It’s a dreary kind of day here today, and after an uncomfortable night sleep I woke feeling a bit worse for wear. Getting ready for work I tend to go into autopilot and just let my thoughts wander, and today they wandered to coffee. As I looked outside at the misty, dull day and felt the tug of tiredness behind my eyes I thought “I wish I could just be normal and have a coffee.” It was this unconscious statement that got me thinking about what we consider ‘normal’ in our society.
I must say, I haven’t had a regular caffeinated coffee for years. I can’t. It makes me feel awful. I get jittery, a bit anxious, very wound up and sometimes if it is strong enough, I go pale and vague out. This has not always been the case. I have spent years of my life drinking a daily coffee or two (I even had an addiction, I cringe to say, to double shot skinny vanilla lattes-yuck!). It was only after becoming a naturopath and understanding my body better that I recognised coffee wasn’t my friend. It was doing me far more harm than good. But somewhere at the back of my mind, having a coffee is still considered ‘normal’ even in my world. The same goes for food.
When thinking about ‘normality’ further, I realised I have said to my partner on a number of occasion, “Oh I wish I could just eat ‘normal’ food tonight” when we were heading out to a party or dinner. Sure I can put normal food in my mouth, chew and swallow; that’s not the problem. The problem is how I feel after consuming those foods, and what those foods do to my body, my mind, my energy levels, my mood and a million other things aside. The problem is that I know what these normal foods are doing to me. And I just can’t do that to my body. More on that in Part 2. But first, let’s look at one of our most popular, cultural drugs.
This is definitely the place to start today. Coffee is delicious, stimulating and addictive. It is one of the most popular and common legal drugs in the world. If you stop 10 adults on their way to work of a morning I don’t doubt that far more than half of them have had a coffee, are carrying a coffee, or are going to get a coffee once they get to work. The caffeine initially makes people feel more energetic, more focused and often a lot happier. But like everything that seems too good to be true, these positives come at a cost.
The costs are often to your adrenals and nervous system. Over time, the positive effects that one cup of coffee has on you will diminish, as your body starts getting used to the regular stimulation, and relying on it to feel ‘normal’. Once this happens, many people step up the coffee intake and increase their amounts per day, or the number of shots in their cup. This then creates a new ‘normal’ and the effects stop being felt again. I once spoke to a detox retreat participant who was up to 8 double shot espresso coffees per day… I don’t know how they were still on their feet and functioning.
Once your body stops feeling the effects of caffeine, or you start ‘needing’ a coffee to get you feeling normal, this is a sign that your adrenals are not functioning normally. They may be exhausted, unable to produce healthy amounts of adrenal hormones to keep you energetic throughout the day. Once this happens, any coffee you have is actually worsening the situation as the caffeine whips your adrenals and exhausts them further.
I shudder at the new ‘paleo’ coffee pre-workout trend. Basically it’s espresso, butter and coconut oil blended together (I will admit it sounds super delicious), and downed pre-workout. But, before I start to rant about how ridiculous some of the so called ‘paleo’ diets out there can be, I’ll just ask you… What caveman ever gathered some coffee berries, waited for them to dry, roasted them, ground them, decanted them with boiled water, found and milked a cow, skimmed the cream, churned the cream to make butter, climbed a coconut tree, grated the coconut to extract the oil, mixed all this together, downed it and then went off hunting… how ridiculous! And no, it is not good for you. It will still hurt your body. It will not do you any good in the long run.
Coffee also affects the nervous system, causing you to feel wired, strung out and jittery. This happens to some people, not everyone, but the more coffee you have, the more likely your nervous system will be affected. Sleep is often also affected. As a stimulant, coffee can worsen insomnia, cause restless sleep, difficulty falling asleep and leave you feeling exhausted of a morning (and reaching for the coffee again!). It takes the liver 8 hours to detoxify just one cup of coffee from our bodies. If you are having two or three per day, your liver has no chance of keeping up with this load, and caffeine will not be cleared before you try to sleep at night.
It is a slippery slope that not many people are aware of. Coffee is so common place; few people think there are any dangers of using and abusing it. Surely if one coffee makes you feel good, two will makes things better? And if you’re tired, you need a coffee to keep you awake? And surely if it was that bad for us, it would come with warnings right? That’s what we tell ourselves. And naturopathically, that is not the case.
Further negative effects form coffee include the fact that it places a huge load on our liver, and with all the food, liquids, medication, air, toxins and pollution our livers are trying to deal with every day, adding coffee to the mix is just asking for liver dysfunction.
In both women and men, coffee can increase E1, the more negative oestrogen, worsening oestrogen dependent conditions like oestrogen dominance, oestrogen dependent cancers and so on.
Coffee is also a diuretic, it encourages fluid loss. For every cup of coffee you drink, you really should be drinking 1-2 cups of water simply to replace what you have lost as a result. In the same way, coffee can lead to the loss of water soluble nutrients such as vitamin C and magnesium. These two nutrients are vital for the health of the adrenals and the nervous system. You can see how coffee is attacking these areas from many angels.
Coffee is highly acidic. Acidity in the body leads to increased inflammation. Coffee worsens any inflammatory condition you might have, be it joint pain, muscle pain or a rash.
As it sometimes goes, I found I had more to say on coffee than I first expected. I’ll save my other dangerous ‘normals’ for the next blog. These will include alcohol, dairy, wheat and meat. Stay tuned!