Caffeine Addiction: To Bean or Not to Bean?

Dear Sweet Friends,

Is a cup of coffee the only thing that wakes you up in the morning? Do you get a headache if you go till noon without a fix? Let’s be honest, for many people (myself included) caffeine addiction is a difficult habit to kick. And although we point the finger at coffee a lot while tackling this subject, there’s a plethora of other habit-forming, caffeinated drinks out there, including soda pop, energy drinks, teas, and hot cocoa (the list goes on).

Some mornings, I enjoy a cup of coffee and I’m not here to tell you that you should deny yourself that pleasure if it’s something you treasure. But if the backseat of your car is littered with Pepsi cans or your desk is covered in a collage of coffee stain rings, you should probably understand how caffeine impacts your health. Your adrenals, kidneys, skin, breath, cholesterol, blood, and blood pressure will thank you. I wrote a lot about caffeine in Crazy Sexy Diet, since countless people have emailed and messaged me about it over the years. I’ve excerpted some of that information here, updated it, added some new goodies and even included an infographic. Let’s get to it!

Why does coffee get a bad rap?

Let’s start by talking about pH, which measures the acidity/alkalinity of your blood and tissues. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 0 to 6.9 being acidic, 7 being neutral, and 7.1 to 14 being basic, or alkaline. Our blood and tissues love to be at a pH of about 7.365, which is slightly basic or alkaline. This slightly alkaline pH creates an inner ecosystem where your immune system can perform at its peak.

Minerals are required to balance pH in your body. Coffee is the arch enemy of minerals since it’s extremely acidic. When you’re guzzling caffeinated beverages throughout the day, you can kiss pH-balancing minerals goodbye as you flush them down the toilet along with your hot cup of java.

In addition to being acidic, coffee beans are roasted. These beans have oils in them. Roasted oils become rancid and clog up your lovely liver. It’s kinda obvious that this stuff isn’t good for you. The fact that you get the jitters when you drink it, and migraines when you don’t, should tell you something.

The Adrenal Roller Coaster

When you drink caffeine, neurons are triggered in your brain and your adrenal glands start producing adrenaline, the hormone produced when you’re stressed out. This “fight or flight” response is perfect when you need to lift a car off of an injured person, but not if you’re sitting at your desk sorting through emails. When the adrenaline wears off, you’re left feeling wiped out, anxious, and moody. Next stop? You guessed it! Off to dose up on more caffeine, sugar, or other stimulants. It’s a vicious daily cycle.

This continuous roller coaster results in adrenal exhaustion. And when your adrenal glands are tired out, they can’t be as effective at doing their many jobs, which include: producing other essential hormones, boosting your immune system, regulating the health of your body tissues, and balancing blood sugars.

Plus, regular caffeine consumers need more and more caffeine over time to get the same adrenaline boost, which can lead to adrenal burnout (aka your adrenal glands stop producing the hormones and other good guys needed to maintain health). Signs of adrenal burnout include: relentless fatigue, constant low blood sugars, depression and apathy, allergies, joint and muscle pain, and chronic infections.

The good news is that adrenal exhaustion and burnout caused by too much caffeine can be remedied by eliminating excessive stimulants and stresses on the body. Hooray!

Caffeine and Sleep

Caffeine is the enemy of restful sleep. A study just last year measured sleep quality when people consumed 400 mg of caffeine (about the amount in a Venti Starbucks) at bedtime, 3 hours before bedtime, and 6 hours before bedtime. All groups experienced a statistically significant reduction in sleep. So, even that mid-afternoon java break may be disrupting the restfulness and quality of your sleep.

A proper nights sleep, especially between 11 pm and 7 am will help you heal, for real. Restful sleep activates your body’s own regenerative abilities–it’s the time when your body repairs, heals, and restores itself. You don’t have to enter monastic life and stick to perfect sleep hygiene, ya just need to create the conditions for more sleep on a consistent basis. Keep your room cool, block out all light, and definitely dump the coffee by noon—or switch to green tea.

Caffeine and Pregnancy

Ladies, listen up. A 2008 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that hot mamas who guzzled high doses of caffeine during pregnancy (around 200 milligrams or more per day, or two cups of brewed coffee) had a greater risk of miscarriage than those who drank less caffeine. While some experts have more recently claimed caffeine in 300 mg daily doses isn’t harmful for the growing baby, it’s probably wise to keep the 2008 study in mind and reduce or eliminate caffeine while pregnant.

Caffeine and Boobs

Sorry gals, this one’s for you too. Women who are prone to breast cysts will also want to stay away from coffee and other highly caffeinated drinks. Caffeine tends to increase the lumpiness of breast tissue, making those lumps more tender, and making monthly self exams more difficult to do.

See your gynecologist if you ever feel even the slightest lump. If it turns out to be a benign cyst, you may want to check out evening primrose and vitamin E. (I myself take about 1,000 mg of evening primrose and 400 to 800 IUs of vitamin E.) Of course it’s always smart to talk to your doc about new supplements, so run this by them for good measure.

Wrangling the Joe

Eliminating or reducing caffeinated drinks such as coffee isn’t all that difficult, but don’t do it cold tofurkey. If you’re a heavy caffeine consumer, dumping it suddenly might make you a cranky zombie. Wean yourself slowly over a week or two.

5 Tips to Kick (or Reduce) Caffeine:

  • Make—and down—a green juice before your caffeine consumption! The more juice you drink, the fewer outside stimulants you’ll need, plus you gain a hefty blast of sustainable energy.
  • Have a cuppa green or white tea. The relatively small amount of caffeine in these drinks will definitely help you transition.
  • Try cacao (raw chocolate). It contains only trace amounts of caffeine. I love making a superfood smoothie or delish hot chocolate with cacao.
  • Brew up some Teeccino or Dandy Blend for a cup of herbal coffee.
  • If there’s no way in heck you’ll try any of these alternatives, then at the very least choose organic, shade-grown coffee and cut back to no more than one cup per day. Decaf is even better, especially if you choose water-processed (other decaffeinated coffees use a chemical process—yuck!).

Here’s a handy chart that’ll help you make smarter caffeinated choices:


View a printable PDF of the infographic here.

Your turn: What are your tips for reducing or eliminating caffeine in your diet?

Peace & chamomile tea,

Kris Carr