Guest Post: Kelsey Julien.Dr. James’ Intern with a passion for nutrition and a freshman studying to be a Registered Dietician at D’Youville College.
For the average American, coffee makes up a large part of our morning routine. As soon as we get up, we run to the coffee maker to start a pot, or if we are very organized, we programmed it the night before and our favorite java is there waiting for us. We pour in our cream, milk or sugar and then get on with our day. The caffeine in that first cup is like starting our body on a roller coaster ride first thing in the morning. We experience this low when we get out of bed, we go get our first caffeine pick me up of the day where we experience the feeling of being at the top of the roller coaster. After the thrill of the ride, we reach the bottom and we are right back where we started; reaching for our next cup. But what if putting that third or fourth cup of coffee down could make us more alert and give our body a rest?
Many of us might not realize what caffeine does to our endocrine system.Our adrenal glands are small but let me tell you they are a power house. Click To Tweet
Adrenal glands give our body what is known as the “fight verses flight” response. The response is set in motion, adrenaline floods the body, muscles contract, and our heart rate increases. This response virtually affects all the cells in our body. This can be very important if you are getting chased by a lion, but if you are just sitting at your desk, it is not really necessary. Caffeine puts tremendous pressure on our adrenal glands and keeps them constantly working. It stimulates the gland and instead of reacting to a true stressor, it is just reacting to the caffeine in your coffee. This leads to adrenal fatigue. By making these glands work so hard it can lead to fatigue, anxiety, and insomnia. In the study done from the US National Library of Medicine, “Caffeine also activates the stress axis, elevating glucocorticoid and catecholamine output along with increases in blood pressure”.
Caffeine can have harmful effects on our health down the road.
It can cause headaches, high blood pressure, nervous disorders, and as mentioned above insomnia. Many times caffeine can mask other problems in people’s life, such as chronic fatigue; you drink coffee throughout the day just to get by. According to the article from Precision Nutrition, “People tend to consume more caffeine during stressful periods. They add stress to stress, potentially making things even worse”. In reality caffeine acts as a band aid providing a temporary fix to a potential long-term problem. As soon as we try to get off it, we will experience withdrawal symptoms similar to a drug addiction. Our hormones are also directly affected by putting our body through this roller coaster ride every day. Hormones are the chemical messenger of our bodies; they affect our blood pressure, sex drive, sleep, and our response to pain. Adrenal glands release cortisol which increases our heart rate and our blood pressure. As in most things moderation is the key. We want things to happen in moderation or an imbalance can occur. We don’t want too much or too little cortisol being released in our body. If our levels are too high this can affect the healing of our bones. The adrenal glands also have a major impact on our sex hormones which includes progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen. It is very difficult to get accurate hormone levels when the glands are on constant attack from the caffeine. It can also affect our melatonin which can mess up our sleeping patterns, affecting how we feel the next day, making us more tired if we are not sleeping at night. Have you noticed a common theme in this blog? For millions of Americans struggling with sleep issues, caffeine is one of the main culprits in depriving us of a good night’s sleep.
Start your journey towards lowering your caffeine.
A great way to start your journey towards lowering your caffeine and coffee tolerance is to start blending your caffeinated coffee with a decaffeinated blend. Start with a 75 percent to 25 percent ratio of caffeinated to decaffeinated coffee, and then adjust to a 50 percent split and so on. Make sure to buy organic coffee and if you are getting decaf look at the label to check if it has gone through the Swiss water process for the best and safest results. Everything is okay in moderation, so I am not saying you need to completely cut out your favorite caffeinated drink, but I would say to cut it back to give your adrenal glands a break and your hormones can live in harmony once again.