What is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a natural chemical stimulant that increases activity in certain parts of the brain and central nervous system. It is found naturally in several plant species and is consumed by billions of people worldwide. Eighty percent of the world’s population consumes caffeinated products each day and for adults in North America, it is over ninety percent. Approximately eighty percent of all caffeine is consumed in the form of coffee. It has been estimated that over 1 billion cups of coffee are consumed throughout the world every day; caffeine is also consumed in the form of tea, yerba mate leaves, chocolate, soda, and " energy drinks." While there are some positives to drinking caffeine, you can become addicted to it very quickly. Your body becomes used to it, and eventually, you need to drink caffeine regularly to have a normal energy level.
Many people crave more energy and alertness to get through their day’s activities and responsibilities. How does caffeine influence this? Caffeine helps you stay awake by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Normally adenosine builds up over the day making you more tired and preparing you for sleep at night. Caffeine competes with adenosine and blocks the receptors. By blocking adenosine, caffeine stimulates your neurons and you become more alert with more energy. Without caffeine, adenosine ties up dopamine receptors, causing you to feel fatigued. Dopamine affects pleasure, pain, and emotions.
Downsides of Caffeine
Now let’s talk about caffeine fatigue, how it affects your body, and how you become dependent over time. It is important to understand why caffeine is something you should take a closer look at, how it affects your overall health and your day-to-day living. Moderate amounts of caffeine are safe for most individuals although some can’t tolerate it at all. The biggest problem with caffeine arises when too much caffeine is consumed. Consuming caffeine daily tells the brain that the adenosine is not reaching the receptors. It then starts compensating for this by producing more adenosine and adenosine receptors. That is how caffeine fatigue starts affecting you. You essentially build up a tolerance to caffeine and begin needing more and more to get the same effects of alertness, energy, etc.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that affects your body in numerous ways. Caffeine, specifically coffee, raises cortisol. Once caffeine is consumed it is absorbed quickly from the gut into the bloodstream and from there it travels to the liver. Extra caffeine doesn’t get stored in your body either. It’s processed in the liver and exits through your urine. This is why you might have an increase in urination shortly after having caffeine, it’s a diuretic.
Also, coffee is a stimulant that causes stress on the adrenal glands. These glands sit on top of your kidneys and enable your body to handle stress. So when you are under a lot of stress, your adrenal glands are already being pushed. Adding coffee is an extra stressor, which can lead to adrenal crashing and become adrenal fatigue. Drinking too much caffeine can cause fertility issues and miscarriage in women when consuming more than the recommended 200mg of caffeine a day (12oz cup of coffee). You may experience problems with concentration, mood swings, sleep, and stress levels along with increased heart rate. Caffeine increases stomach acid and can cause heartburn and/or acid reflux. Another problem with caffeine is that it prevents calcium absorption in your bones and can increase your chances of getting osteoporosis. For every one cup of coffee/caffeinated beverage, you need three cups of water to rehydrate your body. Most are not this mindful to consume the additional water. Dehydration is a very real possibility and can lead to kidney stones, ouch.
Having caffeine here or there and then all of a sudden it becomes daily, maybe even multiple times a day until you need that “lift” and this is how you become dependent on caffeine over time. When hooked, you will have withdrawal symptoms if you don't drink it regularly. This includes irritability, headaches, muscle aches, mood swings, and drowsiness, and some may even experience tremors.
In simple terms, people who drink coffee every day make their normal function WORSE (when they are not on caffeine), and then they get a boost from caffeine that takes them back up to normal. In short, they become dependent on caffeine just to function normally! If we look at the long-term effects on mood, energy, and performance and people who never drink coffee versus those who drink coffee every day, we see no difference at all. Let that sink in for a moment… No difference. In other words, drinking coffee has no benefit on mood, energy, or performance when you drink it all the time. People who drink coffee every day have the same energy and performance as those who do not drink it at all because it’s become their new “normal” function level.
Benefits of Caffeine
With all that being said, there are also benefits to consuming caffeine, mostly coffee, as long as you are having caffeine sparingly so that your body doesn’t depend on it to function. Having caffeine every day, multiple times a day, as a supplement for added energy turns the positive effects into negative effects. When consuming caffeine daily, or 3 to 4 times a week, you may notice the following benefits: improved brain function, boosted memory, energy, mood, turn on fat burning, and lower chance of type 2 diabetes. Another common benefit is more regular bowel movements. The acidity of coffee triggers an increase in stomach acid and gastric acid levels that may stimulate your bowels and cause bowel movements especially after consuming coffee.
You may be wondering what the solution is and thinking there is no way you could just cut it out of your daily routine cold turkey. You don’t have to, you can start by having less of it in a day, weaning yourself off gradually. In the beginning, it is not that simple to just stop having your caffeine, your body is used to it and it’s been a consistent part of your routine. You need to clean out your body and reset your entire neurotransmitter system in your brain especially if you have been a chronic caffeine consumer. You can choose organic, clean options and do a half caffeine/half-decaf, then just decaf, move to a great tea if you need that hot or iced beverage you are used to having. You can also cycle on and off of caffeine. You would have caffeine for one or two days and then take two to three days off of it or use it for two weeks and then go off for two weeks. This gives your body a chance to normalize and then you would benefit more from the caffeine when you do have some.
Another helpful solution you can implement is to take supplements, like Super Earth Energy. Super Earth Energy can boost your energy levels naturally and safely while supporting your adrenal glands and hormones keeping your mood stabilized. Tea is also a great option especially if you miss the physical/tactile part and are wanting that hot beverage in your hand. Ginger, dandelion, fenugreek, green tea, rooibos, milk thistle, chicory, pau de arco, and slippery elm are excellent choices and are recommendations in “Detox for Life”, our extensive book for optimal healing through regular detoxing.
Caffeine is a substance that we could do without in bettering our overall health and wellness. At the least reduce the amount you consume and help your body operate at its best naturally. We are here to help and if you have questions, concerns, or would like assistance please call or email us.