Feeling anxious, stressed, sleepless? Something a little different to try…..

Today’s post may not be very popular with many of you and here’s why….I’m talking about coffee. I know that this is one of our culture’s most popular drinks, so I know this is not going to be easy for many to get through. This is such a sore point for so many people when I bring it up because it’s so loved in the western world.

I grew up in a ‘coffee-free’ home. My dad has always been a health food nut, and he knew the detriments of caffeine and coffee on our adrenals and nervous sytem, so we just never had it in our house. However, both sets of my grandparents’ houses had fresh pots on every morning, waking me up to some sort of heavenly aroma that wafted up from the kitchen and into my bedroom. I loved this scent. It still reminds me of love, family, and my gramma’s cinnamon, sugar toast. So, believe me, I know the emotional attachment to it.

I started drinking coffee as a teenager with my friends…. the only coffee roasters in town and a place for 17 year-olds to have a sophisticated place to hang out and chat. In Chiropractic school, we’d head down to Starbucks before heading over to the medical school library to study until midnight and beyond for the next day’s big test. Inevitably, I’d start up with a sore throat after every single one of these nights. I finally put it together and stopped drinking coffee altogether. I didn’t drink it at all for the next 10 years until I visited my friends in India who are the greatest coffee makers I know. My love started up again. I called myself a ‘social drinker’ of coffee.

I know we all love coffee because of the taste, smell, the social enjoyment, the increased mental alertness and energy, but I’d like to share with you the physiology of how all of this works and the pressure it puts on our bodies.

I’ve got a picture here of kidneys and adrenals. They’re located on either side of the spine, in the lower back.

The adrenals are responsible for:

  • energy 
  • blood pressure
  • sleep and wake cycles
  • hormone balance
  • heart rate

Anytime they’re stimulated to work, they send out adrenaline and cortisol to get us into ‘fight-or-flight’ mode,which means increased heart rate, mental clarity, increased muscle agility. This is great for short term, but for long term (regular coffee drinking stimulates the adrenals to keep working) the adrenals become over-taxed.

This can lead to uncontrolled:

  • blood pressure
  • hormonal imbalances
  • anxiety
  • fatigue  
  • brain fog

This is where the coffee comes into play. When I hear about people drinking multiple cups of coffee to increase energy and mental clarity, this indicates, to me, that the adrenals are at a lower level of functioning. This results in them working overtime to keep up with demand put on them.

So, I’m not going to tell you whether you should or shouldn’t drink coffee or caffeine. What I’d like to share with you is just how it’s affecting your body and let you decide for yourself, if this may be something that could be contributing negatively to your health. Based on the information I’ve presented, consider whether avoiding coffee for 3- 6 months could help support your health.

I have a friend who was suffering from anxiety for many years. She reduced her coffee intake and within a week, her anxiety symptoms were almost completely resolved. I personally, find that drinking coffee pushes my energy more than what it’s able to so I end up having more difficulty sleeping, heart palpitations, anxiety and fear. Yesterday, I had a cup of coffee with my friend and then went to have an acupuncture appointment. My doctor felt my pulse and asked me whether I’d had coffee that morning. She could tell from my pulse because it was what they call ‘wiry’ and my kidney and liver pulses were off, which told her that my adrenals and kidneys were being pushed beyond their comfort levels. So, I’m off coffee for good now, because I’m committed to working on my sleep health and daily energy.

If you feel that you’re relying too much on coffee to give you that ‘buzz’ to get you up in the morning or get you through the afternoon, consider that there may be an underlying cause for that low energy, brain fog, or anxiety.

What are the alternatives?

Instead of coffee, consider:

  • Drink 8 oz.of water every day (at least).This helps detoxify the liver, kidneys, increase mental capacity, support muscle function, and to speed up the nervous impulses.
  • Eat more protein.The protein helps balance blood sugar, which helps the adrenals to stay balanced
  • Take a daily rest. It’s honestly okay to lie down for 15-20 minutes after lunch to let your body relax and even sleep. This helps with that mid-afternoon slump.
  • Drink green tea. If you really need caffeine but don’t want the side effects of it, this is a way to get a gently boost, along with some healthy benefits. Green tea is an anti-oxidant, can help balance blood sugar, and possibly lower cholesterol, so you’re actually gaining benefit while getting a slight energy boost.
  • Exercise daily. Walking, swimming, yoga help to oxygenate and revitalize your brain and body while simultaneously healing your adrenals
  • Ashwaganda. An incredible adaptogenic herb that can restore adrenal health. One of my very, very favorites for sleep troubles, fatigue, and anxiety due to adrenal burnout.

My Challenge to you…..

Based on all of the information I’ve presented above, I’d like to encourage you to start tuning into your body, brain and energy level. If any of the above symptoms are affecting you, consider that coffee and/or caffeine could be one of the factors involved in perpetuating or even causing the symptoms. If you’re really curious about seeing how it affects you, consider avoiding coffee and caffeine for 14 days to see how it affects you. I always recommend that you keep a journal watch how your body responds. If you notice headaches or fatigue, know that this is a ‘normal’ response. If you can drink more water, move a bit more and trying subbing your coffee out with herbal tea, it’ll help you get through this stage.

As always, I’m rooting for you! Keep up the good work, and just know that every little step you take toward improving your health is absolutely worth it.

With love and hugs from New Mexico,

Dr. Arjan Khalsa

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