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Is coffee really the enemy?

Image found on Pinterest.

When is the last time you’ve woken up in the morning and thought, ‘that was the best sleep of my life?’ When was the last time that was followed by “AND my weight has been super easy to manage lately too?”
I’ve been exploring this deeper and I think I’ve found the answer to a better nights rest (and a whole lot more).

At least twice a year, I give up coffee.  Let’s get one thing straight up – I love coffee.  I love the ritual, I love how it brings people to together, I love how it smells and the variations of how it’s prepared.  Each year, as we approach the Spring, I set myself up to do my Cleanse Yourself 5 day program, although I tend to set aside a good few weeks (rather than just 5 days) to really do some good inner work.  I find my body loves this.  A. Lot.  Every time I cleanse, I learn new things about myself.  Each time I cleanse I feel something different.  Some cleanses I feel more emotional, some the withdrawals are hideous and other times, I’m in struggle town for longer than anticipated.  But every year one thing remains – by the end of those 5 days, I always feel amazing.

Eliminating something you love can feel really daunting, even if it is only for a short while.  I’ll be the first to admit when I’m right up there in my head, that the idea of not having coffee begins to haunt me.  I feel rather dramatic saying so, but I know I’m not alone.  Literally the first question anybody asks about the cleanse is “do I have to give up my morning coffee?”

It’s widely accepted that coffee is addictive – and I’m living proof.  I tend to struggle with withdrawals in it’s absence.  And whilst it doesn’t keep me awake at night (I can literally have a coffee right before bed and it do nothing – or so I thought), my body is quick to tell me when I haven’t had one, generally by smacking me down with a whopper headache with all the bells and whistles – think nausea, sometimes vomiting and of course the intense eye pain to really reign it all in.

This time around as I’ve transitioned off coffee, I’ve really observed my body. Mostly because I thought it would be a good experiment and make for a good bedtime story.  In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a whole lot more which may be of interest to others who are looking for some answers around coffee and wellbeing.  Here’s goes.

Week 1 – withdrawals.

Day 1 – Headache, especially through the eyes and forehead (which relates to the liver and kidneys, hence detoxification).

Day 2 – Lethargy.  I don’t necessarily think this is coffee related, but more so the over all feeling of cleansing.

Day 3 – Feeling energised.  Still thinking about coffee, but if you’re only committing to 5 days, you know you are half way.

Day 5 – Not thinking of coffee, feeling fabulous and fresh.

 

Week 2 – heightened wellbeing.

Day 1 – Still not thinking of coffee, feeling vibrant.  Eyes are looking brighter and I’m not feeling foggy.

Day 3 – Skin really looking clearer.  Eyes bright.  Feeling alive.

Day 5 – Sleep is amazing.  Deep and restful.

 

Week 3 – what I wasn’t prepared for.

On the whole, I’m less stressed.  Not waking at night and trying to solve the worlds problems.

With week 3 in mind, it was also my menstrual week.  This is where I noticed the most changes.  I don’t typically suffer from period pain so much these days in comparison to my 20’s.  But when I am stressed, I will have more discomfort, I will definitely have ovulation pain (hello oestrogen dominance), tender breasts and noticeable PMS.  For this cycle, I experienced NONE of these symptoms.  My sleep was deep and if I woke – only because the kids had broken my sleep, I wasn’t worrying myself sick about world issues that I can’t actually solve (a not so pleasant past time).

It dawned on me, that caffeine had more of an impact on my body than I was previously prepared to recognise.  Caffeine is known to raise cortisol, which is why it can be a terrible idea for those with hormone imbalance.  We all need cortisol as I explain in Debunking Stress.  Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones (alongside adrenaline) that is released in times high pressure.  It’s completely necessary (and life saving) and helps the body cope especially during long periods of stress. But cortisol is super bossy (but remember that it is supposed to be, it’s trying to save us from ourselves), it reigns strong and tries to control our sex hormones, having the most impact on progesterone as it raises oestrogen.  Excess cortisol can lead to a host of symptoms, some including;

+ Increased appetite

+ Weight gain

+ Poor blood sugar regulation (hello PCOS sufferers)

+ Poor memory

+ Insomnia

+ High blood pressure

+ Hormone Imbalance

I recently read in a study that excess cortisol affects the body’s ability to process certain amino acids – which are oh so important for hormone regulation too.

And then there have been many studies that have also linked caffeine with early miscarriage.

