly stimulating effect.
Then there’s the fact that many cheaper brands use solvents such as carbon dioxide and methylene chloride to remove the caffeine. In many cases, the substances used in the decaffeination process may actually be more harmful to health than the caffeine itself. If you do decide to switch to decaf, make doubly sure you buy a high quality brand.
The Hidden Sources of Caffeine
Did you know that caffeine isn’t just in coffee, but can lurk in many other products you may never even have considered? Some diet soft drinks contain significant levels of caffeine which can throw your healthy eating plan off schedule, and of course products containing cocoa should also be off limits. Unfortunately this means that chocolate treats can be just as harmful for your adrenal health as that regular cup of coffee. As a rough guide, the more cocoa contained in a chocolate bar, the more caffeine that product will contain.
Tea and some ice-cream products can also contain unexpected amounts of caffeine. It’s claimed that one particular brand of ice-cream contains up to 125mg of caffeine per 4 ounce serving!
If you’re determined to cut caffeine out for good, then it pays to read product labels carefully and ask questions when eating out.
For more information about the effects on caffeine and tips on how to get it out of your system, take a look at these related articles on the blog: