Here goes…I’m prepared for the fact that this post will undoubtedly divide the nation. Don’t worry; I was once where you are. Protesting those ‘caffeine dissing’ nut-bags. You see, I’ve always known that there are clear benefits to the occasional brew, more so when it’s high quality, fresh and organic. No brainer right? There’s even studies which suggest that coffee consumption can reduce your risk of developing Parkinson’s, just to throw one health benefit out there. But here’s the pincher, are we all adhering to enjoying in moderation, and the aforementioned quality of what makes it into our favourite mug?! Or are we just chugging down our eighth cup of the day, whilst mumbling incoherently about our health induced reasoning for adding that extra espresso shot………”I’m health conscious damn it, I’m reducing my risk of Gallstones!!!”
So, I want to share with you some of my practices, which, for me, have helped to improve my fatigue, at the same time having secondary effects of reducing my woe with other irritating daily struggles too. The more I thought about this, the more I realised that a) I’m not an expert at the notion; “why use 3 words when 1 will do”. B) I’m northern and we have a tendency to a1) chew your ear off and b1) not know when to shut up. (I think I’ve accidentally proved all my points with that paragraph-ooops) So, I realised it would be best to separate my tips into stand-alone Blog posts; otherwise, it’s likely to rival War and Peace, albeit in slang.
Before I begin, referencing all future posts of this nature, whether you have tried some of these hacks, are a dab hand, or even better, you want to add to them, I’d love to hear your feedback on what works for you. Let’s share the wealth and help one another to get back to a more fulfilling life.
Let’s begin by cutting out the caffeine.
Ok, okay, I hear your concern, gasps at the shear horror and that glimmer of a tear. Trust me, this took a long time for me to accept. I have to add in here, that I wasn’t just a come a day, go a day caffeine consumer, but a “don’t even look at me let alone attempt to converse with me” kinda coffee drinker. That was my vice. Coffee. Black. Like tar. No matter your vice, whether it be tea, coffee or one of the many variations of caffeine fuelled soft drinks and energy drinks, let me tell you… they lie. You may feel that initial kick, but how long is it before your shuffling to the kettle or the fridge to partake in another dose of its zing? It is all a farce. You’re not feeding your body with a nutritious fuel to help you get going. Quite the opposite, particularly for us sensitive sufferers. You could be inadvertently feeding your insomnia, anxiety and stress levels and most importantly, having an adverse effect on your already suffering Digestive System. Let’s face it, very common factors throughout the chronic illness spectrum.
I’m as guilty as they come where coffee is concerned. I could easily consume into double figures a day. This links back to my post “Fibromyalgia and your Micrbiome” as it wasn’t until I started my research and work with that, that I discovered some of the damage I was either causing or, ‘adding fuel to the fire’ with my black-tar addiction. It was without fail, the FIRST thing I did in the morning; kettle on, eyes barely open, let the dogs out, drink the magic, steaming elixir AND breathe.
Trouble is, once you learn something; whether its read or seen in person, you can’t UN-learn it! You can’t catch your partner cheating and just forget about it, having no emotional response. It was the same (but clearly not as dramatic) when I started delving into this topic of caffeine and how as it turned out, he wasn’t my friend and cheerleader after all!! Part of me wanted to rewind. I read something that felt all too familiar, my jaw dropped, ‘OH NO, coffee is making it worse”. I genuinely thought to myself as I digested the obvious words in front of me, can I just close the browser and pretend I didn’t just read that?! Erm, nope. Not possible.
So, brace yourself Warriors, I’m about to drop some truth bombs. There’s no going back from here…
Now you know my previous coffee-loving routine, imagine my horror to learn that; when you drink coffee on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning, you’re stimulating Hydrochloric Acid production. Seems harmless right? NO. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or as a meal replacement, drinking coffee to induce this HCl production can actually make it difficult to produce enough HCl for necessary digestion. This is particularly prevalent when talking proteins. If you lack the required amount of HCl for protein digestion, these foods can pass into the small intestine before being broken down properly. You don’t need to do any thorough research to discover that undigested protein is associated with a whole host of health issues. Add to this the fact coffee is a laxative, stimulating peristalsis and promoting gastric emptying BEFORE necessary digestion and nutrient absorption; it’s no wonder we rattle with our nutraceutical intake!! For me, IBS being a keen player in both my Fibromyalgia and exacerbated by the irritation of my Endometriosis, the last thing I should be doing is putting more unnecessary stress on my digestive tract. That’s before I even delve into the malnourishment side of the debate! Knowing what we know now from the endless research into the Microbiome, the health implications of having an unbalanced and unsupported network, how could I continue with my morning ‘pick me up’ after discovering the potential damage I was causing.