So it seems, that taking a break this time round has shown me far more about my body than I had thought I’d learn.  There has not been any downside to stopping coffee other than the social aspect of catching up with girlfriends over my daily dose of caffeine and a good old chin wag.  But you know, you don’t actually need the coffee to have the catch up!  I’ve had 2 full leaded coffee’s in the last 4 weeks and each time, the following day I’ve experienced a mild headache.  It’s enough for me to now choose coffee as a sometimes food, when I feel like a treat (or that I’m ready to pay the consequences).

I know that we all process coffee and caffeine differently – it has to do with our genetic profile, our cortisol levels and stress response, our environment, our liver’s ability to detoxify and our general day to day diet.  So for me, as it stands right now, I think leaving it aside is a good choice.  I can see some of you pouting at your screen as you say, “but what will I do without my morning fix?” I’ve got your back and a few delicious suggestions.

Bamboo is a powder made from chicory and can be enjoyed as an instant hot drink and is available in Australia at the supermarket or health food store. I love it and it’s my go to replacement.  For those who do enjoy a little milky goodness in the morning, this can be a great option.  Rooibos is also my other choice, I can easily do the same and add a drop of milk to satisfy the ‘ritual.’

As always, my intention isn’t to frighten the pants off you or make you feel bad for loving coffee.  It’s all about sharing information to promote thought in your own life, that perhaps your 2 cups a day habit is standing in the way of you and your healthier self.

Perhaps you’ve refrained from caffeine and noticed great changes.  I’d love to create some discussion around your own experience because I’m pretty certain I’m not alone in loving the benefits!

 

Caffeine Intake and the Risk of First Trimester Miscarriage – read on.

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10 Responses to “Is coffee really the enemy?”

  1. Justine

    I would love to just keep it as a treat when I go to a nice cafe and enjoy a cappuccino but that always slowly turns into an addiction and I would find myself making instant coffee at work. It picks me up for a bit but I usually regret it and feel crappy. I once had a bet with my partner and I went without coffee for a year and I was fine! As a replacement for coffee I like drinking roasted dandelion and chicory root tea (feels like I’ve had a coffee!), a healthy hot chocolate or a green tea. Now that I think of it, do you think green tea would have the same bad effect on you as coffee can?

    Reply
    • Nat Kringoudis

      Hey Justine, I don’t find green tea has the same effect – it’s busting with antioxidants too which is an added bonus (and great for fertility!)

      Reply
  2. Lisa

    I have found the same as you Nat! Skipping coffee these past couple months has completely changed the way I feel at the start of menstration. Barley any to no cramping, breasts are not tender, hormonal acne gone. I couldn’t believe what a huge impact my one cup of black coffee was having on me. It’s shocking actually.

    Reply
  3. Natasha

    Hi Nat,
    I don’t drink much caffeine (no more than one cup of tea or coffee a day) but have found it so hard to give up in the past, one thing I found helped was chicory root ‘coffee’ as you suggest, but as I am trying to get pregnant (my main motivator for giving up caffeine) I have stopped having it as there is lots of scary information about it’s effects – what do you think about these? What is best to have when preparing for pregnancy?

    Reply
  4. Cee

    For ages I was experiencing small dizzy spells and tingling down my left side after eating certain foods. Also getting jittery and what ever else. Turns out I’ve put it down to coffee and sugar. And especially combined is terrible!! When I’m off both of them. I feel great 🙂 but there are always times when I go back and get stuck in a rut and feel awful for it.

    Reply
  5. Helen

    Hi Nat! Thank you so much for writing this article. I feel fabulously healthy most of the time but I do end up with PMS/ tender breasts before every period. I’m pretty much addicted to black tea and am probably drinking more than my fair share of it. I think I’ll cut it out now and see if it helps. Thanks for your awesome posts! I really appreciated that you shared a little of your personal experiences. It makes us remember that we’re all human!

    Reply
  6. Maya

    This article arrived in my inbox at the perfect time for me. I had been cutting down on coffee (even though I love it!) but it has crept back into my life more in the last week. So thanks Nat, it’s a great reminder to not have too much of a good thing.

    Reply
  7. Jillian

    Hey Nat,

    For those of us that just love the taste of coffee, is switching to decaf a valid option? Or are there other compounds besides the caffeine in coffee that can be disruptive to our hormones/overall wellness?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Mel

    I’d also like to know if drinking decaf coffee still effects our hormones and fertility?

    Reply
    • Olivia

      Hello! I am also very interested on your option of decaf + hormones / fertility / health.
      I’m starting the 5 day cleanse today and did wonder about decaf / soy milk 🙂
      Thanks!

      Reply