Share this Post
On December 31, 2016, I drank my last cup of coffee, and have not looked back. My 2017 new year’s resolution was to quit drinking caffeine. You might ask, “WHY? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY?” Well, life is hectic, and like everyone around me, I was drinking 2-3 cups coffee to keep me revved up so that I could sustain the crazy pace of my life. All the while, I was constantly exhausted, had difficulty sleeping, and gaining weight. I would drive my endocrinologist crazy by having him order different lab tests in order to figure out what was wrong with me. SURPRISE!! Nothing. Relieved that the tests showed nothing wrong, I was perplexed because I knew that something was not quite right. After all, if you can’t advocate for your health, who else will?
That moment set me off a new path that would help me learn more about my body and its nutritional needs. I enrolled to be a student at the Institute of Integrative Health and Nutrition’s (IIN) health coaching program. Allowing me to test out different nutrition theories (based on alternative and western medicine) on myself to see what works the best for me and my body.
During class, I watched Dr. Libby Weaver, a nutritional biochemist speak about caffeine’s effect on the body’s stress response, particularly the central nervous system, and the adrenal glands. She lectured, “our hectic lives are constantly in a state of stress, and we never give our sympathetic nervous system and adrenal glands a chance to fully recover.” Resulting in something known as adrenal fatigue, which can cause: constant exhaustion, decreased libido, muscle weakness, poor focus, difficulty sleeping, irritability, sugar/salt cravings, weight gain, and a whole host of other symptoms.
One of the main hormones that our adrenal glands secrete is cortisol. Cortisol helps to control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation and assist with memory formulation. It has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps control blood pressure. In women, cortisol also supports the developing fetus during pregnancy. All of these functions make cortisol a crucial hormone to protect overall health and well-being. However when we are constantly stressed out, so are our adrenal glands, and our cortisol levels can go haywire. For example, our cortisol levels are naturally elevated in the morning as a function of helping us wake up, and by drinking caffeine, we send our cortisol levels into overdrive, causing our bodies to be in a constant state of active stress.
Hmmm…. would quitting my 2-3 cups of coffee a day really help me? I always wanted to be one of those people who would wake up and feel energized by a cup of warm water with lemon, and I had tried multiple times to quit, but I could never make it past three days. I had awful headaches, and felt exhausted. Why would I want to put myself through that again? I had to try again, listen to my body, and make a plan. I woke up on January 1, 2017 and had some dandelion tea, but I was jonesing for a cup of java. The first week was brutal. I felt tired and achy, as if I had the flu, but I trudged through the week. On the sixth day, hallelujah! I woke up feeling energized! I did not need my cup of coffee in the morning to wake me up, however I missed the ritual of drinking that hot cup of deliciousness. It almost felt like a break up with a loved one, until I found this amazing recipe on the Goop website for a ginger and turmeric latte. This delicious latte has so many health benefits that I would be crazy not to start my day like this! I feel better, have more clarity, am able to fall asleep quickly at night. I have more energy to get up early and exercise in the morning. All without coffee!
It was not easy to give up caffeine cold turkey, so here are some other tips from healthyeater.com that can help you quit caffeine in a less dramatic way. I still miss the taste of coffee, and perhaps in time, I might allow myself to enjoy a cup, but for now I am steering clear. I recognize that there are many health benefits to drinking caffeine, but as the founder of IIN Joshua Rosenthal say’s “One person’s food is another person’s poison.” You just have to figure out what’s right for you.