I'm a coffee lover. I'll admit it. The aroma, the taste (with some extras, of course), the pick-me-up feeling. It once became an integral part of my morning ritual. Then, it became a necessary remedy to my work day afternoon slump as well. Just like any other addiction, caffeine courted me grandly for a time and then dropped me in the gutter! Eventually, my beloved coffee no longer made me feel good. However, I needed it to avoid feeling awful. And I never even drank more than one or two cups a day! While coffee does include some healthy nutrients, including B vitamins and polyphenols, caffeine dependance can take a serious toll on the adrenal glands. Some studies have even shown that caffeine can interfere with absorption of certain nutrients critical for methylation (an MTHFR no-no). Do you need to say no to your morning cup of joe? I've decided to limit my intake to 1-2 cups per week, rather than day. Read on for my take on this topic.
As we know, everyone is different. Some people can drink cup after cup of coffee and barely feel any effects. They may also be able to go without their daily fix and not feel much of a difference. Others are very sensitive to the effects of caffeine. I'm definitely one of them! One cup can give me the jitters if I don't eat enough to accompany it. I would never dare drink a cup in the evening or I'm just asking to stare at my ceiling all night! While I wouldn't recommend that anyone drink more than one cup a day, some people are more negatively impacted by the effects of caffeine than others. If you don't think you're addicted, there's only one way to find out for sure...cut it out for a day. Do you feel like death warmed over? If so, face it - your adrenal system is depending on caffeine to operate and that's not a good thing!
The adrenal glands are an important part of the endocrine system that regulate many things, including hormone secretion. When caffeine is flowing through your body, the adrenals can become overstimulated and produce an excess of potentially harmful hormones, such as cortisol. Cortisol is the "fight or flight" hormone, which puts the body in a state of being that no one is designed to stay in for long. Consistent caffeine consumption can equal a chronic state of stress. It can also block the absorption of important nutrients, including zinc and magnesium (both of which are critical for methylation). Yet, removing caffeine from a dependent individual's routine can leave this person's body confused and unsure of how to function without it. Thankfully, it doesn't take long for the body to readjust and learn how to live a caffeine-free existence again. Usually, the severe symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, such as headaches and extreme exhaustion subside within a week. In the subsequent weeks and months, the adrenal glands continue to heal and regulate hormone secretion. The problem is that most people don't lay off the caffeine long enough to allow this to happen!
A few years ago, I decided to quit my daily caffeine habit and reaped many benefits. I'll admit, the withdrawal period was ROUGH. However, the pay-off of feeling consistently energetic was well worth it. I no longer experienced the highs that caffeine gave me, but I also didn't experience the lows of when it would wear off. My energy state became pretty much consistently in the middle of the road. My lab results also showed an improvement in my hormone profile (especially cortisol). Plus, it was just a good feeling to wake up in the morning and not be dependent on getting that cup of coffee in order to have a good day! I made Saturdays my "coffee day." That way, it was a like a treat on the weekends that I enjoyed, rather than a crutch to get me through life.
Interestingly enough, I fell off the wagon during quarantine! I'm not sure if it was the stress of world affairs or what, but I began reaching for that daily cup of coffee again. Thankfully, I never progressed beyond one cup per day this time around, but it didn't take long for me to become completely dependent once more on that caffeine fix in order to function! I also noticed that my energy levels throughout the rest of the day were lower than when I was reserving coffee for the weekends. I decided to bite the bullet and suffer through withdrawal once more. After about four long days and nights of wondering if the suffering would be worthwhile, it was as if daylight broke through and I remembered the joys of a consistent and happy (mostly) caffeine-free existence again!
I know that some medical professionals say that one cup of coffee per day is not harmful, but I suggest listening to your body to determine the answer. If forfeiting that one cup leaves you questioning if life is worthwhile, I'd venture to say that caffeine is doing a number on your body! I'm certainly in the camp of people who are sensitive to caffeine's effects, even one cup per day. Plus, we MTHFRs need all the nutrients we can get, so you really don't want to do anything that could potentially block that absorption and interfere with methylation.
An alternative to consider is herbal tea. While some teas are caffeine-free, others contain a much lower amount than coffee, offering a much more subtle energy lift. There is also Teeccino, an acid-free herbal tea blend with chicory, designed to taste similar to coffee, but without the downsides. And of course, there is decaf coffee. Just be sure to purchase organic, as the decaffeination process can actually introduce harmful toxins into the mix.
Do you drink coffee every day? How many cups? Are you caffeine-sensitive? Tell us about it!