Coffee: To drink or not to drink?

Ah, beloved coffee. I love you so. You make me happy when skies are gray. You are my warm and fuzzy daily ritual. You are a reason to get up early, meet up with friends, and an excuse to get out of my office. I am pretty sure many people out there agree with me on this. I mean what is the point of getting up in the morning without it? 

Ok, I know I’m being a bit dramatic. I have been taking a break from alcohol for the past month, so coffee feels like one of my only treats left. I am clinging to it with every ounce of my being. I have gone without foods that are not healthful for my body, like gluten, dairy and wine, but DO NOT TAKE MY COFFEE AWAY. Please?!

Lately, in my search to feel ridiculously healthy, I have been questioning if holding onto this daily habit is the right choice for me. I’ve tried to quit a few times, but after a few days (ok, hours) it always seems like a horrible idea. I thought it was time I did some research, so at least I am well informed about this substance I’m consuming.

What I already knew about my old friend, coffee

Image of a smiley face in a cup of coffee
Happy coffee!
  • Coffee contains caffeine (stating the obvious here)
  • Coffee is delicious and always makes me feel happy
  • Coffee motivates me to get up early
  • Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands and can lead to an energy crash
  • Caffeine suppresses the appetite

Things I learned about coffee and caffeine

Caffeine irritates and damages the lining of the gastro-intestinal organs. I have to admit, I already knew this but am completely in denial. 

Caffeine causes an increase in dopamine, the neurotransmitter in your brain that makes you feel good. This is the same response that happens with sugar, alcohol and drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine! Dopamine increases feelings of well-being and a good mood. Aha! No wonder coffee is so hard to give up.

Caffeine overstimulates the adrenal glands, which can wear them out and lead to adrenal fatigue. According to Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, the presence of caffeine stimulates the adrenals to release catecholamines, adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline. These hormones cause our bodies to feel energized and alert. If you are low in catecholemines, you are more likely to feel fatigued and foggy. So you grab another coffee. Which leads to more work for your adrenal glands, which further depletes you of catecholemines and you feel more tired. A vicious cycle indeed. 

Ross also notes that caffeine reduces the levels of our amino acids l-phenylalanine and l-tyrosine. The interesting thing here is these are the amino acids needed to make adrenaline and noradrenaline, so the aforementioned cycle gets even crazier. 

To further complicate things, caffeine is an appetite suppressant which leads us to skip out on meals and thus leaves our bodies lacking in vital nutrients and amino acids, which are the building blocks of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Well. That definitely got my attention. I’m not going to say I like it. The first step is awareness, so I will leave you to mull it over yourself. You might take a moment and ask yourself: is coffee really serving my body right now?  And then really listen to what comes up.