Meet Dr. Heather Robinson: Caffeine, more harm than good?


There was a time in my life (ahem, Naturopathic Medical School) that I was drinking 3, 4, 5 cups of coffee a day. I remember bringing a litre thermos full of coffee with me to school. I was exhausted and anxious. I was also less in touch with my body than I am now.

Over the last few years, I've been going back and forth, experimenting with periods where I'm caffeine-free and when I'll have A(one) cup.

Being a naturally anxious person, there was an obvious difference in kicking the multiple cup-a-day habit, but I didn't realize the more subtle - but equally powerful - difference when I wasn’t having any caffeine. My digestion, my baseline worry/nervous tension, my sleep quality, my period issues - it all improved.

And the more I tested it, the more it solidified my conclusion. Once I identified coffee wasn’t a friend of mine, I still wanted something warm and comforting in the mornings, so I started having the classic Tetley tea and oat milk for about a year. But over the last couple of months, I've cut out all caffeine, black tea included.

The other day, I tested the waters for coffee again, thinking ‘one day will be fine!’. I immediately knew it was a bad idea. My heart rate sped up (which can imitate anxiety and provoke those anxious feelings), my mind was racing more, and my stomach was in knots.

All day! From 1 cup! It still surprises me.
This isn't just a pattern I see in myself - this is a pattern I see in my patients too.

And when I have these conversations with patients, I get the response 'I can't get through the day without coffee'.

And I explain that if that's the case, then there's a bigger issue. What else is going on that is impacting your energy? Because it isn't a caffeine deficiency, as much as we'd like to believe that is possible!

So, now whenever a patient is presenting with anxiety or digestive issues, it’s a must​ to experiment with being caffeine-free. I always remind people that it’s not forever, it’s a period of time to see how you feel. Because if you’re feeling physically, mentally, emotionally better, isn’t it worth it?

If you’re still experiencing low energy, then that’s a separate issue that needs to be investigated with your medical doctor, naturopathic doctor or trusted health ally.

I completely understand wanting that ‘cuppa something’ in the morning to get the day started. However, it doesn’t need​ caffeine. Thank goodness for Blume and their delicious, naturally caffeine-free creations that are not only caffeine-free, but so nourishing. My current fav on rotation is the Cacao Turmeric Blend which is like a spicy hot chocolate. In the hot summer months, I’ll make it iced by adding half of a cup of boiled water to a teaspoon of the cacao turmeric and whisk until fully dissolved and then pour it over half of a glass of oat milk, with some ice cubes. It has anti-inflammatory properties from the turmeric, adaptogenic properties (helps your body and mind adapt to stress) from the Ashwagandha and antioxidants (plus a whole ‘lotta flavor) from the cacao. All of Blume’s mixes are caffeine free except for the Matcha.

While at rest, caffeine stimulates an adrenal response (our adrenal glands produce hormones like cortisol and adrenaline/epinephrine) which cause a slight stress response. You know that feeling when you come to a quick stop in your car or someone startles you? That’s that response. And caffeine can elicit that response.

In multiple studies, they found that anywhere from 10mg to 480mg of caffeine (1 cup is about 100mg) can elicit a panic attack in people who already have anxiety. 10mg is not a lot of caffeine and 71% of people with anxiety who were administered that amount had feelings similar to a panic attack. Essentially, there isn’t much of an impact for those who don’t have a notable baseline anxiety, but there is a definite increase in anxiety for the already anxious person.

Green tea can be fine for some people, depending on each individual’s sensitivity to caffeine. Green tea (matcha included) has this magical property called l-theanine which is an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system and mind. That is why you might be getting the jitters from your morning cup of joe, but can handle a matcha latte.

At the end of the day, caffeine is not inherently good or bad; it depends on the person and how it is impacting how you feel. So, while the ritual and warmth of your coffee can be something to look forward to every day, it might be doing more harm than good. There are a lot of other nourishing options that Blume has to incorporate into your morning routine instead!

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