Vegan MoFo #18: My Coffee Story

Vegan MoFoDisclaimer: 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?!

–Sarah

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About Sarah Tombler

I live in Ottawa, Canada with my husband and our twins. I work for the Public Service, and I have been a vegetarian for 18 years. Over the years, I have started to understand that what we eat effects us, through mood, weight and positive thoughts. I am working towards cutting most animal products from my diet, in an attempt to live a life of compassion, and to do what I can to help this small planet of ours. I also love letting people know that the secret to happiness may be as simple as what we put in our bodies. View all posts by Sarah Tombler

4 responses to “Vegan MoFo #18: My Coffee Story

  • Kimberly

    I’ve been coffee-free for 11 days now and I’m interested to see how I’ll feel in a month or two. At my highest level of coffee consumption, I was drinking three pots a day. By myself. I could easily drink two or three quad lattes in a day, which is a bit scary when I think too hard about it.

    I’m oh-so-familiar with my heart feeling like it’s going to beat right out of my chest but I really enjoyed the rush of it all. My days are so different without the constant peaks and crashes that come with coffee drinking.

  • Caroline

    Really interesting post. I’ve really cut back on my coffee consumption and if I have any it’s usually one cup at mid day. I’ve found as I get older it really does have more of an effect on me. Well done with getting onto the herbal teas, this is something I’ve been trying to do more of too. Have you got any favourites?

  • Mandee

    I was reading your post and I knew exactly what you were going to say because I have the same reaction to coffee. I drank a lot through high school, uni and work and I finally stopped about 2 years ago because I got sick of feeling anxious, hyperactive and like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. It was awful.

    I love tea but I recently made the switch to decaf because I noticed that 3 -4 cups of black tea was starting to do the same thing to me. I tried Teeccino (a caffeine free coffee alternative) and it’s nice but I prefer the taste of tea.

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