No one could be more addicted to caffeine than I was during my thirties, as I mothered my three kids from toddlerhood into their tweens.
It was not just a physical caffeine addiction that impacted my life, but the fact that my whole routine was set up with coffee as a reward. In an unpremeditated, life changing move, I gave birth to three kids in three years and basically began mainlining caffeine from that point onwards.
If I was going to get up in the morning, get all four of us dressed and presentable, fed, washed, pooped and out the door then I needed to know that there was a hot cup of coffee waiting for me at the end of this Herculean task. I attended mothers groups, playdates, zoo visits and field trips all on the promise that coffee would be provided. When I took time away from the kids I would meet my friends for coffee, walk with a coffee or relax at home with a lovely cup of…you guessed it….coffee. Psychologically I had set myself up, like one of Pavlovs dogs to see Coffee, Venti Lattes, and hot cups of tea as my reward for life.
Eventually I became a walking example of caffeine sensitivity symptoms. Lying awake at night, cold-sweating and anxious mind-racing, barely able to wake in the morning before jolting myself into a fast talking, heart-racing, super-mum until the 2pm crash when I would revive myself with a nice cup of tea or coffee.
As I started on my journey towards better health, I knew this was one demon I would have to face down and eliminate, but even as caffeine is the one food group that has effected my health most negatively, it is the one habit I have found most challenging to change.
All this might sound familiar to you and you like me could be functioning in this cycle for years but let me lay out in 5 simple points the reasons why during midlife you should consider kicking the caffeine habit.
- Belly fat! Yes, your coffee could be contributing to your belly. Caffeine triggers the ‘fight or flight’ hormone cortisol, which in turn prompts glucose to be released from glycogen fat storage. In modern life, ‘fight or flight’ does not usually require a huge release of glucose into the bloodstream and so the body will convert excess sugar back into fat and lay it down around the midriff to be accessed later. These surges of glucose released into the bloodstream can also lead to pre-diabetes.
- Anxiety. I began to notice the continual negative effects of the stimulant properties of caffeine and my swiftly beating heart, continual thoughts and rapid speech started to feel a lot like anxiety with intermittent depression as my energy levels crashed. I felt like I was losing my mind…especially in the middle of the night.(see point 3 below!)
- Loss of sleep. My abuse of caffeine eventually disrupted my natural circadian rhythm and I would lie awake at night running my anxious thoughts through my mind but would be exhausted and sleepy when the alarm went off and it was time for me to start my day refreshed from a good nights sleep.
- Aches and pains. Elevated levels of the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium are excreted by heavy coffee drinkers and this impacts electrolyte balance and eventually the skeleton itself. I experienced this imbalance as muscle aches and pains and numerous issues with my back. I also knew that caffeine acted like a diuretic and that I was aging and dehydrating my skin by drinking more coffee and tea than water during the day.
- Hormone disruption. As I moved towards menopause I learned that cortisol when triggered in the body becomes a hormone stealer. As the fight or flight response is necessary for survival the body will give up other hormone building blocks so that cortisol can be produced. This can result in an increase in the symptoms of PMS and menopause as other hormones become imbalanced and cortisol dominates.
Do any of these symptoms sound like you? Do you like me know that you would be a better person without your daily cup or six of joe?
Maybe it is time for you to make a change, drink more water, order decaff, be gentle on yourself, take lots of vitamin C, ride through the headaches and cravings and discover a whole new world of herbal tea. Your long term health will thank you.
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