Do you drink coffee? Are you obsessed with Starbucks or those steamy at-home morning lattes? When was the last time you looked at your relationship with caffeine? My relationship with coffee began in college, like several others I know. Late nights from too much studying and partying left me grabbing coffee every single morning. It didn’t help that all my roommates were obsessed with coffee, and some even worked at local coffee shops. Then come sophomore year, I was diagnosed by a naturopathic doctor with adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue is said to be a group of symptoms caused by a depletion of the adrenal glands, which are two small glands that sit above the kidneys.
The term was first coined by James L. Wilson in his book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Syndrome. Not all allopathic doctors acknowledge that adrenal fatigue even exists. It is believed that it occurs when the adrenals become overtaxed and produces too much cortisol, which has a domino effect on other hormones in the body.
Although it can’t be fully proven yet that coffee is the culprit, large amounts of caffeine consumption can tax the adrenals and put stress on the body. Some people are better able to handle the effects of caffeine, and some are more sensitive. People with anxiety can exacerbate their symptoms by consuming caffeine, especially if one were to drink more than the recommended dose of up to 400 mg of coffee per day. Caffeine works by giving the body false energy. When that feeling of being energized creates symptoms akin to panic, certain individuals can actually experience negative effects on their mental and physical state after consuming caffeine in any form.
We have a problem with caffeine.
With coffee shops all over the place and the rise of energy-based drinks, many of us are caught in the frenzy of this beverage. Coffee is the world’s most acceptable drug, and most people I know are addicted to it. I once was too. I understand the effects caffeine had on my body once I really started decreasing the amount I drank. The effects of the withdrawal were enough to make me question why I drank it in the first place. But old habits die hard, and I would always go back.
It’s been years since I stopped drinking coffee, but I’ll still drink a decaf cup maybe once or twice a month. Now I stick to teas, and my all-time favorite has been matcha tea. (Note: matcha also has significant amount of caffeine—about half of coffee, but that would also depend on how much matcha powder you use, etc.) Wherever you are in your journey of decreasing your caffeine consumption, there are many products on the market that help consumers replace the common cup of coffee.
Below is a list of coffee alternatives:
- Mudwtr – This is an alternative made from organic ingredients and adaptogens that gives you energy without anxiety. It contains 1/7th the caffeine of coffee and is useful for those wanting to cut back on their typical caffeine consumption. The company even has a coffee detox program.
- Four Sigmatic – This is a brand that has revolutionized the use of medicinal mushrooms. Chaga mushrooms are used to counter the effects of coffee. They use different types of mushrooms, which are naturally nutrient-dense, for different effects whether you want to think clearer or relax more. Here is one that doesn’t contain caffeine.
- Tea – Teas contain less caffeine than coffee and can be a great alternative. Green tea is the healthiest alternative because of its extra health benefits. You can even use matcha green tea, which is a ceremonial tea commonly used in Japan. It contains antioxidants and doesn’t produce the jittery effect that coffee does. Green tea also includes l-theanine which helps to relax the body.
- Golden Milk– This has been my new favorite, especially with the seasons changing. It is caffeine-free and has amazing anti-inflammatory benefits. Another staple of Japanese culture, specifically for the island of Okinawa, this drink pairs ginger with turmeric and black pepper—a powerhouse for reducing inflammation and promoting brain health. Try this vegan recipe.
Drinking caffeine forces our bodies into a natural stress response.
But what is unnatural is when we constantly consume caffeine and pair it with chronic stress. This is when our bodies start operating in a constant heightened flight-or-fight state. This is what perpetuates the burnouts. Finding other ways to naturally increase energy is possible. Exercising is the most common form of increasing energy naturally. Find a form of moving your body that works for your daily life. As a yoga instructor, even on days when I don’t feel like exercising or doing an inversion for quick energy I will practice one or two sun salutations. If that’s not in your practice, you can do a simple standing forward fold which moves the blood and lymph in your body and is instantaneously energizing.
Another great exercise that is easily accessible at any time of the day is to perform the “Thymus Thump.” The thymus is a gland behind our sternum, and by tapping it we can increase positive emotions and our overall moods. By thumping, or tapping, for 30–60 seconds on that space a couple of inches below your sternum you’ll start to notice a positive shift in your energy.
In addition to all the tools I mentioned for decreasing caffeine consumption, journaling is also a helpful process in uncovering your relationship to caffeine. Followed are a list of some journal prompts to ponder…
- What does my relationship with caffeine look like?
- What is my first memory associated with coffee? Was it positive? Or negative?
- Do I rely on caffeine for the physical, mental, or emotional benefits?
- Has consuming coffee become a ritual for me? How do I benefit from that ritual? What would my life look like if I cut out that ritual?
- Has coffee consumption limited or altered my ability to reach my goals? Am I addicted to coffee? If so, can cutting it out help me learn to cope with my responsibilities without using it as a crutch?
Spend a few minutes alone to really sit with these questions. Allow yourself to answer without any judgments. Maybe you’ll learn something new. It is with an awareness that we can begin to make conscious changes in our lives. Caffeine isn’t bad; use it in a way that supports you rather than just being something you are accustomed to drinking every day. As with anything, we can use it as a tool to further support the life we want to live. You get to make that choice.
Also by Paige: Tried-and-True Ways To Holistically Manage Endometriosis
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Photo: Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash