It is a well-known fact that the stress hormone adrenaline increases the heart rate, increases muscle function, and enables our body to cope better with dangerous situations. Adrenaline helped our ancestors flee or fight predators. Even if we humans rarely have to fight against predators today, our adrenal glands release adrenaline in stressful situations.
That’s why coffee is unhealthy
Are you a coffee drinker? Or maybe you count yourself among the coffee connoisseurs? Many people like to drink coffee, cappuccino, latte macchiato, or espresso and most would say that they do not drink so much coffee that it is harmful. But when is that actually the case?
Coffee is often drunk to relieve fatigue, aid digestion, or simply be in good company. But did you know that, paradoxically, coffee can actually cause tiredness, exhaustion, and constipation?
In the following text, we have quoted some interesting passages from various books and explained how coffee works in this context. Maybe you recognize your behavior in one or the other passage and realize that things like sleep or concentration problems just like tiredness and imbalance are only related to your (perhaps only little) coffee consumption. You’ll be amazed at what the experts have to say about coffee.
Stress from coffee
It is mainly the stress hormone adrenaline that unleashes the vital energy reserves in athletes to win a competition or gives first responders in serious accidents the inhuman ability to lift cars. Adrenaline is also the source of our fight-or-flee response, which enabled our prehistoric ancestors to flee from saber-toothed tigers and other predators.
But coffee also puts the human body into this fight-or-flight state by stimulating the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline. However, this is pretty useless if you’re sitting at your desk and just messing around with the PC, because when the adrenaline rush subsides, you start to feel signs of exhaustion, tiredness, headaches, or irritability. This is the moment when you get up, go to the coffee machine and look for the next caffeine hit.
Stress hormone release from coffee
The following sources explain very impressively what triggers coffee in our bodies:
Caffeine mimics stress
Caffeine works by mimicking a hormone that signals the adrenal glands to release more adrenaline. The adrenal glands then think there is a stressful situation and are expected to produce additional adrenal hormones. Herbal Defense by Ralph T Golan ND, page 280
Coffee feigns a threat to the body
Your adrenal glands have to be instantaneously producing the same stress hormones that are released when you identify a threat or danger. Your muscles tense, your blood sugar rises to release extra energy, your heart rate, and breathing quicken, and your alertness is heightened to either combat or at least escape from, the danger around you. You may just be sitting at a table, or in the office, drinking a cup of coffee. But your body doesn’t know that. He’s preparing for a fight. The Memory Solution by Dr. Julian Whitaker, page 261
Caffeine in coffee reduces serotonin levels
Caffeine increases levels of norepinephrine — a hormone that stimulates the nervous system — and decreases the neurotransmitter serotonin, which has a calming effect.
Caffeine in coffee increases heart rate
Caffeine also stimulates the production of norepinephrine, another stress hormone, which acts directly on the brain and nervous system. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are responsible for increasing heart rate and blood pressure, as well as making you feel like you are in an emergency situation. Caffeine Blues by Stephen Cherniske MS, page 57
Chronic caffeine intoxication
If you keep your body constantly on a high level of caffeine, you are permanently in a physical stress situation, explains Stephen Cherniske (author of the book “Caffeine Blues”). Stephen Cherniske calls this constant alert state of the body “caffeinism,” which is characterized by fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, insomnia, irritability, and depression:
“Caffeinism” is a state of chronic intoxication resulting from excessive consumption of caffeine. Caffeinism combines physical dependence with a wide range of psychological effects, most notably anxiety, irritability, mood swings, sleep disorders, depression, and fatigue.
Coffee contributes to the development of headaches and depression
The other way caffeine contributes to depression is through the onset of withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, depression, and fatigue. Three facts are important to note regarding withdrawal. First, each of the symptoms mentioned contributes to or exacerbates, the depressive effect. Second, withdrawal symptoms can occur even in moderate caffeine users. Thirdly, withdrawal symptoms can even appear after a few hours. Some people feel depressed or anxious simply because they were late for their morning coffee. This circumstance is not only an important motivation for those affected to take the drink – but this condition also creates an often unnoticed source of additional stress.
By now you should realize the enormous negative impact the caffeine in your daily coffee has on your quality of life. Caffeinism is a gradual and initially imperceptible disorder. Caffeine Blues by Stephen Cherniske MS pages 36, 112 and 94
Coffee as a drug
As a result of prolonged “caffeinism,” the body enters a state that may be termed “adrenal fatigue” (exhaustion of the adrenal glands). So caffeine consumption has kept the adrenal glands so busy that they are completely wasted.
