When you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you think about?
For too many, it’s coffee. Coffee is the most widely consumed drug in the world. Yep, you read that right - it’s a drug. We’ve grown up watching our parents run on caffeine in order to do all the things. We’ve also correlated a cup of coffee with a bowel movement which is used as a crutch that many rely on to actually go to the bathroom daily. We have been there and we are here to tell you that it doesn’t need to be this way. This reliance has translated into generations that are motivated by coffee to get out of bed, get through the day, stay awake, and keep working. Much like the birth control pill, no one taught us about the side effects of too much caffeine and how it can mess with your physical and mental health. In the sphere of women’s health, women tend to metabolize caffeine more slowly than men, making women’s bodies especially susceptible to the negative effects of caffeine.
Caffeine, and more specifically overconsumption of caffeine, can cause many imbalances in the body, creating negative side effects that we may not even realize are the culprit in our day-to-day struggles. For example, you drink coffee to stay awake when you feel tired… But did you know that the thing you lean on to stay awake can actually be causing your fatigue? In fact, over consumption of caffeine can set off the entire circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock) which controls not just your sleep/wake cycle, but your metabolism, your hormones and your digestion.
What is overconsumption defined as?
Typically, the recommended range is 200mg - 400mg. We believe that you shouldn’t go above 250 mg if you can. Depending on the type of bean used and the method used to prepare it, your typical and favorite coffee could have way more caffeine than you think it does. This is where measuring your daily consumption gets tricky. You may think you are having one coffee a day, when in reality you are having closer to 2.5 cups.
If you are experiencing any immediate symptoms following caffeine consumption such as sweating, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, mood swings and/or muscle tremors, it’s time to rethink that cup (or extra) of joe. Let’s examine some of these side effects further within the context of caffeine overconsumption.
Overconsumption of caffeine and its connection to hormone health.
As mentioned, the circadian rhythm is disrupted with overconsumption of caffeine. Caffeine, especially caffeine later in the day will suppress your body’s ability to produce melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you calm and sleepy. The suppression of melatonin leads to increased production of the adrenal hormone, cortisol, and results in overstimulated adrenal glands. If the adrenals are pumping too much cortisol into the bloodstream, this high level of cortisol will disrupt the HPA axis and cause imbalances of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Elevated cortisol complications don’t stop here, it continues to disrupt the flow downstream. The imbalance of hormones typically results in estrogen reabsorption due to a sluggish liver constantly prioritizing caffeine over estrogen.
Elevated cortisol levels elevate blood glucose levels to prepare the body to run away from this impending stressor. Chronic elevation of blood sugar due to cortisol will increase the amount of spikes and drops you experience throughout the day, causing you to have bursts of energy and hard crashes of fatigue, irritability and sweet cravings.
Overconsumption of caffeine and the connection to mental health?
As mentioned above, caffeine is a drug which means there is an addictive component that’s at play when you are overconsuming caffeine. You rely on it for so many daily tasks that you end up craving it. Another issue with overconsumption of caffeine is how it over-stimulates the nervous system causing more frequent anxiety because of elevated levels of dopamine and epinephrine.
Overconsumption of caffeine and the connection to sleep health?
Since caffeine suppresses melatonin and increases alertness, your body has a difficult time with quality and quantity of sleep. Caffeine works by blocking the neurotransmitter adenosine, which is responsible for cueing the body into sleepiness. If you’re not feeling awake after your first cup of coffee, this is a sign that you’re experiencing insomnia and your body’s reliance on caffeine has gone beyond the healthy limit.
Overconsumption of caffeine and the connection to digestion?
When you consume caffeine close to food, the caffeine will trigger the stomach to empty prematurely, meaning that all undigested food is entering the small intestine and is at risk for fermentation, slowing down food and waste moving through the GI tract. This fermentation creates an acidic environment and causes inflammation and leaky gut. Caffeine is also a diuretic, meaning that essential minerals (magnesium, calcium and potassium) along with water soluble vitamins like Bs and C will more likely leave your body through urination rather than get absorbed.
If you are like “I’m never giving it up, I need some other options”, we’ve got some extra tips for you to introduce into your coffee ritual:
Drink water before your coffee
Limit yourself to one coffee a day after you’ve had a protein packed breakfast
Opt for espresso when you can, so instead of ordering a brewed coffee, you will want to order an americano or opt for a blend of half decaf and half caffeinated
Try introducing a coffee-like substitute, like tea!
Try an adaptogen boosting supplement or tincture that will increase mental clarity and increase energy
Get out every morning and look in the direction of the sun (not directly at it) – also called "sungazing"
Replace caffeinated soda with sparkling water
Take a nap
Cut off caffeine consumption 8 hours before bed
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The Soulful Sprout is a Toronto-based expert team of women's hormone specialists, gut health nutritionists, and Functional Nutritionists. Whether you’re looking for someone to mentor you through optimizing your hormone health and wellness journey or a personalized nutritional healing plan, their team has your back.
The content provided in this article(s) is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Neither Carson Meyer nor C & The Moon LLC are liable for claims arising from the use of or reliance on information contained in this article.