All my life, I never drank coffee. I felt fine. But eventually, in my late-20s, Saskatchewan winters made it an easy hot drink for people to offer to help you warm up. Of course, I started out more milk and sugar than coffee, but eventually I was drinking it black. I grew to need it in my day. I started feeling bad, and needing more coffee to even get to normal. But it was easy to explain away as other thing, it couldn’t be the coffee, right?
So, as some of you long-time Readers may recall, more recently, I cut out coffee. I felt worse, but then I felt better, more like how I used to feel. So I cruised along like that, for a while.
Yet somehow, coffee crept back in. It’s a daily thing again. And guess what, it happened all over again. I never learn.
I looked into caffeine, and found some things. I’m not a doctor or an expert, so if you see anything here that is medically incorrect, tell me and I’ll correct it. I can also find just as many things that purport the benefits of coffee for health, so take this as you will. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s some of the big stuff:
1. During primal fight or flight response, the brain releases cortisol, so your liver makes sugar, and muscles break down (catabolic) to make more sugar, for energy. Also, unrelated, your adrenaline increases. This all increases your likelihood of survival. Now, caffeine unnaturally raises cortisol, so when you’re sitting in your cubicle or wherever in your (relatively) comfortable life, your coffee is making cortisol create sugar but, with no survival threat imminent, it just stores as fat.
2. Caffeine alters your mood and energy levels, giving highs and lows with little middle ground. So you take in more to keep the high, which causes your body to create more sugar (see 1).
3. Caffeine (and cortisol) wrecks your sleep. Your chances of restorative R.E.M. sleep decrease substantially, so you feel crappy, so you need more caffeine, and the cycle spirals.
4. Caffeine (and cortisol) increase stress, so you’re more likely to be anxious, irritable. It also increases likelihood of: insomnia, digestive issues, high blood pressure/rapid heart rate (and heart attack), incontinence, headaches and fatigue (in the lows). For women specifically, it can increase chances of fibrocystic breast disease, reduced fertility and miscarriage risk, and menopausal vasomotor symptoms. It can also inhibit collagen production in the skin, increase risk of bone fracture by interfering with ossification, impair hearing loss recovery, and it increases intraocular pressure when paired with exercise. The list goes on, but you get the point.
Worst, it’s a chemical addiction. Like cigarettes, alcohol, anything else. Dress it up with whatever justification you like, but a hat and a bow on it if you want, if you honestly need it to get through your day, you’re already operating at a deficit, pure and simple. You’ve drastically lowered your chances of having even, natural energy throughout the day. That was me, and I only have 2 cups every morning. I switch to decaf after noon. But the increased cortisol can last 18 hours…
Have you ever tried cutting coffee? Headaches, all sorts of nasty symptoms. Just like kicking any other addiction, because that’s what it is.
Coffee lovers will be screaming, saying it’s not that bad, I don’t drink enough to have a problem, I’m fine leave me alone, I only drink it for the taste of it, etc. That’s fine, do as you want. I drink two coffees every morning, and I noticed a difference when I stopped. Many folks drink a lot more than 2 cups.
But I cut and pasted even just these few things onto my own experiences with re-introducing coffee, and it matches up.
From today, I’m returning to giving all caffeine a rest. I am on decaf green tea and water. I don’t eat chocolate often, and I never drink pop/soda, so those are easy to avoid.
I expect withdrawal somewhat, but I’ll power through, because it’s worth it. Pair this with my daily exercise routines* and I ought to see progress in a month or so.
See you on the other side.
* Currently Daily Exercise: a brisk 3 km early morning walk, 30 min. exercise bike w. simultaneous dumbbells for upper body, 200 push-ups, 200 sit-ups, and a series of weightlifting (squats, presses, etc) with barbell and bench.