Ralph T. Golan, ND, also describes this condition in his book “Herbal Defense”:
Coffee forces your adrenal glands to pump out the stuff, even when they’re barely pumping anything out. Therefore, they have to “dig” deeper and deeper, which increasingly exhausts them. Over the years, you need more and more caffeine to get the same effect. Some people get to the point where they drink half a dozen or more cups of coffee a day and it still doesn’t keep them awake. This is already severe adrenal fatigue.
In other words, caffeine affects the body like any other drug. You start by consuming these a little bit until the body has developed a tolerance limit. Then you need more to achieve the same result. Eventually, the organism gets to a point where it can no longer function without the drug – if it doesn’t get it, it experiences withdrawal symptoms.
Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Thomas Bartram, page 83
Caffeine is the most used drug in the world. Studies show that abstinence from the drug causes withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and drowsiness to appear after 24 hours and can last up to a week.
“I’m not addicted to coffee”
Many people believe they don’t drink enough coffee to become addicted. But mostly these people are already addicted to coffee. For example, Steven Cherniske writes:
Painstaking research conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences showed that even small amounts of coffee (one cup a day) can quickly lead to withdrawal symptoms.
If you’re a coffee drinker, give it a try and skip your coffee and see if you experience headaches, fatigue, or increased irritability. These are the most well-known withdrawal symptoms.
It’s easy to tell if you’re addicted to caffeine, says Dr. Griffiths. Cut out your daily caffeine source—coffee, tea, soft drinks—for a few days and see if you feel drained, unmotivated, grouchy, depressed, and get headaches. Headaches and depression are the classic signals of caffeine withdrawal.
Food Your Miracle Medicine by Jean Carper, page 277
If your body doesn’t get its caffeine ration, it can exhibit withdrawal symptoms for a week or two, including headaches, fatigue, intense caffeine cravings, constipation, anxiety, and a certain dullness where clear thoughts previously prevailed.
Alternative Cures by Bill Gottlieb, page 137
Break the coffee addiction
The advantage is that you can break the coffee addiction. You just have to want it!
If a person accustomed to high amounts of caffeine limits their consumption, the result will be fatigue, possibly accompanied by a headache. Reducing dependence on coffee and other caffeinated beverages is therefore very important to staying healthy and avoiding bouts of fatigue.
Complete Encyclopedia Of Natural Healing by Gary Null Ph.D., page 104
During caffeine detox, it is important to ensure adequate nutritional intake. If we are obviously addicted to caffeine or become pregnant, we should stop consumption immediately and completely. Quitting the vice by slowly reducing dosage or going straight to cold turkey can be aided by a good, healthy diet.
Staying Healthy With Nutrition by Elson M Haas MD, page 942
Instead of routinely reaching for a cup of coffee in the morning, you can do something good for your body by having a healthy breakfast in the form of a green smoothie or herbal tea. A healthy, basic breakfast – followed by a healthy lunch – will keep you energetic and fit throughout the day.
Fatigue is a normal symptom of quitting caffeine. One way to improve this condition is to “gently massage your ears and earlobes for a few minutes after getting up in the morning,” says Dierauf.
Alternative Cures by Bill Gottlieb, page 138
Coffee with chocolate, cake, or biscuits
Do you know that feeling when you drink a cup of coffee that some time afterward – sometimes even while drinking – you feel like eating something sweet? Here is the explanation for it:
The caffeine can mess with blood sugar levels and leave you so physically exhausted that you crave a quick snack.
Food & Mood by Elizabeth Somer MA RD, page 57
However, both caffeine and sugar only give you the feeling of increased performance for a short period of time, which quickly disappears again. For some people, this rhythm—low energy followed by another coffee or a smaller snack—repeats almost throughout the day. This leads to them feeling exhausted and unable to concentrate after 3 pm because they are completely drained from the constant energetic ups and downs repeated throughout the day.
Active Wellness by Gayle Reichler MS RD CDN, page 12
Basically, [coffee] speeds up our body as a whole by increasing what we call our “basal metabolic rate,” resulting in increased calorie burning. Caffeine can initially lower blood sugar levels; however, this triggers a feeling of hunger in us or a craving for sweets. As a result of the adrenal stimulation, the blood sugar level rises again.
The New Detox Diet by Elson M Haas MD, page 30
Caffeine can have an adverse effect on blood sugar. When caffeine is ingested, the nervous system is stimulated. Adrenaline is released, which prompts the liver to release stored blood sugar. Then, finally, insulin is released, causing the blood sugar level to drop below normal.
