There's nothing like the smell and taste of a good brew. There's even some benefits to the odd coffee here and there, but drinking caffeine regularly does more harm than good to your body.
Drinking caffeinated beverages robs your body of essential nutrients and plays havoc with your sleep cycles. It affects digestion, hormones and blood sugar balance. Once you have had the initial hit from the caffeine, it is common to feel wired and tired as your body comes crashing back down.
Why is caffeine so bad?
Firstly, unless you are drinking organic coffee or tea, you would be shocked at how many chemicals are used in the industry. Tea and coffee are two of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. The plants are sprayed to avoid damage from creatures and to prevent weeds taking their moisture from the soil. Glyphosate is the most common spray (weed killer) which has been linked to cancer, neurological problems and hormone disruption. The other problem is the heating and roasting process of the beans in coffee. As they are roasted, antioxidants are destroyed and carcinogenic toxins are released.
The effect of caffeine from coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks wreaks havoc with our adrenal system. When we consume caffeine, our body perceives it as a physical stress and goes into protective mode - with a fight or flight response.
Our adrenals release adrenaline to help us get out of a perceived threatening situation. This not only causes you to feel tired after your initial hit of caffeine but can cause weight gain and blood sugar issues.
When your body needs to get out of a situation that is perceived as threatening, you need glucose to help you run away. As the adrenaline is released, your liver releases stored glucose called glycogen. As the released glucose is not being burned off by actually running away - you are simply having a coffee, it begins to store around the middle of the body as visceral fat - fat that is between your organs.
What about sleep?
The most well-known effect of caffeine is its ability to keep us awake. This is because it blocks adenosine receptors on the brain that sense adenosine. Adenosine is a chemical that depresses our nervous system so we can feel tired. Caffeine actually binds to these receptors so they can't sense the adenosine. That might be ok first thing in the morning, but it's not what you want at night. Drinking caffeine after 2pm can cause us to be hyper awake rather than relaxed and ready for sleep.
Our cells are in such a delicate balance. In an ideal world, the outside of the cell contains Sodium and calcium and the inside contains magnesium and potassium. This balance keeps our cells functioning optimally and our bodies healthy.
Anything that is a diuretic can cause the cell to become unbalanced. The magnesium and potassium leave the cell along with the water and sodium and calcium will enter it. This causes our cells to be working in a sub-optimal way and can lead to chronic inflammation.
A happy cell is predominantly magnesium and potassium inside it and predominantly sodium and calcium outside of it
Diuretics cause the balance to be reversed and the cell becomes acidic.
The thought of quitting caffeine for some is terrifying. Coffee is as addictive as smoking, and quitting for the serious caffeine drinker should be done slowly as withdrawal symptoms can be harsh.
If you drink several cups of caffeinated beverages each day then you may want to start substituting one or two at a time. Start with the ones you would have later in the day to help your sleep response to normalise.
Take a look at some of the alternative you could try instead:
Chicory coffee has a smell and taste not too dissimilar to coffee. It is made from the root of chicory, which is not only a good source of fibre but also has prebiotic qualities to help support your gut microbiome.
Matcha tea is green tea that has been finely ground down. Its antioxidant quality is extremely high, meaning that it can help to protect the cells from inflammation. One cup of matcha is the equivalent of ten cups of green tea. It also contains an amino acid called L-Theanine, which promotes relaxation. Matcha is really nice when made into a latte with coconut milk.
There are so many flavours of herbal teas that you could try. Whether you like loose leaf teas or tea bags, there`s something for everyone.
A great loose leaf tea to try is hibiscus as it is naturally a little sweeter. Rosehip is also a good choice if you are new to herbal teas, or anything made with berries.
Ginger is often enjoyed by most people and not only is a tonic for your digestive system but helps contribute some much needed zinc to your diet.
Turmeric is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It's also really tasty too. Turmeric lattes are often known as golden milk and usually contain cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and vanilla. Simply sprinkle these in once you have warmed your choice of milk. You can also buy these blended already for you.
Redbush tea or Rooibos as it is also known is a really tasty alternative. It is also available with added vanilla which is popular. Redbush contains around 50% more antioxidant per cup than green tea and is being researched for its positive effects on immunity, inflammation, digestion, weight loss and diabetes.
What about decaf?
Decaf is not entirely caffeine free, it is still diuretic and has gone through a vast chemical process to extract the caffeine from it. You are better sticking to one of the alternatives above or experiment with some of your own.