Disclaimer: There is lots of contradictory information out there about whether or not coffee will contribute to good health, and about the amounts that are safe for consumption. Since I am not a scientist, I will tell you my story and leave it up to you to experiment with what works best for your body.
When I was 4 years old my babysitter would give me coffee. She would only fill the cup up with a drop or two, the rest was milk and sugar. But my love affair started. I loved coffee. When I was 16 I asked for a coffee maker that I kept in my room and set on an automatic timer as a way to get me out of bed in the morning. I remember my first caffeine overdose at a high school event where I’d probably had four or five cups, my heart was racing, but I was laughing and having so much fun. I felt like coffee gave me the strength to be an outgoing, life-of-the-party kind of person. In university, my roommate and I always had a full coffee pot on the warmer, and as I became snobbier about my coffee I moved to freshly ground espresso pressed in a bodum.
The first time tried to stop drinking coffee, I was floored by a 3 day headache that was unlike any headache I’d ever had before. That was the point when I thought, oh, I AM addicted to coffee! I walked around in a fog for a week, hardly being able to see anything. It didn’t take long to start drinking it again. After all, I reasoned, everyone did it. And I was really only having one or two cups a day. That was considered a safe amount by anyone’s standards.
The problem was, after that first time that I’d stopped drinking coffee, I became aware of the fact that a) I was addicted and b) coffee had a huge effect on me. I already know that if I had a coffee in the afternoon or evening, I would not be able to sleep at night (this was new, in high school and university I could drink it 24/7). Then I started noticing how fast my heart would beat after the first cup, how I would get a little sweaty and over-excited. I had a picture in my head of the grumpy morning-person who hasn’t had their first cup of coffee, but to be honest, if any approached me after my first cup I was more likely to overreact or get agitated.
Then I started doing some research. A lot of what I found said the same things we always hear, one or two cups a day shouldn’t affect your health. But it WAS affecting me. So I kept looking. I started to learn about how caffeine affects hormones (I’ve always had horrible cramps during my period) and it affects the absorption of other minerals and nutrients. I started putting the information together in a way that made sense to me. If caffeine wasn’t letting me absorb the nutrients I needed, in particular calcium, magnesium and iron and it was releasing too much estrogen, then it made sense that my period was so intense.
I made a choice last January to stop drinking coffee. Luckily I didn’t have as a bad a headache as the first time I stopped coffee. I was definitely a little foggy, and very very sleepy. I switched to green tea in the morning (which also has a bit of caffeine in it, but not nearly the same amount) and after a week or so I switched entirely to herbal teas. I allowed myself to indulge in all the herbal tea I wanted. I bought some fancy expensive teas and some medicinal teas. I dusted off my old teapot and made a ritual of boiling the water and steeping the tea. After a week or so, my energy levels rose, and I started noticing the benefits. I didn’t crash after lunch anymore. I didn’t get the cold sweats that I used to get after my second cup. I didn’t find my heart beating out of my chest. I’m still working on my menstrual issues, but I did notice that my period is shorter and more manageable (sorry if this is TMI, I’m just trying to be honest!).
In my experience, I can’t have caffeine on a daily basis. Not even as recommended by Internet doctors. If I have a piece of chocolate past 9pm I lie awake in bed well past midnight.
I should mention that every other Sunday or so, I indulge in a decaffeinated soy latte. I will always love the taste of coffee. But my thinking has changed. If I know I have a long day ahead of me, I make sure I don’t have any caffeine, because I know that the effects will hinder me, not help me.
I know, you’re raising your eyebrows at your computer and thinking, “yeah but at least allow me this one pleasure! I eat right, I exercise, does a little coffee really hurt?!” It might not hurt you. Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive to it for some reason. But maybe it does hurt you. Maybe it is inhibiting all the good things you are doing from really having an effect. It’s like trying to put up beautiful expensive wallpaper in a house that has no walls. What is the wallpaper going to stick to? Putting organic vegan whole foods into your body but maintaining a caffeine habit could be stopping your body from actually reaping the benefits of your diet. I’m just puttin’ it out there!
Do some research, make your own decisions, and experiment with what works for you. I have been caffeinated-coffee free since January 2011, and I’ve never felt better.
Tomorrow I will be writing to you from beautiful Niagara Falls.
Also, still no new baby in the family, C’mon little one, I promised you brownies, what more do you want?!