Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive stimulant drug on the planet. It is addictive, so the body and brain begin to rely on the feeling that caffeine can provide. Although there are some benefits to drinking caffeine (most actually come from the polyphenols found in coffee beans or tea leaves), there are also negative side effects. When dealing with autoimmune disease, it’s likely the brain is already in a state of fight or flight and the effect caffeine has on the body will make that stress worse. Caffeine is known to increase the body’s levels of cortisol, “the stress hormone,” which can lead to other health consequences like anxiety, weight gain, depressed mood, lowered beneficial bacteria in the gut, and even diabetes.
Why do we want to avoid excess stress hormones?
In order to decrease inflammation in the body and reduce autoimmune symptoms, it’s vital to avoid stress as much as possible. Excess stress hormones can keep our body on high alert and our immune system active. High levels of cortisol can also affect our blood sugar. “Under stressful conditions, cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver. This energy can help an individual fight or flee a stressor. However, elevated cortisol over the long term consistently produces glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels,” (Today’s Dietician). If you are consuming caffeine throughout the day, you may be elevating those stress hormones and impacting your immune system.
The Role of Cortisol & Sleep
Cortisol is an essential hormone we need in order to live, have energy, stay alert, and stay motivated in our lives. Although we describe it as the “stress hormone,” it does have an important role in our body. When testing our hormones, cortisol levels should be at our highest in the morning and slowly lower throughout the day. When our body is stressed, those levels of cortisol are consistently high, which can cause a number of health issues. The gradual decrease in cortisol each day is what helps us feel relaxed in the evening in order to get proper sleep. Caffeine at any time of the day, for someone already dealing with chronic stress, can contribute to those high levels of cortisol in the evening making it very difficult to sleep.
It’s important to get seven to nine hours of sleep in order for our body to properly detoxify and heal. High levels of cortisol can contribute to insomnia throughout the evening that keeps you from getting into deep levels of restorative sleep. You need to ask yourself a few questions before buying that quad shot in the dark:
1) Do you feel anxious, jittery or “jacked up” from consumption of caffeine?
2) Do you get lightheaded, especially coming from seated to standing after caffeine consumption?
3) Do you notice fluctuations in blood sugar symptoms such as irritability, fatigue or craving of sugar with caffeine consumption?
These symptoms may be byproducts of caffeine consumption, or at the very least they may be from excessive consumption or consuming this chemical later in the day.
Products to help you transition to caffeine-free:
- Rasa: Here at Dr. Autoimmune, we have an herbal adaptogenic beverage called Rasa that supplies that boost of energy you may need to get you going in the AM or PM without the stressful side effects. Adaptogens are herbs that protect you from stress rather than create more of it. Right now we are offering 15% off all Rasa products, so stop by our office to grab a bag before the promotion ends!
- Headache Soother Tincture: Withdrawals are possible when quitting caffeine without slowly reducing it over time. If it’s important to quit quickly, there are tinctures we can provide to aid in symptoms like headaches or fatigue.
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