Mar 13, 2014


Coffee. Friend or Foe? I elaborated on that one back here if you want to read more. But I wanted to touch specifically on coffee consumption if you are experiencing adrenal fatigue, severe stress, chronic fatigue, or exhaustion this time around.

I played with coffee consumption a lot the past 2 years with adrenal fatigue, and by that I mean I drank it, I didn't, I did, I didn't... I drank it to play around with spiking cortisol levels in the morning, and every other day I stuck it up my bum (and just realised I'm yet to really explain coffee enemas to you so my apologies... I'll get there one day). So what do I think now?

Every time I get asked about coffee, I give the answer that noone wants to hear - that it's totally unique to the individual. And I know that sounds like a cop out, but with coffee, this is truer than anywhere else. And I'll explain why.

If you are stressed, tired, having to kick your ass outta bed, burning the candle at both ends, smashing your body with cardio to try and stay slim, or have diagnosed adrenal fatigue, coffee should not be going in your mouth. I know, it's a tough pill to swallow. For 2 years I tried to work around this one, but never did I feel as good as when I cut it out all together. Now it's not a life sentence, it's just for now. And this is why --

The Fight-or-Flight Response + Weight gain

When you consume caffeine, the drug begins its effects by initiating uncontrolled neuron firing in your brain, according to Stephen Cherniske in his book, Caffeine Blues (1). This excess neuron activity triggers your pituitary gland in your brain to secrete a hormone that tells your adrenal glands to produce adrenalin. This is the beginning of the fight-or-flight response. When adrenalin is released, your blood sugar level rises to give you more energy, your blood pressure and pulse rate also rise to provide more oxygen to your muscles, and wham-bam you're ready for action (you've heard the whole saber tooth lion story by now)!! The thing is, it's kinda useless (and becoming detrimental to our health even) to have this response going on while we're sitting at our desks, on the train, or walking back to the office.

One caffeinated beverage is enough to amp up some people so significantly that they overreact to the smallest thing and both fat burning and calm are blocked. Ironically, when a person is under stress, their ability to detoxify even a little bit of caffeine lessens, an issue that is especially detrimental for women who have an overall harder time detoxifying caffeine then men (2).
A standard cup of cafe style coffee (latte, cappuccino, etc) can contain between 113 and 282 milligrams of caffeine. Get a double shot on a hectic morning and you can double the amount of caffeine consumed (3). With one cup of coffee per day of this size, there is some degree of mental and physical addiction and with two cups, you could be consuming more than 600 milligrams of caffeine, which is classified as addiction (2).

Add a couple of sugars to your coffee and you're adding further insult to injury. That sky high blood sugar level from adrenalin pumping through your veins is likely to cause weight gain - and not from muscle mass. The reason your blood sugar shoots up in the first place (in response to adrenalin production here - forget the bag of lollies had yesterday) is because our bodies are so cleverly designed and that's the mechanism needed so we can get energy (sugar) into our blood stream super fast so we can out-run that lion. Stored sugars (for times when needed) are called glycogen (and are found in our muscles, liver and fat stores), and through a process known as gluconeogenesis, this glycogen is converted back into glucose (sugar), pumped into our bloodstream, and we're ready to run. The thing is, we haven't moved from our desk right?

Enter insulin. Another hormone, insulin's job is to bring your out-of-whack blood sugar level back down to normal. Cool. Another awesome trick our body does without us knowing. The only thing is, insulin is actually a fat storage hormone (converting excess glucose in your blood back to glycogen to be stored in your muscles and then as body fat), and so if this happens far too often, you can guess what might be happening. Weight gain as well as the beginnings of the path to diabetes. Not cool.

