Author: Caroline MacDougall
It's the common complaint you hear uttered by friends, family and co-workers throughout the day. "I just can't get going without my cup of coffee!" What happened to the days of childhood when we used to bound out of bed with plenty of energy and we kept going at an energetic pace until night? Most people assume that age causes diminished energy supply, but lifestyle practices may lead to fatigue as well.
Caffeine elevates stress hormones
Although we hope to boost our energy levels when reaching for a cup of coffee, in truth we are actually inducing a state of stress. Caffeine drives the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones that can remain in the blood stream up to 18 hours after consumption. These hormones produce the "fight or flight" response that nature designed to help save our lives when every bit of energy is required to survive an impending disaster, such as an attack by a foe.
In today's world, where we are more often sitting at a desk, driving in our car, or eating a meal, caffeine can put us into a chronic state of stress with no way to burn off the extra fuel and hormones. Caffeine-induced stress can produce mood swings and insomnia, increase muscle tension, impair digestion and nutrition, restrict blood circulation to the brain, elevate blood pressure, create blood sugar swings, and accelerate the heart rate. Yet the lines at the local coffee bar are still stretching out the door with people desperate for their next caffeine "fix".
Caffeine addiction is rampant in our society. Caffeine is the only drug in our food supply that is not regulated, and there are no requirements for the quantity of caffeine to be labeled on foods or soft drinks. Most people don't know that their coffee flavored ice cream or yogurt may be supplying a hefty dose of caffeine, just when they want to relax at the end of a hectic day. Mothers don't suspect that the root beer and orange soda they are giving their children may also contain caffeine. Students studying late at night don't realize that caffeine restricts the oxygen flow to their brain up to 30% and impairs memory retention. Under the guise of alertness, caffeine has fooled them into thinking they will be better prepared for their exams in the morning.
Caffeine lowers DHEA, the youth & longevity hormone
While the adrenals are busy pumping out cortisol to send energy to the muscles and divert energy from the digestive and immune systems, there is a very important hormone they aren't making: DHEA. It turns out that the adrenals have to reduce their production of the most important anti-aging hormone your body requires for youth and longevity in order to produce the stress hormones that ultimately weaken your immune system and impair your health.
DHEA is the mother hormone for all the sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, and it also increases your brain's seratonin levels naturally. So if you've been feeling down in the dumps and your lover no longer interests you, check out how much caffeine you are consuming daily in that coffee mug of yours!
How much caffeine is really in a coffee “cup”?
The caffeine industry created a nice deception to make you think you're not drinking that much caffeine. It turns out that a cup of coffee is not your normal 8 oz cup, but a mere 5 oz cup. So when you read that a couple of cups of coffee a day shouldn't be any problem to your health, think of one 10 oz mug because that is what they are actually talking about. When you add to that the statistics for caffeine content in a cup of coffee brewed at popular coffee bars, you'll find out that you can expect up to 300 mg in that 10 oz cup, not the 150 mg you might find in a cup of coffee from your own coffee maker.
Decaf coffee drinkers who think they have switched to a healthier choice will be surprised to find out that a Stanford University study showed that decaf coffee raises the cholesterol higher and faster than regular coffee. A cup of decaf coffee still contains around 7 - 10 mg of caffeine. Plus, the beans chosen for decaf coffee have a higher acidic content than regular coffee to compensate for flavor loss during the decaffeination process. Think about the coffee you consume the next time you reach for the antacids.
Kicking the Caffeine Habit
With all this bad news about our favorite legal drug habit, you may be wondering what is alternatives exist. Stephen Cherniske M.S., the author of Caffeine Blues (Warner 1998), recommends switching to caffeine-free herbal coffee over a 2-week period. Herbal coffee, made from carob, chicory, barley, dates, figs and almonds, can be brewed right in your coffee maker. It contains significant amounts of potassium to give you a natural energy lift. Potassium is added to sports recovery beverages because it helps your muscles and brain recover from fatigue. Plus, chicory has high levels of inulin (a plant starch) that is food for your digestive flora. Inulin will help establish a healthy colony of bifidus bacteria in the colon where they create B vitamins, help you absorb your minerals like calcium and iron, and enhance your immune system. If you depend on caffeine to drive your elimination, bifidus bacteria will help you become regular without dependency on stimulants.
It is not as hard as you may think to ease yourself off of caffeine. If you use a two-week weaning program, by slowly reducing the amount of caffeine you consume daily, you can avoid withdrawal headaches and help your adrenal glands recover. You may be surprised to find in two to three months that you feel better than you've felt since you were a child and that, once again, you have an abundance of energy and enthusiasm for life!