Blume x Jordan Bruce, RHN
What is Your Relationship with Caffeine?
When I think of my morning cup of matcha, it makes me happy. It’s become a ritual, I love the taste and that it warms me up. Is your cup of joe (or matcha) a habit? Or maybe you depend on it and it’s an addiction? It’s important we evaluate our relationship with caffeine so we learn more about ourselves. For many in today’s society, meeting over Blume turmeric lattes or a pot of tea is social. It gets us out of our house and into new environments with colleagues, friends and family. Caffeine has become a staple in most people’s lives and we don’t even think twice about it. The purpose of this post is to encourage you to reflect and pay attention to how your body feels with caffeine.
STRESS AND CAFFEINE
I began to explore my relationship with caffeine when I started drinking coffee during 12 hour night shifts at a high stress job in emergency services. I was tired, but I’d have to continue working so I’d reach for another cup of coffee. What I didn’t realize is that I was adding more stress to an already stressful day. Picture yourself running away from a tiger and how nerve-racking that would be. If that happens once, you come down from that high stressed state. However, what happens if you are chronically stressed? If your body thinks you are being chased by a tiger daily? Your body can’t differentiate life threatening stress versus that sense of overwhelm you feel at work or when you’re in rush hour. Your body will respond in exactly the same way.
“Drinking coffee re-creates stress conditions for the body.”
- Precision Analytical
What happens when you’re stressed? The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, which results in higher blood pressure, breathing rate, heart rate, dilated pupils and maybe you even have tremors. Stored glucose is even freed up to give us more energy to get away. This is all very useful for our ancestors that may have been in true fight or flight scenarios. If we are stressed daily then adding caffeine will likely make you more anxious, exhausted, irritated, easily overwhelmed and have a hard time focusing.
We want our nervous system to be in a parasympathetic state (rest and digest) for the majority of the day so our natural body processes can occur. If we are in sympathetic (fight or flight) the digestion and our immune system pauses. If you have several cups of coffee while stressed, do you get sick? I know I do.
Another area of our body that is impacted by coffee is our blood sugar levels. When the stress hormone cortisol is elevated after a coffee it produces glucose, which leads to increased blood sugar levels. When imbalanced you may notice changes in productivity, mood, weight, low energy, intense food cravings and even hormone imbalances.
Black coffee can be healthy! The issue is what we’re adding to our coffee (saturated fats and sugar). Saturated fats impact our microbiome, increases intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and Trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) producing. I won’t get into too much science here because our main focus is coffee and not what we add to it, but TMAO is a compound produced by bacteria and it correlated with a risk of heart disease.
Sometimes my clients drink a lot of coffee because they aren’t rested. You may not even like the taste of coffee, perhaps you drink it to ‘cheat’ and have more energy. It may seem obvious to get more hours of zzz if you’re tired, but with the length of to-do lists today, sleep is not the priority. I’m over here waving my arms in the air recommending clients sleep at least 7-9 hours. Ok, we’ve covered people who are very tired may gravitate more towards caffeine for energy, but what if their consumption is making them more tired by reducing minerals and vitamins? Let’s say your low in iron, as many women are, and you take your supplement with breakfast alongside your caffeinated drink - well your coffee or tea impairs iron absorption so your levels won’t increase, you’ll stay tired and reach for more coffee. It’s ok to enjoy your morning drink, just time your supplement accordingly. The goal is to increase mindfulness instead of operating out of habit. A lot easier said than done.
MATCHA VS COFFEE
You may have noticed I’ve been referencing coffee a lot when discussing it’s powerful impacts on the body versus referring to all caffeine. This is because coffee is similar to candy in that it causes a big spike in energy and then a major crash. Often times, people reach for a second or third cup of coffee to get that high again. Or, just out of routine and habit. I often advocate tea consumption when reaching for number 2 or 3 of the day. Matcha, Japanese finely ground green tea, is different in that the caffeine is very slowly absorbed. If you google it you’ll see a nice illustrative chart comparing matcha and coffee. Matcha lovers feel alert, but grounded, no jitters and there is no energy crash. If you want to learn more about the benefits of matcha, read this blog post here. Everyone is different, so I invite you to tune into your body and do what is best for you.
As a DNA practitioner, I want to briefly touch on caffeine and your genetic predispostion. I can write all about the benefits and drawbacks of caffeine, yet you need to listen to your body. There are genetic traits related to how fast one’s body can break down caffeine. If you’re body is slow at breaking it down and you have a caffeinated beverage at 3pm, it can impact how long it takes you to fall asleep. Experiment with the time you drink caffeine and see if the quality of your sleep shifts.
As with everything in life, quality matters. As a holistic nutritionist, I probably put more of an emphasis on this than most people. Just like food, I want my tea and coffee organic. The thought of drinking a cup of pesticides for breakfast just doesn’t do it for me. With respect to coffee, I always opt for fairtrade, swiss water decaf and freshly roasted. I won’t touch on mycotoxins, but if you often have fungal overgrowths or want to nerd out, here’s an easy to read blog by a local coffee company.
After reading this you may think there are no benefits to coffee. There is scientific research to show it can increase your lifespan and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer. It’s a tough topic to study as high caffeine intake may also be associated with other lifestyle factors such as, low sleep or higher alcohol consumption. People who avoid caffeine altogether often do it for health reasons, meaning they’re likely healthier in other areas of life too. The research needs to go way beyond comparing a coffee drinker to a non coffee drinker.
Tea and coffee (turmeric too!) are sources of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. Known for reducing inflammation and repairing cellular damage along with a nutritious diet. If there is an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in the body, it leads to oxidative stress. Studies confirm oxidative stress contributes to inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, lupus, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. If we have oxidative stress then there will be a decrease in our body’s antioxidant, glutathione. Tea anthocyanins, for example, increases the antioxidant glutathione, which provides protection to cells against harmful agents (referred to as a cytoprotective effect). Tea catechins, a type of compound abundant in tea, and anthocyanins also improve the integrity of cell membranes, organelle and DNA. Plus, I love the taste of a good dairy-free latte, a French press coffee, all loose leaf tea and matcha. Perhaps, you drink caffeine solely for its delicious taste. Or maybe you use it to be more productive at work or as a pre-workout boost.
As a holistic nutritionist that often sees clients with burnout and HPA Axis dysfunction, I often suggest a reduced intake of coffee. A balanced approach to caffeine is ok if you’re feeling grounded and your nervous system is calm. Caffeine isn’t good or bad. There are so many factors and it’s so individual. I do hope this inspires you to listen to your body and be self aware.
- Drink one cup of filtered water for every cup of caffeine
- Opt for organic caffeine when possible
- Try skipping added refined sugar and cream in your coffee
- Aim to stop caffeinated beverages by 1pm
- Add cinnamon and/or plant-based fats to your drip coffee to keep blood sugar levels more stable
- Caffeine isn’t bad, just don’t over do it. I recommend 1-2 mugs a day maximum
- Sometimes we don’t realize the impact of something we include every single day. Caffeine is addictive so I recommend weaning yourself off as a test to see how you feel
- Experiment with including more turmeric elixirs and matcha for a cozy warm beverage
- Enjoy a cup of coffee if it makes you happy!
Interested to chat with or learn more about Jordan? Head to her site :)