Coffee is one of the biggest indulgences and habits of the modern day. Sharing these reasons to stop drinking coffee is going to be unpopular, but please stick with me until the end – there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re burnt out, exhausted, fatigued, drained and overwhelmed, coffee just might be contributing to these feelings.
I remember being a student working at my first temp job, and having a coworker ask if I drink coffee. No, I replied, because I hadn’t started and didn’t plan to start. “Just you wait”, they said. I took them up on that challenge and was convinced I would never start.
And then I got a job that was busy, stressful and exhausting. I found myself experiencing that afternoon crash I’m sure you know all too well. Where it’s 2pm, you have another three hours to go but your eyes are closing at your computer? Yep, that one. I used coffee to get me through those afternoons. I then started using coffee to wake me up in the morning.
Fortunately I never became fully addicted to coffee because it started to give me stomach pains (I didn’t do well with the acidity), but when I was forced to cut it back, I realized that it was masking my exhaustion. What was I supposed to do without it?
Basically I was burning out at work and drinking coffee to get me through the day. Just like so many other North Americans, as is evident by the massive coffee industry – especially in Canada. As I worked through my adrenal fatigue, and studied nutrition, I realized very quickly how detrimental coffee could be for our nervous system. Not only that – but it further stresses out our adrenal glands.
Adrenal “fatigue”, or burnout, is attributed to improper management of cortisol (your stress hormone). Your adrenal glands secrete cortisol as required, based on what your body/mind perceive as stresses in your life. With long-term exposure to stress, this process can get wonky, and your adrenals will either secrete too much cortisol, or perhaps not enough (usually seen in later stages of burnout). If you find you’re burnt out, drained, exhausted – or are having physical symptoms related to chronic stress – you may want to lay off the coffee.
3 Reasons to Stop Drinking Coffee with Adrenal Fatigue
Reason 1: Coffee spikes your cortisol
As I mentioned above, adrenal fatigue is associated with the dysregulation of adrenal hormones, including cortisol. Your adrenal glands may be producing too much cortisol, or not enough.
Coffee puts added stress on the adrenal glands, triggering the production of more cortisol.
- If your levels are already high, this further increases the burden on the adrenals and the body to manage cortisol.
- If your levels are chronically low, your body is having a hard time simply supporting the day to day demands. By asking it to produce even more cortisol, you are further implicating your adrenal glands and pushing yourself down a dangerous and unhealthy path of depleted adrenals.
The last thing you want to do when you’re burnt out is put more stress on the body and your adrenal glands. Coffee adds stress, so it’s very important to kick that coffee habit to the curb in order to support your adrenal fatigue recovery.
Reason 2: Coffee depletes the body of nutrients
When we drink coffee, we experience nutrient depletion for some of our key micronutrients. Coffee is acidic in our body, and as a result we need to buffer that acidity. To do so, the body uses minerals like magnesium and calcium. Because coffee is a diuretic, it causes calcium and water-soluble vitamins to be lost in the urine. This includes our much-loved and super-supportive B-vitamins, which are essential for energy production. When we’re burnt out, we don’t want to be losing these. It also includes vitamin C, which is essential for cortisol production and is an antioxidant.
Coffee also inhibits the absorption of minerals like iron and magnesium. Magnesium is especially important, as it’s involved in over 300 reactions in the body and plays a large role in our nervous system. Our nervous system is largely affected by adrenal fatigue. It can also inhibit vitamin D absorption, a vitamin that is very important for our immune system and bone health.
It’s important to be mindful of these interactions and consume nutrient-dense foods – something that’s important to do for adrenal fatigue recovery. To make things easier on your body as a whole, ditch the coffee while you’re recovering.
Reason 3: Coffee gives your body a false sense of energy
Have you ever wondered why caffeine makes you feel so awake in the mornings? Biochemically, the structure of the caffeine molecule closely resembles the structure of a molecule in our body called adenosine. The brain has a number of adenosine receptors, that when filled, trigger us to feel sleepy and slow down. Caffeine fits into these receptors, and actually triggers our neurons to do the opposite – speed up. When we drink coffee or consume caffeinated beverages and food, these receptors get filled with caffeine instead of adenosine, and instead of feeling tired we feel wired. In addition to affecting sleep, caffeine can affect memory, cognition, learning and overall brain function.
