Are you a dedicated coffee drinker? Is coffee your religion?
I hear ya. Many of my family, friends and clients use coffee on a very regular basis, and I was always surrounded by coffee when I was younger. I even learned to make coffee for my parents as a 7 year old so that I could surprise them with ready coffee when they woke up! (I remember being very proud of myself for this.)
Soft drinks, tea and chocolate all have some caffeine, but coffee is the most well known source of caffeine.
We know it as a morning ritual, or a pick-me-up, something we do with old or new friends, a tradition that connects us in the cold Canadian mornings.
So why am I talking about it today? Because I have found balance with coffee and so have my clients, and I want to share with you.
Why do we care so much about coffee? Caffeine is a known stimulant. This is the main reason that most people drink it! Coffee is actually the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world In the brain, it blocks the function of an inhibitory neurotransmitter (brain hormone) called Adenosine.
By blocking adenosine, caffeine actually increases activity in the brain and the release of other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. This reduces tiredness and makes us feel more alert (1, 2).
There are numerous studies showing that caffeine can lead to a short-term boost in brain function… including improved mood, reaction time, vigilance and general cognitive function (3, 4) but if people are prone to anxiety it can induce panic attacks and quickly raise our blood pressure. So it's not all good.
There are also studies showing that Caffeine can also boost metabolism (calories burned) by 3-11% and there are many blogs and articles about the health benefits of coffee including its antioxidant content, cancer prevention and lowering risk of stroke. As with all foods, there are pros and there are cons.
Moderation is key.
But not many of us are good at doing something (especially a substance!) in true moderation. Plus, some of these "wake me up" effects are likely to be short-term. If you drink coffee every day, then you do eventually build a tolerance to it and, unfortunately, the effects will be less powerful (5).
When the effects are less powerful, we need more and more of it to feel anything... there are also some downsides to caffeine.
On it's own, it's really not a terrible thing. It's when we over-do it that it becomes negative, or when we add lots of sugar, dairy creamers, sweeteners or blends to it that turn it from a pretty natural product into a liver-stressing, digestion-overwhelming drink. Just with a few shots of your typical flavoured sweetener we could be adding in ingredients like palm oil, milk by-products and sugar, sugar, sugar! (Our poor, poor livers..)
If we start drinking it daily, we can become essentially 'addicted'. Caffeine withdrawl headaches are a real thing.
If we get to a point where we can't start our day without coffee, that can also be a downside since we are now requiring our body to be woken up using a substance, rather than our natural hormones to wake us up. The more substances we rely on, the more we'll continue to need.
The Question of Decaf
Is decaf healthier? I used to brush it off when my clients told me they were drinking decaf. We have this idea in our head that decaf is much healthier than regular coffee.
But then I found this.
The chemicals used to do the de-caffeination process are questionable at best.
Since the use of toxic chemicals on food is not something that us Holistic Nutritionists' value or support, I would question our use of decaf. If you need it for the taste, just have regular coffee cut with hot water. If you need it for the ritual, think about making the switch to hot tea instead.
Let me tell you a story about a client of mine.
She had been drinking coffee every day in the office for over 20 years. (Office culture, you know..) and not only was having it each day but having about 4-5 cups through the morning.
One day this client attended a workshop of mine where a participant asked me about my opinion on taking coffee. I gave her my typical balanced answer of - here's why we do it, here's why its not so good - it's not terrible on its own it's when we add so much to it that makes it negative for the body - and that moderation is key and wondering why we need it if we ate well, slept well and our digestion worked best that we wouldn't "need" it.
She seemed satisfied with that answer.
The heavy-coffee-drinking client was listening.
The next day she stopped drinking coffee.
She told me she slept most of the afternoon as she had a wicked headache but wanted to kill her huge dependence on coffee.
The next day she had lemon water and a green tea, and 2 months later she's now finding balance with 1 cup of black coffee in the morning with her breakfast and co-workers. She doesn't drink on the weekends. This is great balance! We got the body away from the maximum point of the pendulum swing, (drinking too much every day) and now we can handle small amounts without the dire 'need' for it.
I love this.
I'm all about balance as you know!
And it's not easy to overnight change a habit you've had for 20 years.
But we create our choices and we can change them anytime, it just takes a bit of understanding and awareness.
Ready to begin moving away from your caffeine addiction? Let's go!
1. Whatever you put in your coffee now, move to honey or coconut milk
Whether you are using milk, cream, skim milk, or Int'l Deelites, make the healthier move to start replacing these additives with a local honey and alternative creamer (if you need it.) Some people find that they don't care much for cream once they've started making other changes with their coffee ritual, so it's up to you how you play it, but my fav alternative milks are coconut, almond, brown rice or hemp milk. If you don't have time to make your own, just read the package and find the one with the least amount of ingredients!
2. How ever many cups you drink now, slowly cut down 1 per week
Say you have 3 cups a day, start cutting down your intake slowly, it's really the easiest way to start making changes. For one week cut down to 2 cups a day, for the next week cut down to 1.
3. Replace the one you dropped with a green tea and eventually herbal tea or water
If you have 3 cups a day, on the week you cut down to 2 cups a day, try adding 1 cup green tea after your 2nd cup of coffee. It will give you a bit of caffeine but most importantly, you'll still get to drink the hot drink for as long as you did with coffee, so it doesn't leave you feeling sad and without something to drink.
4. When you've got yourself down to 1 a day, stay there or dive headfirst in and deal with the withdrawl headache for 1 day to reset your body - then use green tea or lemon water in the morning to wake up.
This is your choice. If you went cold turkey, you may have to deal with the withdrawl headache - don't give in, it'll be over so soon! If you have cut coffee out slowly (less one cup per week as above) you may experience only a slight headache depending on how long you drank the substance for. In any case, drinking herbal tea, green tea or lemon water upon rising will help with the drinking ritual and help your body out immensely.
5. Appreciate the steps you have taken and take a moment to celebrate when you've made any small change, it adds up!
Celebrate your good choices! So important!
I personally enjoy coffee one day a week (usually a Saturday!) as in our house we have a tradition of "Driving in Cars with Coffee" where we re-cap the week and enjoy each others' company. I truly enjoy my coffee because I know that the foods I am eating during the week and weekend are supportive of my liver, adrenals and hormones, and that I am choosing to get enough sleep during the week so that I am not exhausted on the weekend.
It's all about making these choices that support us and making choices that are fun so that we keep our balance and not crave the treats all the time.
So enjoy your morning ritual in moderation. If it feels good, do it!
Are you hooked on your coffee? Are you ready to leave it behind? Get feeling awake naturally and have a coach to help you move through these challenges. Book to work with a Holistic Nutritionist.
Comment below and let me know your personal coffee experience! Where do you get yours from? What do you love about it?