Let me begin by making one thing clear: I love coffee. I love coffee black, I love it in a latte, I love it in its many other forms. I’ve been drinking coffee every single day for at least ten years. The amount I drink each day has varied, from 1 or 2 cups to an entire pot. Unfortunately, I don’t think coffee loves me (not right now anyway).
It’s really about the caffeine, not so much the coffee. Drinking caffeine first thing in the morning causes your adrenal glands to shoot adrenaline and cortisol into your system in a classic “fight-or-flight” response. This is what makes us feel more awake and alert, especially if we didn’t get enough sleep the night before, and is partially why we love it so much. It may not seem like a very big deal, but to your body, it’s a fairly stressful experience. This, coupled with many lifestyle factors, can lead to some problems with your adrenals and their natural rhythm.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest you give up your daily coffee. Most people living healthy lives can handle a daily cup of coffee without problem. However, if you’re in place where you are under chronic stress, which is in and of itself already taxing on the adrenal glands, it may be worthwhile to think about checking your caffeine intake. So when I discovered that I have some degree of adrenal dysfunction (more on that in another post), I knew it was time to ditch the caffeine. I decided to to just go for it and quit cold turkey. I’m still fairly sentimental about my daily coffee ritual though, so I’ve switched to decaf coffee for the time being. Here’s how it went:
The worst day. I was up at 6am, in my usual fog, and got ready for a full day at school sipping my decaf. The fog never subsided, and the headache had set in by 9am. I struggled to stay awake through my first two classes. I was hoping eating lunch would help, but alas, I ended up dozing in my chair for 20 minutes after I finished eating. Just to be clear, I’ve never been the “falling asleep at school” type. I aroused myself, and set out to find something sugary to give me a jumpstart. Since I was on a Whole30, actual sugar wasn’t an option so I settled for a Larabar, followed by a walk around campus. It helped a little, but I struggled through the afternoon. I took Tylenol mid-afternoon, and by evening I was feeling a bit better. Unfortunately this led to difficulty in getting to sleep that night.
I had a late class and was able to wake up naturally and this made a huge difference in how I felt. I was a bit foggy and had a dull headache, but overall I didn’t feel too terrible. It gave me hope that I could do this!
I was back to waking up early to my alarm, and this definitely made things more difficult. This day was a lot like the first day, though perhaps not quite as bad. Luckily I only had two classes later in the day, but it was a struggle all day to get anything accomplished. My brain just didn’t want to function! I ended up taking a nap mid-morning and that helped a little, but not much. Once again though, as evening came, I started to feel better, leading to sleep difficulties that night. I’m thinking that perhaps because I am no longer use caffeine as a crutch to help me through the mornings, that I am now feeling the true dysfunction in my adrenals, which is low cortisol in the morning and high cortisol in the evenings, opposite of what it should be.
Days 4 and 5
These days were not great. I felt a cold starting in on day 4, so naturally I was tired. My brain was still foggy and I had a dull headache, which I attribute to the caffeine withdrawal, but the fatigue was certainly because of the cold. Luckily, I was able to manage one good night of sleep and rested a ton throughout both days.
This was the light at the end of the tunnel. Despite sleeping horribly, I woke up feeling quite good. Sure, I would have loved for bit of coffee to give me that extra boost, but I felt like I could manage without it. No headache, no brain fog, and my cold symptoms had subsided. I made it through the day feeling relatively good! Who knew that was possible without coffee?!
Yes, I can do this. Coffee is not necessary for life, contrary to popular belief. I felt good upon waking and throughout the day. I did (and still do) feel a bit slower getting fully awake in the mornings. I’m no longer jolted into the day with coffee, and now it’s more of slow roll into being fully present.
So, is caffeine out of my life for good? I don’t think so. But for the time being, daily consumption isn’t an option. I mean, I’m not going to let these days of misery go to waste!