If you’re adrenally fatigued or burnt out, your body is already having a hard enough time regulating sleep. You feel exhausted all of the time, especially in the mornings. It’s easy to reach for a cup of coffee to feel alert and awake, but this is a false sense of energy. Coffee does not give you energy – it merely blocks you from feeling tired. We don’t want our body to depend on false energy. We want to make sure our body actually has enough of it’s own energy to keep us awake throughout the day.
Get rid of your morning, afternoon, or anytime-of-the-day coffee. Get to the root of the problem and make adjustments in your diet and lifestyle. You will feel a million times better, and when you want the coffee, you’ll enjoy it for the flavour – not because you depend on it.
Does this mean I can never drink coffee again?
No! Not at all. Truthfully, coffee has a number of amazing benefits. It’s been linked to decreased risk of certain cancers and other diseases. We know that coffee is a potent antioxidant, and helps to fight free radicals. Plus, coffee is delicious. Let’s just say it.
However, there is a time and a place for coffee. It should never be used to mask fatigue – that’s how it becomes addictive, and it hides the true issue. I also recommend avoiding coffee if you’re sensitive to caffeine and experience affects to the nervous system – including jitters, heart palpitations and anxiety. If this is you and you’d like to choose a caffeine free option, look for the Swiss Water Decaf method of caffeine extraction, as it doesn’t use chemicals to remove the caffeine. Bulletproof coffee might also be a good idea as the fat can slow the absorption of caffeine in the body.
But it’s especially important to avoid coffee if you’re experience adrenal fatigue (burnout) because it can further deplete your body of important nutrients and put unnecessary stress on the adrenal glands.
If you’re recovering from adrenal fatigue, coffee should be off the table until you feel back to your normal self. You will find that a cup of coffee is enjoyable, but not something you depend on. It might take months – even years – before you get to this point; however it’s important to listen to what your body needs to recover fully. Even then, you may find you respond best to decaffeinated coffee because of caffeine’s effect on the nervous system. This has been my personal experience.
But I don’t want to give up my morning coffee ritual
I recognize that coffee is not only enjoyed for it’s caffeine, but also because the ritual of having a warm cup of coffee is comforting and rewarding. For some people, this ritual is so important in their morning that they can’t cut the coffee completely.
Fortunately there are a number of amazing, warm coffee-like drinks on the market these days. With so many creative options, everyone can find something that does the trick. Replace your morning coffee with another warm, nutritive beverage and you can enjoy the ritual of a warm cup in the morning.
Delicious coffee alternatives
Drinks like matcha and green tea are healthy; however, they still contain caffeine which is best avoided if you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue. Caffeine will still mask your exhaustion, which is something we don’t want to do. Although these drinks contain something called l-theanine which is calming, it may be best to avoid caffeine in order to reduce the stress on our adrenals.
I recommend herbal teas like lemon and ginger (to improve detoxification and metabolism), or dandelion root tea (to increase liver function and detoxification). Dandelion root tea can be quite bitter on its own, which is why it’s so supportive for the liver. However, when it’s turned into a latte, it can be quite delicious. See my recipe for dandelion tea latte below. If you’d rather not steep the tea, Dandyblend can be a great option that you simply mix into your drink.
Though this next option might sound a little odd, trust me – Four Sigmatic is another great brand that makes mushroom-based drinks (mushrooms have amazing immune and system-boosting properties). This Lion’s Mane blend is great to boost brain power, while this Reishi blend is amazing for stress reduction and relaxation.
Aaaand here’s a great recipe for a dandelion tea latte that you can make at home!
- 1 Dandelion root tea bag, steeped in 1 cup boiling water for 5-15 minutes (the longer, the stronger the taste and benefits of the tea)
- 1/2 cup warm nut milk
- 1 tbsp cacao butter
- 1 tbsp collagen powder
- 1 tsp raw honey (to taste)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- Combine all ingredients into a high speed blender and blend for 30 seconds. Serve.
- You may sub out the cacao butter for coconut oil, or even cashew butter.
Disclaimer: Kelly Maia Agnew (Kelly Maia Nutrition) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.ca.