Now adrenalin production can be the result of real stress, perceived stress, or simply the result of your coffee consumption as caffeine fires you up. Once triggered, you have little hope of being calm, focused, and centred, both from the above scenario, and because progesterone (an anti-anxiety, calming hormone) is low thanks to high stress hormone levels, and too much estrogen (from food, the environment [plastic bottles], and the liver recycling it - which is often a result of regular reliance on alcohol to “relax” in the evenings after being so pumped up during the day...interesting). But to be fair, do you want to be calm when there's a ferocious animal staring you down?

A bit on Cortisol and Shitty Sleep

Another stress hormone produced by our adrenal glands is cortisol. Cortisol production is naturally high in the early morning, peaking between 6 and 8am (4), as one of its functions is to help you rise and shine for the day. Awesome.
As the day progresses, levels begin to slowly drop in preparation for the end of the day when it's time to rest. The thing is, with prolonged stress and coffee consumption, the adrenal glands have been overproducing cortisol (and other stress hormones) and so there's very little left, or it's opposite to what it should be - and is now low in the morning and high at night (which means sleeping doesn't really happen til super late, continuously messing with getting the cycle back to normal).

Super high levels of cortisol are responsible for abdominal weight gain. Super low levels mean you've got no get-go and important anti-inflammatories are not being circulated in your body (which can lead to a whole host of other problems). Then we see a habitual/addicted response reaching for a cup of coffee every morning to artificially spike cortisol levels again (whether aware of this or not), and little by little that amount we need increases (I even did this knowingly to see what reaction my body would have - talk about adding fuel to the fire (Note: I have an obsession with being my own human guinea pig).

These same people reaching for coffee to boost their get-up-and-go of a morning, also experience huge cortisol surges at meals, which causes them to overeat. They, in turn, wind up with higher body fat, lower muscle mass, and a reduced metabolism so they burn fewer calories.
They also don’t sleep well at night because elevated cortisol levels keep them from entering stage 4 sleep, which is the deep rebuild-and-repair sleep your body needs to feel rejuvenated and rested (5). Let it be known that sufficient sleep (in my opinion) has to be the number one way to repair stress hormones and get them back to where they should be.

What to do now?

If the thought of quitting coffee has you panicking already, get honest with yourself about how it affects you.

:  Does it dull your appetite so you don’t feel the urge to eat?
:  Does it make your heart race, give you the shakes, or loosen your bowels?
:  Do you want it more when you are stressed and, if so, what story have you attached to what coffee gives you?
:  Do you have restless, poor quality sleep because of how much caffeine you consume?
:  Or does it lift your mood or nourish your soul with no ill effect whatsoever?

You know yourself better than anyone. Act on what you know is true for you.

And then take a break from coffee and at first switch to green tea. It does still contain caffeine but much less, and it is high in antioxidants, has anti-cancer properties, and benefits the liver. Or try Tulsi tea (great for your adrenal health), nettle tea (rich in minerals), dandi- or chai-lattes, or any other herbal tea that tickles your fancy.

As a barista for 8years, I’ve always been all for coffee consumption (depending on the individuals health, in small amounts, occasionally, with no milk or sugar). However, when there is stress, exhaustion, fatigue, hormonal imbalances, and liver under-functioning amongst a few other things, it is best avoided completely until optimal health is restored and the body can tolerate small amounts of it, in ways best for the individual.

If you want more information on whether coffee consumption is for you, right now, by all means email me for a free email consult.

References and Sources:

(1) Veracity, Dani. The Hidden Dangers of Caffeine: How Coffee Causes Exhaustion, Fatigue and Addiction. Natural News.  2005

(2) Bauer, Kara. Caffeine, Adrenal Glands and Stress. Health Central. 2010.

(3) Caffeine: The Facts. Australian Beverages Council. 2013.
(4) Talbott, Shawn. Cortisol, Fatigue and Insomnia. The Cortisol Connection. 2009.

(5) Desjardins, Nancy. The Impact of Coffee on your Adrenal Glands. Dr. Jesse Chappus, Chiropractor.

Weaver, Dr Libby. Rushing Woman’s Syndrome.

No comments:

Post a Comment