Disease Prevention And Treatment of Life Extension Foundation, page 739
If you need an energy boost in the afternoon, try ginseng tea.
Prescription Alternatives by Earl Mindell RPh Ph.D. & Virginia Hopkins MA, page 388
Coffee and Cigarettes – Coffee and other drugs
Many passionate coffee drinkers also like to smoke a cigarette with their coffee. However, this combination is extremely bad for our adrenal glands.
Caffeine and nicotine overtax the adrenal glands. When these substances, other stressors, and a fundamentally poor diet all combine, the adrenal glands can get into a very serious condition. They are deprived of important vitamins such as B vitamins and vitamin C.
Complete Encyclopedia Of Natural Healing by Gary Null Ph.D., page 233
According to Leon Chaitow, N.D., D.O., feeling dizzy when standing up after sitting or lying down can be a sign of adrenal fatigue. The person should take steps to restore adrenal integrity – these should be aimed at stopping stimulants (caffeine, tobacco, alcohol). In addition, sufficient rest periods and normalization of lifestyle, as well as a balanced diet, should be ensured.
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 1014
Additionally, people who consume too much caffeine tend to need more tranquilizers or sleeping pills to relax or sleep.
Staying Healthy With Nutrition by Elson M Haas MD, page 937
Energy loss from coffee
Paradoxically, the drink known as a pick-me-up drains our energy. In the long run, regular coffee consumption can exhaust our bodies and make us listless and broken.
… while most people think caffeine makes them think faster, research shows that the exact opposite is actually the case.
The Memory Solution by Dr. Julian Whitaker, page 261
Because caffeine increases energy levels by increasing ATP production – your body’s key building block of energy production – some experts say that chronically stimulating the system slowly wears out the body. This is akin to excessive and over-cultivation of farmland, which eventually renders it completely unusable. Recommendation: If you’re a caffeine junkie (more than three cups of coffee a day) and can’t get through the day without your daily dose of coffee, then your coffee fatigue may be compounded and you need a caffeine break. Slowly reduce your caffeine intake to 0 to avoid severe headaches and excessive sleepiness.
Doctors Complete Guide Vitamins Minerals by Mary D Eades MD, page 324
The initial high produced by the caffeine is followed by mild withdrawal symptoms, one of which is a feeling of fatigue. Drinking more coffee to prevent the inevitable low can create a vicious cycle. The exhaustion, irritable or depressed mood and poorer performance at work that result from withdrawal symptoms can occur within hours of consuming the last cup of coffee and can last for over a week. Caffeine tolerance varies significantly among people. Withdrawal symptoms have been reported in people who only drink very little coffee (one or two cups), while other people can tolerate larger amounts without any problems.
Food & Mood by Elizabeth Somer MA RD, page 105
Caffeine doesn’t add extra energy to your body, but rather ensures that your reserves are used up more quickly. So, a short-term boom comes at the expense of long-term exhaustion and other problems.
The Unofficial Guide to Beating Stress by Pat Goudey, page 136
Caffeine does not provide energy, just chemical stimulation. The perceived “energy” results from the body’s attempts to adjust to the increased blood sugar level caused by the released stress hormones. In most cases, this self-induced emergency-like state results in well-described side effects that can be summarized under the label of caffeinism. Ironically, this caffeinism is characterized by chronic fatigue.
On a physical level, we need a steady source of energy to achieve our goals. There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling motivated after coming up with a great plan, but then just can’t find the energy to carry it through. When I ask my patients why they drink coffee, the most common answer is, “I need the energy.” The irony is that caffeine is one of the main causes of fatigue. Getting through the day with the help of caffeine can work for a while, but sooner or later it makes your dreams grow even further away.
The truth about the connection between caffeine and energy is slowly emerging. Doctors are increasingly warning their patients about the disadvantages of caffeine, and an article in the U.S: News&World Report named caffeine addiction as a leading cause of fatigue. Those people who become aware of caffeine’s devastating impact on performance and mental mood, and take steps to naturally improve their performance, can see a visible improvement in their lives.
Caffeine Blues by Stephen Cherniske MS pages 10, 43 and 119
True energy generation without coffee
How can we really help our body to have more energy – without exhausting it?
Far too many people consume too much caffeine. I think that’s because people simply don’t have enough natural energy. Instead of getting enough sleep, consuming enough nutrients, and exercising regularly to get the energy they need, they rely on the effects of caffeine to help them through the day. The short-term effects of this addiction are nervousness, irritability, insomnia, and a withdrawal phenomenon that manifests as lethargy and mental depression. The longer-lasting effects involve adrenal dysfunction and eventually leave a body completely exhausted from artificially induced stimulation.