Onto Acid Reflux and Heartburn. I’ve suffered, (well suffered is a bit strong a term, more of a nuisance really) with this for many years, but it’s an irritant that seemed to get worse with the evolution of my chronic issues. The correlation between my illnesses becoming unbearable, leading to giving up work and the increase in coffee consumption is a clear cause for why this minor issue seemed to become a daily annoyance. Furthermore, heartburn and reflux seemed to trigger my costochondritis, which would painfully linger on way after the initial catalyst had disappeared. What I was unaware of before is that coffee relaxes the esophageal sphincter, thus allowing the contents of your stomach to come back into the esophagus and burning your delicate lining with HCl. Unfortunately, this does cross the border into all caffeinated drinks, as it’s thought that caffeine is known to be responsible. The bastard. From this your initial saving grace could be decaffeinated.
I’m going to let that hang there for a while because I’m about to burst your bubble. Sorry. Although I’m unaware of proof (please correct me if I’m wrong) but there are researchers that believe there are other compounds in decaf coffee, which also contribute to acid reflux issues.
I know, we can’t seem to catch a break can we!!
Quick survey; how many of you supplement the likes of Vitamin D, Magnesium, Iron? If you think this conversation was painful to this point, you may want to make a brew now before your views are irreparably damaged. I would easily class myself as a heavy coffee drinker. I don’t know the accepted definition of the term but I think it’s an easy assumption to make. I have been supplementing my Vitamin D and Magnesium at particularly high doses for a couple of years now (amongst others). Making use of Epsom salt baths and transdermal magnesium oils to help alleviate some of my muscular pain. Imagine my horror to discover that coffee affects iron absorption in your stomach and in particular, your kidneys ability to retain calcium, zinc MAGNESIUM and other important minerals. Dagnamit. This is the last thing we need. We are as a majority, already magnesium deficient. All those well researched and expensive supplements essentially going down the drain.
Ok. If you’ve made it this far, take a deep breath. I’ve got one final and arguably one of the most important points to make. Living with chronic illness is HARD. Disregarding the physical for a moment and talking about our mental health and well-being. We live with daily assaults on our emotions, from one end of the spectrum to another. Keeping it remotely together some days is an impossible feat. You know where I’m going with this. We all know how coffee can give us that energy kick we so desperately need at times, but do you realize how and with what consequences? So, when you get that increase in your heart rate (for me on a bad day it caused sickening tachycardia and palpitations, but I’m not going to dwell on that for the moment!) after your 5th yummy cup’o’Joe, in the background, stress hormones, cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine are released. They are your “fight or flight” response. We’ve all heard of that. These chemicals increase your heart rate, blood pressure, diverting oxygen and nutrients to your muscles to enable either a fight, or a flight response to danger. But, for what they turn up, they also turn down. It’s basic biology that during a potential threat situation, all non-essential functions take a back seat. Digestion is one of them. Disturbing your digestive health once again. Not to mention the “stress” effects of igniting this “fight or flight” chemical assault. Feeling jittery much? From here it’s no massive leap to consider the wider effects this has on our emotional wellness. Keeping your body in a perpetual stress cycle, inevitably having a knock on effect to your mood. Like we need something else to throw us off balance!!
Now then, what you do with this information, whether it’s new to you, a reminder or old and obvious news, is entirely up to you. I hope you take a little more time contemplating what will best serve you, as I have done. I have been caffeine-free for a few months now and it’s nowhere near as bad as what I thought it would be, so don’t despair. Do what’s right for you, whether that’s to eliminate it completely, as it was necessary for me, or whether you’re just going to intermittently replace it with a refreshing, fruity, caffeine free herbal tea. It’s all up to you. It’s no quick fix or cure-all, but it’s a step in the right direction, a piece of the jigsaw, for me I’m sure of this. Whatever your view, just remember to show yourself love, nourishing and fuelling your body in a loving way to move forward. You’re a Warrior, you got this!!!