Brain Longevity by Dharma Singh Khalsa M.D. & Cameron Stauth, page 266
Sick from coffee
The bad thing about coffee is that it not “only” causes stress and robs us of energy, but it contributes to hyperacidity and makes us sick.
In phase 1 of the caffeine-adrenal relationship, stress hormones are released in excess. This compromises the immune system and increases the risk of developing a variety of health conditions, particularly cardiovascular disorders. Caffeine also decreases the production of DHEA, a hormone critical to the optimal functioning of your immune, cardiovascular, nervous, and reproductive systems.
Recent research reveals that cortisol and DHEA – both of which are produced in the adrenal cortex – have an inversely proportional relationship. When cortisol levels rise, DHEA levels fall. It could therefore be that stress and caffeine create such high demands on cortisol that the exhausted adrenal glands are simply unable to sustain DHEA production at optimal levels.
Caffeine is clearly addiction-causing, but it’s completely freely available and its presence in our food and drink is often nearly “invisible”! Almost every day I speak to patients whose symptoms are exacerbated by caffeine consumption. This drug contributes to palpitations, panic attacks, hypoglycemia, gastritis, fatigue, insomnia, and PMS, just to address a few health issues. Some people are so sensitive to caffeine that they don’t realize that even a fruit drink with hidden caffeine can trigger their symptoms.
Habitual caffeine use inevitably leads to phase 2, which can also be referred to as adrenal insufficiency or adrenal fatigue. This condition not only bears slight resemblances to the post-traumatic stress disorder seen in soldiers returning from war. In fact, the adrenal glands are practically wasted from the constant stress and stimulation.
Caffeine Blues by Stephen Cherniske MS pages 10, 68, 206 and 208
… Caffeine overstimulates the nerves and glands. It depletes the adrenal system, damages the thyroid, and can cause abnormal heart rhythms. Caffeine also plays a role in both male and female menopause: breast cysts and lumps are more common in women, while men suffer from caffeine-induced prostate problems.
Food Swings by Barnet Meltzer MD, page 56
Caffeine is known to raise cholesterol, deplete B vitamin stores, damage the stomach and bladder, damage the adrenal glands, and can also likely lead to breast and prostate problems.
Off The Shelf Natural Health How To Use Herbs And Nutrients To Stay Well by Mark Mayell, page 112
Coffee in particular irritates the stomach and may be partly responsible for the formation of cysts in the female breast.
Manifesto For A New Medicine by James S Gordon MD, page 155
Caffeine deprives your body of the B vitamins you need for brain and nervous system function and for converting food into energy, says Michael Murray, N.D., a naturopathic doctor in Seattle and author of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Gettin’ Well naturally. To make matters worse, caffeine also prevents iron absorption, says Dr. Murray, which can lead to anemia; a condition that causes you to have too few oxygen-carrying red blood cells, which is also a major cause of fatigue.
The Complete Book Of Alternative Nutrition by Selene Y Craig, page 389
Constipation from coffee
Although coffee initially stimulates digestion shortly after consumption and is more likely to lead to diarrhea in many people, in the long term it causes constipation.
dr Hibbs tells of a male patient who suffers from many of the effects of excessive stress, including fatigue and constipation. The patient was extremely dependent on coffee in order to be able to physically get through the day and subsequently developed a chronic adrenal gland disorder. dr Hibbs got him off the caffeine and sugar – both stimulants previously wrecked his system. Appropriate exercise and dietary changes followed, and treatment was aided by dietary supplements containing medicinal herbs and nutrients. His intestinal problems were cured relatively quickly and did not return even after stopping the preparations a few months later.
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 688
Impotence from coffee?
But the consequences of coffee consumption go even further:
Fatigue, childbearing, injury or damage to the kidneys and adrenal glands, as well as steroid abuse and excess use of stimulants—including caffeine—to the point of adrenal dysfunction all pose a threat to sexual performance in both men and women. Muscles can be weakened and blood circulation and nerve sensitivity can be impaired. All of these are important factors in sexual performance. Some sex researchers view the vagina as a muscle.
Asian Health Secrets by Letha Hadady DAc, page 423
If you read all these quotes and deal with the topic of coffee, you should certainly not feel like drinking coffee anymore. If you are a coffee drinker, think carefully about whether you want to exhaust your body for a short-term energy boost, or whether you want to fight the vicious cycle of caffeine addiction and use sustainable measures to give your body more energy and well-being want to help.